Behind the Lights – Patrycja Jerzak
The world of ‘Pato’, the professional footballer who showcases the meanings of football
“I would like to combine art and soccer, to propose something different than the usual football visual imagery. My intention is to discover the various communities that form the beating heart of the world of football, to analyze the connection between soccer and local cultures”
Patrycja Jerzak has decided to be much more than an international footballer, she has decided not to concentrate her creative energy only between the pre-match warm-up and the final whistle, but to progress, to expand her inspiration beyond the ninety minutes.
Born in Poland in 1998, Pato, this is her distinctive nickname, has focused her life on the all-round discovery of the green pitch: a discovery that occurs simultaneously through the swirling gentleness of her feet and the skilful use of the lens.
“I was born in Poland, that’s where I started to love soccer: it was a family passion and I started playing with the boys in my neighborhood, I remember we used stones as goalposts…. When I was 6 years old we moved to Sweden, I didn’t know the language and soccer was a fundamental means of integration. I played in a team of kids, many of them were older than me, but I had the feeling that I was born to do this. It was all so natural… In those years the women’s football movement started to have a role-model like Marta, she allowed me to imagine a future as a pro”
Growing up between the youth teams of Djurgårdens and the Polish national team, Pato decided to cross the Atlantic for her college years, choosing the famous UConn as her academic and sports alma mater.
Among the Huskies’ desks and training grounds, the Polish-born midfielder discovered the beauty of the lens and understood the possibility of combining modern visual aesthetics with football imagery.
“During my two years of college, I got close to groups of students who were passionate about photography. I had always cared for my Instagram profile, but it wasn’t until then that I bought my first camera and began to hone my artistic style. The combination of soccer and photography was automatic. I started posting photos of pitches and aerial views made thanks to a drone: the reactions of my followers were positive and encouraged me to continue”
Continuing on his own path, Pato makes a stop in Italy, signing her first professional contract abroad in Naples and finding in the island wonder of Capri the most unique of subjects to portray. Here caves, creeks and a fairy-tale sports field overlooking the Faraglioni give way to a project that the young Polish groundhopper sees unfortunately stopped because of the pandemic.
Trapped by the succession of lockdowns during his debut season as a pro, Pato definitively matures his own artistic turning point, combining the unmistakable geometric power of goals, benches and stands with the anthropological will to document lives and cultures symbiotically linked to soccer.
“Once I found that field in Capri, I thought about making a YouTube documentary. Then Covid stopped everything. It was supposed to be a story about the pitch, but also a study of the people who were part of that sports club. Over the years, I’ve realized how important it is to tell the story of the human humus behind soccer. I’m talking about all the volunteers who invest their time for free to support the small local teams, as happened in my first Swedish club. I’m talking about the fans, those Neapolitan guys who used to escort the team buses on motorcycles before a Barcelona-Naples match. I talk about the importance of a club to a city, to a neighborhood…”
Football is Everywhere Mag has become the tangible result of all these reflections, of the desire to share and exalt the true (and multiple) meaning of soccer. This newborn digital and paper Mag is a refined itinerary in a popular and romantic soccer, lost among green and snowy landscapes, among folkloristic aficionados and torn goals.
The first issue of Football is Everywhere, which is already available, focuses on the northern part of Sweden, while the second will focus on the Faroe Islands. Despite the photo reportages and constant content creation, Pato has never abandoned his football career. Today she wears the jersey of Ifö Bromölla, a team in Sweden’s second division, and awaits his first call-up to the senior Polish national team.
“I like the fact that these two careers have merged. Once a coach told me that by looking at my photos he could understand why I make certain passes and see certain movements on the pitch… He made me smile. It’s not easy to be a pro footballer: you risk huge mental breakdowns if you only think about your game. Having other perspectives, other interests, helps to be more relaxed, more self-aware. I want to keep photographing for this reason and because photography is helping me to understand, to discover, to interpret so many things I don’t know”
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