Goal Click allows us to explore the photographic and narrative perspectives of women’s football stars

Women’s football can be narrated by its protagonists, both photographically and editorially. ‘Women’s World Cup 2023’ is Goal Click’s special project, which allowed some stars of the current World Cup to tell us about their relationship with football, their national teammates and their respective life paths. From Australia and US Women’s National Team to South Korea and Switzerland, these athletes  and storytellers allow us to visit the backstage of their careers and lives, giving us never-before-seen analogue shots and meaningful thoughts. Flo Lloyd-Hughes, Special Projects Lead at Goal Click and sports broadcaster, journalist, creative and consultant specialising in football, introduces us to this international gallery of voices and images.

Why did you decide to put a camera in the hands of the World Cup protagonists?

“This is the third major women’s football tournament that Goal Click has curated an original storytelling series, following the 2019 Women’s World Cup and last year’s EUROS. One of the most important things about this project is showcasing the individual journeys to a major tournament. The landscape of women’s football is different depending on where a player is based, what club they play for and the national team they represent. Ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, we really wanted to show the diversity in women’s football today. In this series, players from across the world tell the stories of their lives, communities, club seasons, and training camps preparing for the tournament. From Australia and the US Women’s National Team to South Korea and Switzerland, these players give a truly behind-the-scenes look into their football lives for club and country. All these players are playing at the same tournament but, in many respects, their paths to the World Cup could not be more different.”

What was the girls’ reaction to this documentary and art project?

“We are so lucky that our storytellers are really open, creative and engaged in the project. They want to tell their stories, share them with the fans, and the world, so that people can learn more about them and put a person alongside the athlete. Many of the players tell us that they particularly enjoy seeing what the other participants in the project (from other national teams) have created and also that their teammates often really love what they have captured and written about them. It is a very different type of intimate storytelling, and really strikes a chord with the wider elite women’s football community.”

Were you impressed by the photographic qualities and analog eyes of these athletes?

“We are always so impressed with the images the players manage to capture. Goal Click has a signature style based on the use of disposable analogue cameras, and this is key in helping to create raw and authentic behind-the-scenes images that only a player could capture. Each storyteller has given us a unique insight into their camp and World Cup preparations but also showcased what they and their teammates get up to off the pitch, to relax and have fun, so you can see a real range of human emotions. This gets to the heart of Goal Click’s ethos which is to inspire understanding of one another through football. Anyone that sees the images and reads the stories will feel better connected to each of the players, and their teammates, but also understand their culture, their community and their motivations.”

What testimonies struck you the most and which themes were the most relevant?

“As with every storyteller we work with, you realise that no two journeys are the same. The only common point in this series is that all the participants were competing at the Women’s World Cup. How they arrived at that point, both in terms of becoming an elite footballer and the conditions in which they were preparing personally and professionally, are totally different. If I had to pick a couple of examples, I would say Yazmeen Jamieson from Jamaica is one of my favourite stories. She spoke powerfully and honestly, about the setbacks she has experienced, the diversity in the Jamaica team and the long road the squad has been on to even qualify for the Women’s World Cup. In addition to her words, her images are fantastic and truly represent the Reggae Girlz spirit. Another powerful story was that of South Africa captain, Thembi Kgatlana. The Banyana Banyana’s taliswoman had been injured for the 11 months prior to the tournament and she talks about the challenges faced in her football journey, one that has seen her play in Portugal, Spain, China and the US. Her words were even more poignant when she revealed she had lost three family members while at the World Cup. From a pure photographic perspective, Naomi Girma from the USWNT, Rikke Sevecke from Denmark, and Kathellen from Brazil really took us deep inside their team camps. They created some beautiful and powerful photos, which were very different to anything else coming out of those team environments.”

How are you experiencing this World Cup after producing this project?

“The Goal Click team are all glued to their screens watching this tournament. A few of us are in Australia and attending matches so it has been great to see some of our storytellers in action! Having worked with the participants for several months there is no doubt we feel a deeper connection to their progress and performances. Naturally, we want them all to do well as individuals and their teams. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner of the tournament but, as their stories attest, they have all overcome challenges and adversity just to be playing in the biggest women’s sport event in history.”

You have pushed international football stars to become storytellers. How does this make you feel?

“We have a great sense of pride that so many players and Federations are willing to work with us. In fact, many have seen our previous projects and have proactively reached out to us to be involved. From our point of view, it is humbling to see all these players showcase their creativity with us and give them a platform to tell their story. Each major tournament provides us with another chance to showcase the value our storytelling approach can deliver, and, for the athletes, it is a chance to do something a little different and step behind the lens.”

How important is this kind of storytelling for the future of the sports universe and its athletes?

“It is really important that we empower players to tell their own stories and give them a voice in the football media landscape. We strongly believe in the power of first-person storytelling, whether you are a coach, grassroots player or elite international footballer. It is all about authenticity and providing unfiltered stories, told by the people living them. We live in a world where many voices are unheard, marginalised, and silenced. Goal Click is a counter to this culture providing a platform where people are able to shape their own narrative, through their eyes and voices.”

Here is a selection of shots and words from some of the protagonists of Goal Click’s project.

Naomi Girma, USWNT

“I am playing for my family and my community back home who have sacrificed a lot for me to be in this position. I am very grateful for all that they have done for me. I also play for young African-American and Ethiopian girls who can see themselves in me and be inspired by where I am.”

Kathellen Sousa Feitoza, Brazil

“I started playing football like most of the girls in Brazil, playing with boys in the street. There was not much opportunity to do what I loved doing, which is playing football. So I decided to leave my country in May 2014 and play in a junior college in New York. Football represents everything to me and my country: hope, faith, passion, fun. I grew up playing football in the street, it was a cheap way to have fun, it was my way to clear my mind.”

Yazmeen Jamieson, Jamaica

“Someone said to me recently ‘your road is long’. This means a lot to me because if you look at my journey, it has been anything but easy. I know for a fact that my road is still just beginning. From our different hair textures, skin complexions, shapes and sizes, the Reggae Girlz are a mosaic of representation and I think that is beautiful. The motto in Jamaica is “Out of Many, One People” and I believe that our Jamaican team definitely reflects that.”

Rikke Laentver Sevecke, Denmark

“My hope for women’s football in Denmark is that someday we do not have to force our players abroad to develop but that they can stay home and play professionally. It is an amazing journey and experience to live in other countries and learn about different cultures, but the hardest part is being away from family and friends.”

Charli Grant, Australia

“In Australian society football is now a platform to promote physical activity whilst also harvesting a safe place to build friendships. Women’s football has become a place for people to express themselves and feel confident in who they are.”

Luana Bühler, Switzerland

“Football means living the dream, for me and for many little girls out there. I am so proud and thankful to have the privilege to represent my country by doing what I love the most.”

Rebecka Blomqvist, Sweden

“I enjoy having [football] in my life and I try to take every opportunity to make the best of it when it comes to performance, but also to enjoy the times with teammates. Football means a lot to me. It is my job but also my passion, what I have dreamed about, and what I really want to do. For me, football is very, very important. It will all come to an end one day. I have heard people say that you really miss the changing room feeling and being around teammates and friends every day.”

Claudia Bunge, New Zealand

“Representing my country means playing for my teammates and my family, but also for other young Kiwi kids. Hopefully when people watch me play they see that I love it, and that inspires them to do the same with whatever they chose to do in life.”

For the entire series, visit Goal Click. 

Credits: Goal Click