Goal Click: Exploring the real Russia through football photography

Goal Click is a global photography project, helping people understand each other through football. We find people from every country in the world to tell stories that symbolise their country – all initially using one disposable analogue camera.

Goal Click finds the most compelling stories; from civil war amputees in Sierra Leone and Kurdish football on the border with Islamic State, to Rwandan Genocide survivors and women’s football in Egypt, Nicaragua and India.

By finding incredible human stories from every country in the world through the lens of football and using first-person perspective storytelling, Goal Click is giving people the chance to show what football means to them and their country. Goal Click wants every participating photographer to be equal, and initially provides the same disposable camera as the tool to tell his or her story. Analogue photography also encourages patience, as there are only 24 photos on each camera.

Ahead of the World Cup we launched Goal Click: Russia, documenting the story of the “real Russia”. We sent disposable analogue cameras to Russian photographers across the country to tell the story of Russia and its football culture in 13 locations – from Yekaterinburg to Kazan and Volgograd to Nizhny Novgorod. The project will culminate in a month-long exhibition in Moscow during the World Cup taking place at the COPA90 Clubhouse.

Russia really is a unique and fascinating country, and this is represented by the stories we have found as part of the Russia project. In most countries, the stories Goal Click uncovers through football are generally positive and forward-looking, even if they stem from tragic histories or difficult circumstances. The Russian stories can seem quite downbeat on the future of football and the state of the country outside of the big cities. The architecture and infrastructure we document also feels unique to Russia.

But our Russian photos also demonstrate what we all have in common, wherever we’re from. You can recognise so many familiar sights in the photos, from passionate fans to grassroots pitches. These similarities can only help people understand Russian culture and society a little better, away from the stereotypes that generally dominate.

We wanted to show the “real Russia” and Russian football culture through the eyes of Russians. Each photographer had their own story to tell about football in the country and the impact of the upcoming World Cup. Global coverage of Russia tends to bypass the stories of ordinary Russians and the Russian viewpoint. We wanted to show this unique perspective, with an unfiltered viewpoint that can only be gained by an intimate knowledge of the country. It feels more real and balanced.


Photographer: Alexander Levin

“Football in Russia is so sacred that people, especially adolescents, have absolutely no concern for the weather outside, whether it’s rain, heat or snow. I myself never liked to play football, but I understood that this is one of the important ways of socialising. In this sense, nothing changes over the years – and no blizzard is an obstacle for high school students to chase the ball.”


Photographer: Dmitry Kryukov

“Although Vladimir region has never had top teams, they have quite an interest in amateur sports and they keep all their resources in good condition. Unfortunately the game was rather dull; they played mostly in midfield. Although it was a holiday (Victory Day), there was no advertising in the town, so only veterans and players’ friends came to the stadium. We need to revive the idea of supporting your local team – there are players in every small village, but there is a serious lack of audience.”


Photographer: Alexander Grivin

“I tried to show various scenes, including abandoned stadiums. Modern Volgograd, much to my regret, is not one of the leading cities of Russia. However, participation in the World Cup has touched upon many spheres of its life and allowed the city to move forward on some problematic issues.”


Photographer: Sergey Poteryaev

“I did not try to distinguish the hero from the crowd. In the world of ultras there is unity. If circumstances so require, they can unite before the enemy. There is a motto that repeats from time to time: “One for all and all for one”. At the right moment the ultras can rally for an important matter.”

Nizhny Novgorod and Semenov

Photographer: Artem Sirotkin

“Seventy kilometres from Nizhny Novgorod is my native small city of Semenov. I documented a match between my local amateur team FC Semenov (Semenov) and Shakhtar (Arzamas). Behind the pitch you can see the wooden houses of ordinary inhabitants of the province.

“The No.10 of our team (in white) is Philip Volchkevich. He is the most experienced player of our amateur team. He started his career in a professional club with the same coach who is now training FC Semenov. Despite his employment (he works in a bank), he travels 70 kilometres three times a week by train to our city from Nizhny Novgorod for training and games. Amateur football in the regions will remain the same, as we love it now: sincere, tough, real!”


Photographer: Sergey Novikov 

“I documented public spaces that were significantly changed due to the 2018 World Cup – surfaces of our urban landscape, marked with visible objects that appeared to show the city’s involvement in the mass spectacle. This is a bank advertisement in the centre of Moscow.”

Saint Petersburg and Tosno

Photographer: Ayoub Abdelrahim

“The pitches in Tosno are quite poor and not upgraded like Saint Petersburg itself. The government does not take care in helping such cities to have success in sports, by providing them better grounds with better equipment. In cities like Saint Petersburg you can find full academies equipped with all the items needed, and kids there have what they want to be future professionals.

“All of that is just because they are lucky to live and grow up in places where financial conditions are better than the cities like Tosno. You can conclude that if you have money, you can play, even if you’re not skilled. That’s how it goes in this world nowadays, knowing that most of the football stars in the past came out of poor neighbourhoods.”

Ural Mountains

Photographer: Sergey Novikov

Just two cities in Russia attract the money: Moscow and Saint Petersburg. All other cities, towns, regions and countryside are quite poor. Life there is like 30 years ago in Soviet times. They have the same stadiums, the same citizens, the same interests in life and the same beliefs in politics and economics. I try to bring attention to amateur football in Russia. Usually there are only 200-300 people watching football live in the stadium. Many people don’t even know which teams play in their region, only the main team of the city.

“The harsh nature of provincial Russia is displayed on the football pitches. The economic crisis in the country affects many parts of football, including financial support of the teams, the condition of pitches and even the availability of medical care at the stadiums. Football is a reflection of the economic and social situation in Russia.”


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Goal Click: Exploring the real Russia through football photography
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