Jessica HilltoutThe World Cup final expects to draw 700 million viewers in a few hours. And with all the fanfare and elaborate ceremonies preceding this championship game, soccer at its core is a game of universal appeal and absolute simplicity. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the continent of Africa itself.

We saw a continent come together to support its last surviving participant, Ghana, when all others were eliminated. Can you imagine the English doing the same for their Scottish brothers, or Americans celebrating Mexico advancing?

As photographer Jessica Hilltout, who documented the many ways in which the sport is played across Africa in her series “Amen: Grassroots Football,” points out in her interview with The New York Times, “The beautiful game exists in its purest form in what I saw — people playing for the joy of playing.” And, the game can be played almost anywhere using almost anything: driftwood fashioned as goal posts, leather sandals as soccer shoes, pitches as gravel parking lots, and even balls made out of old socks and plastic bags and twine.

This passion for play, regardless of one’s environment or circumstances, takes place in the farthest reaches of our planet. The slide show below is a selection of photographs from Flickr capturing that joy of the game.

(photo: Child in Soale, Ghana by Jessica Hilltout)


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3Reflections

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Glad to see a few photos of girls and women here. We do need to note that this is still a boys' and men's game -- beautiful, but not yet universal. Do people even notice this when they say this is "everyone's" game?

Note: the NY Times and other news outlets had a wonderful story on soccer-playing grannies in South Africa. This is still the exception, though.

Just watching the finals and finding it all too suspenseful, so I came to my google reader and then to the wonderful slideshow. I remember the last WM when Trinidad made the series and my mom (who lives in Grenada) said the same thing that you did; everyone living in the Caribbean was from Trinidad for the occasion. It is hard to explain the universal appeal of the sport, yet it is nice that SOF has a place for it as well. Thanks for the post.

Thank you so very much for this. I'm new to soccer and loved to watch the play. It gave me a spiritual charge, too--why? Made me think about Mandela's statement about the potential power of sport. That's what I've always felt about music.