Photographer Inzajeano Latif has turned his lens to South Asian footballers in his latest series of images that document their hopes and dreams and the obstacles they face as a minority group in the world of sport.
As a photographer, Inzajeano Latif says he is committed to deepening the broader cultural understanding of complex societal issues such as race and representation. His latest project, simply titled British South Asian Footballers, is a prime example of his goal. In it, he cuts through the buzzwords that often surround such issues and instead uses visual storytelling to spark a deeper and more compelling conversation.
He does this by taking portraits of both the players and coaches at the Clarksfield & Glodwick FC under 13s football team in Oldham. Snapped both on the pitch and in homes lined with trophies and supportive family members, these photographs are a reminder of hope, a wistful look at youthful ambition, and a powerful reminder that the playing field isn't level for everyone.
"Football evokes a range of emotions, from passion to anger, and I wanted to create images that resonate with these feelings, albeit from a different perspective," Inzajeano tells Creative Boom. "By doing so, I aim to capture the attention of a broader audience and challenge them to consider how race and representation impact our perceptions of the world around us."
Accompanied by notes hand-written by the subjects, British South Asian Footballers sheds light on their unique experience and the challenges faced by different minority groups. "Through visual storytelling, I aimed to evoke empathy, curiosity, and a deeper understanding of complex issues, hoping to build a more equitable and inclusive future," Inzajeano adds.
"The contemporary media landscape is saturated with advertising images of footballers, which can reinforce harmful stereotypes and distort our perceptions of the game. As a photographer, I wanted to shift the focus back to the grassroots level to capture the raw energy and passion of young South Asian footballers in their everyday environments."
As well as challenging the prevailing narrative around football – which can often overlook the unique experiences of minority groups in favour of the success stories of famous players – Inzajeano wanted to highlight that many South Asian players have the same dreams and aspirations as their more well-known counterparts. And by situating the images at home, Inzajeano hoped to make the message more relatable and universal.
"By photographing young players in a grassroots setting, I hoped to evoke a sense of nostalgia and idealism, reminding viewers of the bright flame of hope that burns in all of us in our youth," he explains. "However, I also wanted to highlight the harsh realities that can extinguish this flame for many young people, particularly those from marginalised communities."
The decision to photograph small clubs provided a unique opportunity for Inzajeano, as they captured the essence of hope, often present in young athletes' stories. "These clubs are often the breeding ground for future stars, where dreams are nurtured, and ambitions are born," he explains.
"My friend Ali, a crucial collaborator on this project, had a personal connection to the team through his son's involvement. This allowed for an unparalleled level of access and insight into the lives of the young players, which is reflected in the intimacy and emotional resonance of the photographs."
Since its release, the project has been warmly received and has prompted Inzajeano to consider expanding it further. Due to the project's vision to spark meaningful conversations about race and representation, he feels that it has become increasingly apparent that it needs to reach a national level.
"Securing funding will allow for the publication of a book which will encapsulate the essence of the project and include critical and illuminating texts written by academics," he reveals.
"The book will also feature written testimonials from South Asian players at both club and grassroots levels, shedding light on the realities of being a South Asian footballer in today's society. I'm always keen on having work like this exhibited."
Inzajeano encourages anyone interested in supporting the project to contact him, as your support could help to create a more equitable and inclusive sporting landscape for all.
"Amidst the black-and-white binary of football, my project captures the spectrum of nuanced experiences of South Asian youth on the field," he concludes. "Beyond the sport's periphery, the project embodies the ethos of empowerment, resonating with themes of resilience, hard work, and cultural identity.
"Moving forward, I seek to expand this project on a national scale and document the narratives of South Asians in sports with an inclusive approach that invites academic perspectives and first-hand accounts of grassroots experiences, ensuring that these stories are preserved for future generations. Funding is crucial to realising this vision, and I invite all those who believe in this cause to come forward and support us."