Disabled Football Match, Monrovia, Liberia

One afternoon I went down to one of the poorest quarters of Monrovia, around Gurley Street in the central district, to see a game of disabled football (it’s a different game, with modified rules about the use of limbs) being played. The game was played on a tiny sand pitch, in the middle of a slum, with hundreds of excited members of the local community watching on. Most of the players would have lost their limbs as child soldiers during the periods of civil conflict that swept Liberia between 1989 and 2003. Needless to say, Liberians are tough people and the bravery and intensity of the play was unforgettable, young men dripping with sweat were routinely throwing their heads into places where it was being kicked by others, as well as taking the points of metal and wooden crutches in the face. I hope this image captures some of the intensity of that afternoon.

Technique: Sports photography is all about anticipation. Getting good images requires real concentration, your eye and mind getting sharper as the game goes on. This is an unusual sports shot, being taken on a standard 50mm equivalent lens (an old East German Zeiss manual focus) rather than usual big heavy telephotos. This was only possible because I could get so close to the action (the ball narrowly missed the photographer, as it left the pitch). Technique wise, I had lots of light so I preset the aperture at f11 and the focus at about 3 metres out, and fired at anything that came close to filling the frame. The lighting was horrible for photography, midday, deep shadows, full glare of the sun. Made B/W and recovered highlights in post-production.