Goals all over the world

June 9, 2014

London, United Kingdom

By Russell Boyce

Sometimes the best ideas are also the simplest ones, especially when you have the support of the world’s biggest news agency behind you.

Inspired by the energy generated by a Wider Image workshop with our photographers in South America, I wanted to work on a global story about the Brazil 2014 World Cup. So many superlatives are used to describe it: the world’s greatest show, the most watched tournament, the biggest sporting event.

I needed a big idea that could demonstrate the worldwide reach of football (or soccer, for our U.S. readers) and I wanted to include our global team of busy photographers. For them to find the time to get involved, the idea had to be simple.

I once heard that the rules of football are among the most universally recognised codes in the world. They transcend divides of creed, culture, education, geography and wealth. Offside is offside no matter who you are, or what your nationality. And what is football actually about? It’s about goals.

Two boys playing football on the beach , in Benghazi

And what is a goal? That moment of ecstatic joy, crushing defeat, a game won, lost or drawn (unless it’s a dull 0-0). Lucky, unlucky, frequently contentious, always an event. Maybe it should have been a goal and was disallowed, maybe it shouldn’t have been but was counted anyway. Goals can signify millions of dollars won or lost or invested in the business of football. They can mean winning or losing a bet.

A man plays soccer with migrant workers from Bangladesh and India at a street soccer court near the workers' dormitory (behind) in Singapore June 3, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE)

And what is an actual physical goal? FIFA’s rules are strict, but simple: “The distance between the posts is 7.32 m (8 yds) and the distance from the lower edge of the crossbar to the ground is 2.44 m (8 ft)… Both goalposts and the crossbar have the same width and depth, which do not exceed 12 cm (5 ins).”

An idea came to me. Imagine the world viewed through the single constant of a goalpost: the green grass and cloudy skies of Manchester, the dusk in Karachi, a cityscape in Boston, Kathmandu and Tokyo. I checked with a colleague to see that this was not a daft idea. He loved it.

A broken soccer goal stands on a pitch in Wythenshawe Park in Wythenshawe near Manchester, northern England March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble   (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Boy's play football as houses built at the hilltop of the ancient city of Kirtipur one of the popular housing areas for out-of-town students and professors are pictured through the goal post in Kathmandu, Nepal May 31, 2014. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar (NEPAL)

I knew that to get what I was looking for I needed to apply some structure. Experience has told me that photographers, on the whole rightly so, tend to follow their own ideas better than they follow those of others (no disrespect team, but it is as it is).

I set some guidelines: a 24mm lens should be used, the pictures should be shot from the distance of the penalty spot (FIFA rules) and the camera should be at a height of 2 ft, from behind or in front, whatever looked better. My “goal” was to ensure that the position of the goal posts in the picture frame was a constant. I even shot a picture myself to explain what I wanted. What guide could be simpler to stick to?

Some followed the instructions to the letter, a few ignored some of them, and an elite handful completely made up their own rules. I love the result! I hope you do too.

Pictures by Reuters Photographers; video editing by Marika Kochiashvili.

One comment

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During my Stanford PhD fieldwork I was amazed to see the Soccer (Football) game was played from the sea level costal communities to Puno, the main village at 3,950 m. As a medical anthropologist I understood phenotypic variation makes it possible for the children of Puno to play a fierce game of soccer at an altitude where outsiders like myself needed to walk slowly. Outside of Lima, I rarely saw a goal with a net & yet the goal posts were a permanent structure. I only visited the Amazon region near Puerte Inca and the rainforest was considered too precious to clear land for any purpose other than survival. As I viewed your amazing photographs, I wish I had understood the principles behind good photography. At Foothill College, all of my office belonging were lost during new construction, but if any faculty member does come upon my research slides and notes, I promise to send my own photos to Reuters to add to the collection.

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