Sunday League Chris Baker ()Sunday League Chris Baker () © Copyright

Who's in for Sunday?

Broken sleep, shattered dreams and the dull aroma of deep heat. Snapper Chris Baker has produced a photo book that is his love letter to Sunday football. FS finds out why…

First off, were you playing football this weekend? 

I wasn’t actually! I had to retire many years ago. I’d pick up an injury and then within two or three games, I’d pick up a different injury, and in the end I was just like, f*** this, I can’t spend my life in constant injury, at which stage you have to be mature enough to say, you know what, I’ve got to retire to the sidelines and absolutely not be the manager of the team!

Good advice! How did you decide to put the book together?

So the writing in the book is only the stories I collected from the people on the sidelines, but the way I photograph is I just kind of make connections with a lot of people. Hanging out on the sidelines and talking to subs, managers and so on, you get to know these people. Over a couple of years, there were probably a few hundred that I just picked from. 

When did you first realise that the football pitch was a place worth exploring? 

I started playing for my first kid’s Sunday league team when I was ten. But when I was around 15, I started having trials for different professional clubs, and unfortunately that really tainted football for me because no longer were you on the pitch just enjoying it. So I just went back to playing football with my mates, and when I was around 18 I found Sunday league football. It was amazing, and as much as it was about winning, it was also about having a laugh.

There’s a nostalgic element to Sunday Football, but is it also about representing the people that couldn’t fulfil their dreams? 

Yeah, it’s interesting watching professional footballers – they all earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a week, and it’s near enough impossible to relate to someone like that – not just because of the money, but they’re like gladiators, everything is removed from you. Everyone watches football but not everyone can relate to it; whereas everyone’s got a friend that plays football at the weekend, or someone who goes out at the weekend knowing they’ve got to be up at eight to get to the pitches. 

Man smoking cigarette Sunday league

Is there anyone that really sticks in the mind?

I wouldn’t say individuals, but I’d definitely say teams! It’s almost as if the teams themselves have a character. We played against a team where every player was from St Lucia, and the team was sponsored by some car garage in St Lucia, and then there’re other teams that are super competitive, or ones that are just full of jokers. You get to know them, and some of them knew who I was, and would ask me mid-game to take a picture of them. 

How important was it to capture the actual football side of things?

For me, it was mainly about capturing personalities. The actual on-the-field-football I didn’t actually photograph that much because, I mean, how many times can you catch a guy mid-header? It was about capturing moments that, as a former-Sunday-leaguer, I knew existed. Guys changing on the sideline, players who are stuck on the bench because they’re hungover, professional-style huddles before the game, half-time bollockings. This is what real football looks like, and although it’s like this at all levels, so much more is hidden from you, so I kind of wanted to capture that.

Sunday Football by Chris Baker is available now, £14.95


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