In February 2021, during the first sunny days of the latest national lockdown, I started taking photographs of street goals in Leeds.
With the urge for physical exercise and the urge to take photos, (mainly for therapeutic reasons), I spent my time off exploring my neighbourhood and the areas nearby. On average, I walked 17,500 steps a day with a point-and-shoot film camera. In the beginning, I did not have a project in mind however one day, whilst looking through photos, I realised I had many of wall-painted goalposts and this made me continue looking for more.
Simultaneously working from home, being a first-year research student (PhD in Visual Anthropology) and a mother has drained a lot of life out of me throughout the pandemic. Mostly because I was unable to travel every two months, to renew my energies. During this time, I wanted to see my family and friends back in Portugal and I simply couldn’t because of the travel restrictions due to the Covid 19.
The one way I found some satisfaction and time off work and studies, was to walk around with a camera observing what the streets had to offer. I did photograph many interesting things and I was mostly intrigued in neighbourhoods like mine: Chapeltown, and Harehills because there is so much more to them than what is portrayed in the news. It is certainly true that they are poorer areas, but there is life in the streets and a sense of community (at least that has been my perspective and my experience as a resident). My photo projects, including the one I am currently developing for my PhD, are always abroad, I never really focused on what is happening on my doorstep – this has been very positive and a great change for me.
I grew up in Portugal where it is very common for people to play football outside, anywhere really. From the age of 5, I spent my time outside in the street playing with other kids. When I see goals, I remember my childhood and it reminds me of the sense of community on the street. Although in my current neighbourhood I see it disappearing; my son and his friends from school tend to stay indoors and play Roblox on their tablets or watch YouTube videos.
In the UK, ball games can be seen as a nuisance and there are signs all over cities, reminding people of that. I think kids playing outside and creating their own space on the streets is like saying, “this is how we bond”. Football is a universal sport which many people like, regardless of background, religion or age. Many well-known players started playing on the streets and I feel that it is a shame that football became a business of millions. Yet, there are still football clubs and people who share the feeling I have, of viewing football as a popular sport with high social and political importance.
In conclusion, even though I continued with the photo project after the national restrictions eased, I did not see children using the goalposts. I can estimate that I have photographed about 50 goalposts, sometimes more than twice, with the hope of capturing some action but so far, nothing.
These pictures reflect upon time spent outdoors and social life, during and following the pandemic. The pictures give insight into street life and community. They have led me to consider the state of modern football and the roots of football. When the world’s wealthiest football clubs gather to discuss a super league but undermine fans who express disagreement (due to Covid19), I feel a that these street goalposts ultimately represent the fight against capitalism.