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Amen, Soccer in Sub Saharan Africa

Jessica Hilltout's exhibition is a gem.

Warren Rohner/Flickr

The offseason gives me a chance to step beyond the day to day routine of covering the Crew. Recently, a friend passed along a link and gave me that chance, it was to the work of Belgian photographer Jessica Hilltout. As South Africa was building towards the 2010 World Cup, she toured throughout the African continent, documenting the people and places of African soccer. The result was the Amen exhibition.

Hilltout captured the game as it was played in the pastures, empty dirt lots, and sandy expanses. Often, the equipment that these players couldn't be any different than the Adidas Jo'bulani that Spain and the Netherlands kicked around in Johannesburg. Some, playing barefoot, knocking around a cloth sack wrapped in grasses, these boys would emulate Samuel Eto'o or Didier Drogba. Others, such as many of the Ghanaian teams pictured, organized into league play with matching shirts and a goal to play for the cup.

Africa is a broad and expansive continent. One tournament, the "African" World Cup, couldn't hope to plumb the diversity of such a large place. Hilltout's exhibition brings a little more detail to what African soccer looks like. With so many countries and a mix of ethnic cultures, it's clear that soccer bridges the gap. Ultimately, the game looks the same. A ball, a couple of goalposts and two teams looking to fight it out on the field.