Ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Goal Click has brought together photographers from across Russia for a special new project, Goal Click: Russia. These photographers documented the "real Russia" and Russian culture culture through football stories. From Yekaterinburg to Kazan, Volgagrad to Nizhny Novgorod.
Ayoub Abdelrahim from Saint Petersburg documented the dramatic differences between support for grassroots football across the region - between Saint Petersburg and Tosno, a smaller city in the Leningrad region.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
I tried to show the difference in levels in the region – between Saint Petersburg and a city called Tosno, in Leningrad region (near Saint Petersburg).
In Saint Petersburg there is an Academy called Vladimirskiy Express. They are in the city centre and were having a training session on a good pitch, organised and assisted with professional coaches and equipment.
Tosno is quite poor and not upgraded like Saint Petersburg itself. This city got famous lately because their football club FC Tosno made it to the Russian Premier League - they got relegated to the second division due to very bad results they had, but they won the Russian Cup. This club is now facing a lot of financial problems - they don’t have money to pay for the license to play in the Europa League, and it look like they will not even play in the 2nd division. You can see their training camp; it is not like other training camps, very poor and located in a very far place.
The pitches in Tosno are quite poor. The kids playing football are lucky even to have a football to play with, because as you can see they are even not wearing football clothes with special boots. The government does not take care in helping such cities to have success in sports, by providing them better grounds with better equipment.
What is your favourite shot?
You can see the happiness in the face of the kids that are just happy to have the ball and play with it. In other cities you can find full academies equipped with all the items needed, and kids there have what they want to be future professionals. All of that is just because they are lucky to live and grow up in places where financial conditions are better than the cities like Tosno.
What does this football represent about modern Russia?
You can compare the Saint Petersburg pictures with Tosno and you see the difference in grounds and equipment. You can conclude that if you have money, you can play, even if you are not skilled! That is how it goes in this world nowadays, knowing that most of the football stars in the past came out of poor neighbourhoods, like Ronaldinho, Adriano, and Jesus. But they did it somehow, and there are thousands of kids like this.
What is the future of Russian football?
The future of football in Russia has not much hope, because the government is not working with far away cities and not working on training the youth. Compared to Soviet Union times, everyone had a chance at that time to show ability. And the results were achieved, such as winning the Euros. I hope there will be support in the future, or a program that will give chances for all.