Chatting with: Lamine
Written by Ili Hyseni
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your football journey.
My name is Lamine, @harlemlamine_ on Instagram. Harlem is an artistic name I chose after the neighbourhood in NYC. My football journey began 10, 15 years ago because I played football when I was young with a club, but then I took a break because I found other things interesting like art, culture and photography so I got really into art. I then got back into football with Liverpool’s Champions League victory in 2019. It was then that I knew football was really my thing. Now I’m trying to link my passions for culture, art and photography with football as well as understanding the link between football and society because I studied sociology at university and am really interested in how the sport impacts society.
What do you do outside of the creative football space?
Outside of football I’ve done a lot of things. I teach, study and write articles on Brussels football clubs. I am also now doing my masters thesis having studied sociology for my bachelor’s degree.
What are some of the art forms that interest you most?
I like photography. I like fine art also as well as cinematography. I like the cinema, the history of cinema. Every film that gets an award at Cannes, I’ll go see it. The art form that I know the least is music. But fine art, photography, anything linked to image- that’s my thing. From the beginning of October, I’m also on a show on BX1 (radio station in Brussels) called Le Club du Dimanche where I do a debrief of the weekend’s football matches.
Take us back to your first football memory and the reasons you fell in love with the game.
My first memory of football is of Thierry Henry. The first shirt I got when I was 7 or 8 had his name on the back so you could say my football journey began with Thierry. I watched him, he taught me how to play football. I even chose 14 as a shirt number because of him. My second memory is of the 2006 World Cup; the victory of Italy, the final, Zidane- I was like okay this game is crazy I like it so much.
I play several positions. I began as a 9 because I was fast but I wasn’t so good at scoring goals so my coach put me on the wing as a no.7 like Ribery. I also play as a 6 in the middle, like Kante. I was not the best one but I was quick on the ball and aggressive and that’s the position where I learned the game. You have to do the hard work in this position and people don’t really see it but it’s so so important. My 11 aside career ended with me as a 6.
I now play futsal indoors. My friends and I made a team called Socrates Brussels Club. The name was chosen in honour of the Brazilian player who invented the democratic way of managing a football club. We are very attached to the culture of football and how we can make football more democratic in the decision making. The history of football is very important for us so we named it after Socrates.
When did you start documenting football culture and why?
It’s a long story. I began to go on Instagram in 2020 when Covid hit and I read a book that’s like the Bible, it’s called ‘The History of Football’. It features so much information on decolonisation, on women’s football, on the beginning of football and I was like okay I have to share this information. I did that for one year but I wanted to create my own form of documentation. I began to ask what can I bring to the game? What can I bring to the culture of football?
I knew I was good at taking photos, writing, sharing what I’ve read. I wanted to start sharing different football cultures because when people speak about the history of football, a lot of it is based on the European way of seeing things or Latin American. So I thought what about African football? What about Asian or North American football? What about the football in the Balkans. There is a huge culture of football in every country and a lot don’t even know about it. Football is everywhere so let’s see how people love football, how they love the game, it’s not just about sharing what exists already.
Do you see yourself as a storyteller, archivist or documentarian?
That’s a good question. I don’t know if I am a storyteller but I see myself as a documentarian and maybe a journalist. But a journalist is someone who speaks about the actuality of football- “yesterday Mbappé scored 3 goals”- I don’t care about that. So I prefer the title documentarian in the truest sense of the word, documenting football through image and text. My dream, the next step, is to provide free access to an encyclopaedic source providing knowledge on different football cultures.
My reference in football is Pier Paolo Pasolini, an Italian writer. He says we have to rebuild an intelligent interest in football. Football is not only 11 players that run after a ball, there is something behind it. He says we have to unite sociologist, photographers, artists and journalists who can help us understand what it means to play football, what the role of football of football is in our society. When I read Pasolini’s work I was like okay damn that’s what I want to do, what I want to show; to understand why football is so popular in the world.
When it comes to African football, Rwanda isn’t the first country you think of. Can you tell us a bit about the culture there and your experiences in the country?
So when I went to Rwanda, it was not for football, it was for my friend’s wedding. I would never have gone for football, sure maybe in Senegal, Congo or Morocco but not to Rwanda, but there I found a huge culture of football- despite my friend telling me football is not the no.1 sport in the country.
There are several fields in Kigali, the capital and in the suburbs lots of people play, not professionally but for recreation. So the culture in Rwanda is not based around professional institutions, the country doesn’t have those. Instead amateur football is really important for them. The President of Rwanda likes Arsenal a lot and they even sponsor the club, so they have a huge football culture but not in a professional capacity.
Your photos portray a form of football, different to the scenes we’d see in Europe or even other parts of Africa. Can you speak on the conditions the kids play in, what their boots and kits are like?
I like this question. I’ll speak only about Rwandan football because Africa is very huge and the conditions vary. When I visited the pitches I saw they had many holes. So the kids have skills and techniques that us Europeans do not have, because our fields are in such good condition that we don’t have to master the ball in the same way or anticipate the movement of the ball. So in that way, the fields are one of the big characteristics of Rwandan football.
The kits are very interesting also. Most of them are from big European clubs and they’re mostly fake. The kids find them at the markets and play in them. They’re also mostly old shirts. I didn’t see any from last season, a lot from 2015, Argentina shirts from 2010, even shirts from 2006 or older. But that’s what I like, it’s football in its purest form.
Also I have to mention that the kids have their own shirts because the team that you see in the pictures features players aged 13-17 years old. They are in the third division and the goal for the kids in these training sessions is to make it to the big clubs in Rwanda.
Can you tell us a bit more about the boys and the team?
When I took the pictures I didn’t want to disturb the training session. I told the coach I just wanted to take some pictures, but I didn’t have the opportunity to speak to the players. But I spoke to the coach and he told me a bit about the boys, how much they train etc. It was not really my aim to speak to the players because when I go to document things I just want to let things happen and with my eyes I capture what I like. That’s why I say I’m not a storyteller, there are some people who do that way better than me. My thing is to document football, to say “okay other football cultures exist, how they play etc”. Sometimes you don’t need more than the image.
Did you learn anything new about football from these boys and your trip to Rwanda that you didn't know before?
Maybe how geographical conditions impact football. They play differently in the high altitude regions of South America. Meanwhile in Belgium all the conditions are the same, whether you play in Brussels or Brugge. In Rwanda, you could go to another city and they’d play football differently because of the geography. Different players across Rwanda will have different qualities and abilities because they live in a different topographical area.