Sweatin' in Trinidad
Our photographer from Trinidad & Tobago is 23-year-old Stephen Attong. Stephen was brought up near the capital Port-Of-Spain in the northwest of Trinidad, and was raised by his father as a huge Manchester United fan (the most popular team since Dwight Yorke starred for the club). Stephen is a freelance photographer and filmmaker, coaches youth football on weekends, and has started a non-profit football brand called Standing Ovation, aimed at providing football kit to children who cannot otherwise afford or access it. We spoke to Stephen about football (sweatin') on the islands and the Soca Warriors (Trinidad & Tobago national team).
Where were the photos taken?
The majority of the photos were taken at Hasely Crawford Stadium, which acts as the national stadium for the Trinidad & Tobago national football team. The other photos were taken at my local park where I play most of my football in Trinidad.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
I tried to give a unique view of Hasely Crawford Stadium. When Trinidad & Tobago play, the national stadium is one of the few places on the island where differences truly fade away and we can get behind the Soca Warriors, which sounds cliché, but it’s true. Football unites us no matter what.
I decided to flip that on its head and show how the stadium is on a random day, not a match day. I tried to depict the stadium in an abstract way. Architectural photography is something I often do as a hobby and I tried to document the shapes of how the stadium was built. The photos don’t show any people, but that comes from my own introversion. I view it as a unique take on the home of football in Trinidad, a home that is not documented enough.
Why is football so important for Trinidad and Tobago, and its people?
Football in Trinidad is often referred to as 'sweatin'. Any time someone mentions a 'sweat', they are talking about football. No other activity is linked to 'sweat' in our eyes. And I think that's amazing. It's almost ingrained into us that physical activity automatically means football.
What role does football play in Trinidad and Tobago society?
The only event that unites us like football might be Carnival, but even then, I think football comes out as a clear winner. Football is a sport that might not provide a steady living for most, but it certainly helps younger people stay out of trouble.
What is the future for football in Trinidad and Tobago?
I think there is a lot of work to be done in Trinidad & Tobago football to foster the talent that we do have on the island. The infrastructure isn't quite there on a large scale that allows grassroots football to thrive. The same can be said for other small countries in CONCACAF. The reasons we can't regularly challenge for World Cup qualification, in my opinion, are more systemic than down to lack of talent. We have talent. Unfortunately it's the nurturing of that talent where we fall short.
What is your favourite shot?
There is a school called the International School of Port of Spain. My friends and me would play at the park next to the school at least twice a week. My favourite photo is of that, just because of how much that park means to me.