The Football Landscape in Sardinia

A mystic photo series of football landscape in the Sardinian island by photographer Przemek Niciejewski where the remote playgrounds and tranquil goal posts witness a different football culture.

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and an autonomous region of Italy. It boasts of long and remote coastal trails, near-alpine forests, blue-eyed albino donkeys, and the towering limestone walls of the “Gola Su Gorropu” canyon. This is an island mired in eccentric festivals and pre-historic tombs, and distinguished by a unique culinary identity. Placing the game of football in such a backdrop might appear odd, but when we do it, the outcome is fascinating. Football, set against this amazingly beautiful background, produces some dreamy moments, and they are aptly captured by the very talented photographer,Przemek Niciejewski. In this article, we attempt to bring the best of his utopian captures from the land of Sardinia to our readers.

The foremost football identity of Sardinia is the current Serie B club, Cagliari Calcio. They are fondly known as “Gli Isolani”, which means “The Islanders”, harking back to the true identity of the inhabitants. They achieved their peak form back in 1970, when an inspired team of Cagliari Calcio won the Scudetto. The team was then led by the charismatic Luigi “Gigi” Riva, who was also the season’s top scorer. His loyalty towards the Sardinian club was beyond imagination. He rejected a huge offer from Calcio giant Juventus and remained with Cagliari for the remaining days of his career. He made a formidable upfront trio with compatriots Sergio “Bobo” Gori and Angelo Domenghini, and kept the small club of the island in title contention for few seasons. The islanders retired his shirt #11 as tribute to his contribution.

The other person who defined the Sardinian football identity was the little magician called Gianfranco Zola. The former Napoli and Chelsea star, who played for the Sardinian club Nuorese Calcio in his younger days, went back to join Cagliari from Stamford Bridge and played a significant role in its revival. Other than these big names, Sardinia is a calm, serene place.

Przemek, a German based photographer, captured the true identity of Sardinia as one of the remotest places where this beautiful game is played. The lonely grounds, towering floodlights, and tranquil walls of the stadiums stand like the lonely witnesses. His vision captured the most secluded football grounds from the faraway lands. We also had a chance to have a session with Przemek, where we spoke about his inspiration and other unknown stories about this widely acclaimed project. Celebrating the game of football beyond FIFA is not a popular thing, but we must say Przemek did his job wonderfully.

Q: First of all, we would like to know what makes you interested in the football fan culture. What was your true inspiration behind it?

Przemek: Why a fan goes to watch a match has interested me from the beginning. A couple of years ago, I was looking for pictures of football fans online. Most of what you can find are pictures of players, stadiums, etc. This inspired me to document this fascinating, yet often overlooked aspect of football.

Q: How many countries or stadiums have you visited so far?
Przemek: I honestly don’t remember. I was six years old when I first visited the stadium in my hometown. Over the last 30 years, I’ve attended hundreds of matches in more than 30 countries.

Q: When did you start this photography series?
Przemek: It wasn’t until about seven years ago that I began taking photos of stadiums and their surroundings.

Q: Do you idolize any particular photojournalist in this field?

Przemek: I look up to Roy Stuart Clarke and his photographs of the British football culture. His epic project named “The Homes of Football” has inspired me from the beginning.

Q: How do you take these excellent photographs? I bet you have some stories in mind while snapping them. Can you share some stories that you still remember?
Przemek: I always try to find something unique and local in or around the stadium. A couple of years ago, as I was taking photos of Tottenham supporters before a derby match against Chelsea, I was questioned by a policeman on the grounds of the terrorism prevention act. He was interested in what I was doing and made me a map of places I should immediately visit if I wanted good photos. Another time, in Prague, a fan of the local club Zizkov kept photo-bombing my shots throughout the whole match, lifting a hamster up towards my lens and yelling “Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia”.

Q: Any particular incident or two during your journey that you would want to share with our readers?
Przemek: In Marseille, I got pepper sprayed; in Glasgow, a Rangers fan kept persistently asking about my allegiance. Thankfully, those were isolated cases. In general, the fans have a positive attitude to what I do.

Q: Which fans or places or culture you would want to snap again and why?
Przemek: I like taking photos of fans for whom being a fan is something that runs in the bloodline. It’s like being part of a family, a street, a neighborhood. Places like this is where the passion is always the strongest. I can certainly mention the fans of Juventus FC, Borussia Monchengladbach, Liverpool FC, and Celtic Glasgow.

Q: You have covered many small and unpopular places along with big names. Tell us some stories about them. What’s so attractive about not-so-popular places or their football culture?

Przemek: Being a fan somewhere far away, on the outskirts of big football, requires dedication and perseverance. Those teams are doomed to play in the lowest leagues, yet there’s always someone out there who supports them, no matter how hopeless the situation may be. That is incredibly fascinating. It brings football back to its original foundations.

Q: Tell us about your upcoming book project.
Przemek:The “Going to the Match” project is the effect of four years of work and visits to a large number of stadiums—from the homes of  FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich to forgotten stadiums in Cyprus or Poland. In a way, it is a tribute to every fan—the most important player in this wonderful game. As Jock Stein used to say, football without fans is nothing.

Q: To end the show, what is your true football identity? Which clubs or NT do you support in your personal life?
Przemek: Personally, I am a fan of Borussia Monchengladbach. My previous album was concerned with the whole fan culture of this club.

Przemek is currently working on towards launching a new book on football fan culture photography, titled “Going to the Match”. This is a crowd-funded project and you can read more about this wonderful endeavour here. For more of his fantastic photographs visit his website and follow him on Twitter at @niciejewski1.





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