Tim Vyner’s realtime illustrations of the Street Child World Cup made us fall in love with footie all over again

27 June 2018

Stick your head outside in parts of the UK right now and I swear you can hear the intro to Three Lions pumping from a distant car stereo or the soft murmur of “Ing-ger-land” on the breeze. World Cup fever has thoroughly taken hold. But no matter how beautiful it is to plummet six sweet goals into the back of your opponent’s net, deep down we all know that the power of the World Cup is to bring together people from all over the globe in celebration of the beautiful game.

This summer just before the start of the FIFA World Cup, UK charity Street Child United brought together more than 200 street-connected children from across the world with a similar aim. The charity holds international football tournaments for these children and young adults to coincide with global footballing events, using the power of football to raise awareness and tackle the widespread stigma street children face, as well as inspiring governments to better protect them. This year it commissioned illustrator Tim Vyner to capture all the action at its Street Child World Cup in Moscow with a series of images made using an iPad. Energetic and uplifting, Tim’s done a great job of capturing the atmosphere on the ground – a testament to his experience live-drawing sporting events from the London Olympic Games to Worlds Cups of yesteryear.

Tim, who is also a senior lecturer at Bath Spa University, sketched moments of play from the 24 teams involved in the tournament, plus the accompanying arts festival and conference. On pitch the children got a chance to show off their soccer prowess, and off-pitch the congress gave them a platform to share their stories and call for the rights of the millions of children living on the streets worldwide.

In terms of approach, Tim tells us that working at such a rapid pace requires a balance between following a schedule, planning where to be when and making sure he has enough freedom to respond. “I also thought about the narrative I wanted to create beyond the football. This was about a group of street connected young adults from all over the world meeting up for the first time and exchanging experiences and stories about their own lives. So the moments in between the football were as important as the games themselves.”

Each day Tim would work out where he wanted to be, often starting from a distance, looking in from the outside, before ending up in the middle of things, to draw what was happening all around him. “I spend some time just looking and walking before I start,” he explains. “It is the figures that provide the content and for each image and I build the composition around them.” Tim tends to complete a drawing in one session, taking photographs as a reminder and for architecture references. “If there is interesting sound where I am drawing I will capture it and add it to the animation later,” he adds.

“The biggest challenge is time,” says Tim, who arrived in Russia the day before the tournament and put up an entire exhibition just eight days later. “Olympic Games and World Cups are frantic. Everything happens so quickly and you are working in the moment. As an illustrator trying to capture the mood and atmosphere of a tournament in real time it is easy to get overwhelmed by it.” Instead Tim tries to slow down and concentrate on what is in front of him. “If I worry about missing something going on elsewhere it means I am not concentrating on where I am. Understanding what your over-all narrative is helps. The accumulated drawings made over a number of days creates their own momentum.”

Now the Street Child World Cup is over, Tim is still in Russia covering the FIFA World Cup for The Telegraph, providing the paper with a drawing every day. “The distances and time spent travelling can often make it difficult to work to a daily deadline, but at the same time this structure is incredibly helpful,” he says. “It stops you from drifting.” 


Tim Vyner: Team Warm Up, Burundi boys


Tim Vyner: Izmailovo Gamma


Tim Vyner: Drum workshops


Tim Vyner: Spontaneous kick about in Ambassadors Residence


Tim Vyner: Radisson Boat Trip


Tim Vyner: Red Square


Tim Vyner: Street Child World Cup Mural, Vernissage

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About the Author

Laura Snoad

Laura is a London-based arts journalist who has been working for It’s Nice That on a freelance basis since 2016.

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