The notion that football can connect and bring people together is something we have spoken about numerous times here on It’s Nice That. So when we came across the work of Goal Click – a project with the aim to send disposable cameras to every country in the world in order to allow people to tell stories about themselves, their community and their country through football – we were instantly sold.
Goal Click was initialised in 2013 when its co-founders Matthew Barrett and Ed Jones, who were working together at the time, struck upon an idea. “It was a year before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil,” Matthew, who originally studied sport, politics and war zones as part of a history degree, recalls. “I was looking to tell stories about the world through football. Ed had a big passion for analogue photography and suggested giving football fans disposable cameras for the World Cup. This combination created the (slightly crazy) idea of a global quest to find people from every country in the world to tell their own stories through football – all armed with disposable analogue cameras!”
Launching in 2014 the pair received their first camera back from Sierra Leone in August of that year. Now, five years later, Goal Click has expanded to include stories about Kurdish football on the border with the Islamic State, women’s football teams in Nicaragua and India, players from multiple national teams, and myriad grassroots projects in between. Recently, Goal Click released its first film in-line with the 2019 Women’s World Cup featuring Miranda Nild, a striker for Thailand.
What makes Goal Click resonate so well is its ethos and the research that goes into finding such unique stories to tell. While this could have become a catalogue of blurry images of football pitches around the world, instead, it is a multifaceted documentation of humanity. The people involved just happen to also play football. “The diversity of our storytellers was important from the very first day – male and female; young and old; player, coach, football fan, or journalist; from the professional game through to the grassroots and sports charities,” Matthew explains. In line with this, and imbued in every Goal Click story, is the message of football as a tool for good. In turn, Goal Click has worked closely with several sports for development organisations including streetworldfootball.
Aside from football, a core principle of Goal Click is self-creation – that the storytellers who are interviewed for each piece take the photos themselves. “We want Goal Click to be the insider view looking out to the world, rather than the outsider looking in,” Matthew tells us. “Many of these photos would simply be impossible to capture unless someone on the inside of that team or community has taken them.” This principle isn’t just about perspective though, it’s about equality. “Everyone in the project, whether they are from Mumbai or Montreal, has the same simple tool (a disposable analogue camera) to tell their story, rather than using different technologies or smartphones,” he continues.
With five years of incredible stories in the bank, we asked Matthew to reflect on a few highlights: “As I have alluded to, our first-ever camera from Sierra Leone will always be very special to us. When we sent out this first camera out to Pastor Abraham Bangura in Freetown, Sierra Leone, we had very low expectations – we thought we would be lucky to get one good photo! Abraham is a church pastor and the coach of the Single Leg Amputee Sports Association (SLASA) – the national amputee football team. The team helps reintegrate amputees from the civil war back into Sierra Leone society through football. The photos Abraham took of the amputees were incredibly powerful. At that moment we knew the project could be special.
Another particular highlight is from Rwanda, featuring photographs documenting the story of Eric Murangwa, “the goalkeeper of the Rwandan National Team when the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against Tutsi (which killed over one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu) broke out,” Matthew tells us. "Eric is Tutsi and lost 35 members of his family. The only reason he was spared was because the President of his club was also a Hutu militia leader, later indicted on war crimes. Eric was saved because the President of the club wanted him to play in goal for his team once the Genocide was over. Eric now works between Rwanda and the UK on peace-building initiatives using football, including his organisation Football for Hope, Peace, and Unity (FHPU).”
And finally: “An organisation we are particularly close to is Spirit of Soccer, who use football to educate children about landmines and explosives. We worked with Spirit of Soccer in Iraqi Kurdistan at the height of the Islamic State’s power and control of territory in Iraq. The photos from near Kirkuk in 2015 were taken around 30 miles from Islamic State-controlled territory, and seeing boys and girls playing football together in that context is very powerful.”
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.