Jeannie Llamas is a Mexican Industrial Designer. She was a Team Guide of South Africa at the Homeless World Cup, and previously was a volunteer at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. She has played football since elementary school (despite having to play with the boys!), making the school teams and high school and college, and still plays every weekend.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
I wanted to show how the South Africa guys were ALWAYS together, in good and bad times, no matter the weather and enjoying every day of this once in a lifetime opportunity for them. They laugh and enjoy themselves, they dance all the time and SING, SING, SING...non-stop: to warm-up, when they get on to the pitch and when they finish; when they win and when they lose; they sing to thank and to show support; at morning, afternoon and at night; before their meals and when they took a walk on the streets of Mexico City. This is all true.
What is your favourite photo?
It was one of the coldest days (in years) in Mexico City, it was pouring with rain, freezing cold, and these guys played with all their heart no matter the weather. Right after the match everyone ran to get warm and dry, EVERYONE EXCEPT THESE GUYS! They came back to the changing room singing and dancing, waving their flag! Showing happiness as no one else did that very moment. It was magic and contagious!
Are there any good stories connected with the people or teams you photographed?
There is one story of COURAGE. There was a South African player, Jayden Speelman, during a match he received a strong kick on his foot. Everybody saw him in pain but he didn't care, and kept on playing. After the match he didn't say a word until the next morning. At breakfast he was asking for some pills for the pain, so I took him to the doctor in the venue. The doctor took a couple of x-rays of his foot and realised Jayden had a broken toe, it was a multiple fracture and wanted to take him straight to the hospital for surgery. The cost was going to be covered by the health insurance, but Jayden didn't accept this, no matter how many people talked to him.
He refused to stop playing, he signed a paper to assume all responsibility and continued playing and scoring for his team. I was personally very concerned about him, but the coach's wife spoke to me and said, “You know, Jayden has passed through rough times, and felt much more pain in life than this, so this is nothing for him. He really wanted to be here and prove to himself what he is capable to do.” So I understood! Physical pain wasn't significant at that moment. It was hard to think about it and I had to hide my tears. What a man!
How was your experience of the Homeless World Cup in Mexico?
Unforgettable, I found friendships that will last forever! I saw real humbleness, courage and people who changed their lives drastically and proved everybody wrong. That they are worth the same as every single person in this world! That they are able to fight for their dreams and reach their goals in life, step by step.