Headlines would have you believe that football is going through some changes these days. Yet the timelessness of Martin Andersen’s recent photographs illustrates the unchanging nature of the sport.
Originally from Denmark, Andersen adopted Tottenham Hotspur as his team back in the early 90s, and moved to London soon after. Some 20 years later, he began taking photographs at matches, which would go on to serve as a catalogue of the final seasons at White Hart Lane – the club’s ground since 1899.
Taken at over 100 home and away games between 2013-2017, Andersen captured Spurs supporters engaged in classic rituals that often build up to and tail a match. The familiarity of these scenes, here depicted in a palette of grey tones, make Andersen’s photographs feel as though they are pulled out of another time, bar the presence of a few phones and more contemporary brands emblazoned on clothes.
“Sometimes it can feel like there’s little loyalty in football. One day you are Spurs, the next day you can go play for a rival. The focus is always on the players and the manager,” Andersen said in an interview with i-D editor Felix Petty, which is included in the book. “I was interested in making a project about the fans. The fans never switch alliances, they are here forever and I felt that needed to be documented and celebrated.”
A celebration it might be, yet Andersen is unafraid to show that the beautiful game is not always beautiful. Amid the photos of cheer and camaraderie are scowls, brawls and the inevitable tribalism that still thrives throughout much of British football. Andersen’s lens places us in the thick of the action, the photographs so palpable you can almost sense the chants of the crowd, the sea of navy blue coats staving off the chill in the air, and the sweat of the boozer where fans celebrate or commiserate post-match.
“It definitely helped being a Spurs boy, but you don’t just turn up and get invited in and start taking pictures,” he added. “In the beginning there were certainly a few people who questioned what I was doing pointing a camera in their face. I knew from the beginning that I had to take my time.”
With a new place to call home, a lot has changed for Spurs fans. However, there’s a certain sense of familiarity in Andersen’s scenes – not to mention their new manager.
Can’t Smile Without You by Martin Andersen is published on December 16 by EBS Verona for £45; a selection of images will be exhibited at Pocko in London next year, from 6 March – 3 April; pocko.com