By the time Germany and Costa Rica kicked off the 2006 World Cup in Munich, hundreds of thousands of soccer fans from around the globe had descended on the host nation to cheer on their national sides and soak up the atmosphere.
Among them were a group of New York City soccer players celebrating an anniversary of sorts. At the tail end of the 2002 World Cup, inspired by many late nights watching live matches in some of the city’s crowded bars, the group of artists, photographers, and filmmakers began meeting in lower Manhattan’s Chinatown to play soccer a few mornings a week. Only a chain link fence shielded their pitch from the cacophony and traffic of the surrounding urban chaos. As they warmed up in the chill morning air, the smell of garbage from the nearby fish markets wafted over. Their spectators included bums sleeping off hangovers on the benches next to the field and Chinese immigrants finishing up their morning Tai Chi sessions.
Some of them were playing for the first time, others rediscovering skills they had honed in high school or college. Still others found an outlet for a passion they had developed in their native countries: in England and Austria, Israel and Brazil. Even in the dead of winter, the love of soccer would get them out of bed at 8 in the morning several times a week to play for an hour or so before heading off to work. It would cost them extra in cable bills at the end of the month, or for pints at the pub to watch European matches at equally trying hours on Saturday mornings. They began calling themselves the Chinatown Soccer Club and by the time the 2006 World Cup rolled around, heading to Germany didn’t just seem like a good idea, it had become a requirement.
This small book of photographs, Home and Away, is a record of that trip. Shot by Gerhard Stochl, Peter Sutherland, and Kevin Trageser, photographers who have all been integral members of the Chinatown Soccer Club since its informal inception, it depicts Berlin at its soccer zenith. Beginning with a city awash in pre-match excitement and anticipation—at backyard cookouts, in father-son kick arounds—the photographs move on to capture the soccer fever visible in stadiums, crowded public viewing areas, and the pained faces of fans awash in the madness. They end, appropriately, with the euphoria’s bittersweet aftermath. This is not a standard documentary of a soccer tournament, but an attempt at transmitting, visually, the influence soccer can have on a place and its people.
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Gerhard Stochl grew up in Vienna, Austria where he was introduced to soccer as soon as he was able to walk a straight line. He played for the local Admira Wacker team and tried to follow in the footsteps of his father, a resident soccer legend who captained his ASK Erlaa side to several regional championships in the late 60s. Fed up with team sports, Gerhard discovered a love for skateboarding in his early teens and his job as a skateboard photographer later took him around the world, with stints in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Rio de Janeiro. Now based in New York City, Gerhard shoots for glossy magazines and various commercial clients.
Peter Sutherland is a filmmaker, photographer, and soccer player. Sutherland began playing soccer at age eight: his first coach was Jeff, a middle-aged man who drove a beat up Camaro and had a paper route. Sutherland has put out a few photography books: Autograf: New York City’s Graffiti Writers, Pedal (powerHouse Books, 2004 and 2006), and Coming Home (PAM Books). He lives and works in New York City.
Photographer Kevin Trageser has lived and worked in New York City for almost a decade, shooting portraits for magazines including i-D, Spin, and Tokion. His work has been exhibited at Design Commission, Seattle, 255 Gallery, New York, and colette, Paris. Growing up in New Jersey, Trageser spent the entirety of his only season of soccer, during the first grade, watching a chaotic tangle of legs and dust migrate up and down the field while personally avoiding all possible contact with the ball.
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