Iconic jerseys and grassroots spirit: Victor Edeh captures football fever during the Africa Cup of Nations

To celebrate the biennial tournament, the Lagos-based photographer has turned to the people who really make it what it is – the fans.

29 January 2024

Every two years football fever takes over the African continent; colourful jerseys come out of hibernation, boots are dusted off and communities rally in bars, living rooms and stadiums to watch the matches together – all in the name of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Established in 1956 with the first tournament played in Sudan in 1957, AFCON now sees 24 national football teams take part, with Ghana, South Africa and Egypt all having had their years of glory. The photographer Victor Edeh is a passionate football fan, and enjoys using his craft to tell stories about the things he loves. So in time for the current AFCON tournament he’s created a new series, Motherland, which features “beautiful moments” from the beautiful game – his fellow fans, games on grassroots pitches, and the striking, increasingly stylish sportswear on show.

The project was made in collaboration with Victor’s friend, the stylist The Feedback Boy. After he learned that Victor wanted to highlight the beauty of football – as well as the significance of the tournament – he provided a number of jerseys, and helped to style their subjects. For half of the images, Victor turned to his friends, those who played football (some even professionally) and those who were simply enthusiastic about the sport, dressing them in various nations’ shirts. Through the series the jerseys become characters in themselves, adding bursts of colour and pattern to everyday locations; the intricately detailed, rich green of Nigeria’s, the deep sunny simplicity of the Ivory Coast’s, and the retro stripes of Senegal’s.


Victor Edeh: Motherland (Copyright © Victor Edeh, 2024)

While creating Motherland, Victor travelled to local pitches, chatting to players and telling them about his project all in the hopes of snapping them in their element. “Football, to my best knowledge, is a universal language,” Victor says. “It was very easy for me to get them to be themselves and also talk to me about their favourite football memories.” In one image, Game Time, a boot sits on top of the ball, a moment of stillness in the midst of movement. Victor tells us that the picture was taken on a quiet Tuesday evening on a near empty football pitch, and what resonates with him is the nostalgia and memories it evokes – those of the images he used to see in his dad’s newspapers as a child. “This photo speaks to the essence of football, capturing the moment when we get to know who is who on the pitch,” he says.

A few images however, were completely spontaneous, like that of Victor’s friend wearing a Senegal shirt, while a bright yellow Danfo bus – a trademark public transport in Nigeria – drives past in the background. “These spontaneous shots are the ones I eagerly anticipate 90% of the time because, in a few years, you can revisit them and say, ‘Yeah, I did that, and I'm super proud of it’,” Victor says. In Victor’s eyes, this image represents a “collaboration” between two nations, tapping into the spirit of the tournament. As well as celebrating the emotions, culture and sport of AFCON, Victor wants Motherland to also help people to seek out a better understanding of the tournament’s unique history, legacy, and the “unique stories and connections embedded in the diverse landscape of African football”.

GalleryVictor Edeh: Motherland (Copyright © Victor Edeh, 2024)

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Victor Eddeh: Motherland (Copyright © Victor Eddeh, 2024)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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