Football is a horrible addiction that strikes early and strikes hard, largely affecting males between the ages of learning to walk and learning to drink. Running rampant for decades, unchecked until the advent of the games console, whomever the sarcastic sod was that nicknamed it The Beautiful Game was an evil genius. Parks are full of the next generation of addicts, the socially acceptable crack-babies. While delusions of personal greatness usually evaporate with the growing self-awareness that comes with puberty (perhaps the real reason teenage boys are such sulky gits is the realisation that they will not be the successor to Maradona or Messi), the obsession with the game remains a lifelong struggle.
Some sufferers plod on playing at no sort of level with their mates until their knees give out in their 40s, some become second-mortgage season ticket holders, some armchair pundits and pub experts. All of a sudden the seemingly healthy pastime has become harmful to blood pressure, cholesterol, friendships, marriages and bank balances.
Photographer Simon Harsent is one such tragic victim of the national sport. Born and raised in England, birthplace of the epidemic, even moves to Australia and then New York couldn’t rid him of the bug. In his collection The Beautiful Game, Harsent shows us the other side of football. Not the world of glamour and excess, but the rusty and run-down, not the champagne of the director’s boxes but the piss-puddled floors of the toilet stalls. Successful as a commercial photographer, here Harsent presents a personal labour of love.
The netless, knackered goalposts, the incongruous inner-city grounds, the unplayable turf – these images are taken from locations around the world, and yet are so recognisable they could be memories from anyone’s childhood. Here’s to never kicking this habit. Harsent is a member of the Pool Collective, whose free iPad app features this body of work.