CAPE TOWN — Jessica Hilltout, a nomadic, Belgian-born photographer, loaded sacks of deflated soccer balls onto the roof of a battered yellow Volkswagen Beetle last year and began a seven-month road trip across Africa to document the continent’s love of the game. She found it in villages where children played with joyous abandon on dusty patches of ground, sandy beaches and lush fields, far from the stadiums where Africa’s first World Cup would be held.
She captured their sense of play in lyrical images hanging now in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Brussels galleries. Gleeful little boys in Burkina Faso leap in exultation as their team scores. A young fisherman goes airborne as he hits a header on a beach in Togo. Barefoot boys in Ghana lope gracefully across a field as their slender, elongated shadows chase them.
As the World Cup draws to a close this week, with international teams playing on fields edged by ever-changing digital advertisements for the likes of Adidas, McDonalds and Coca-Cola, images of the highly commercialized, FIFA-sanctioned soccer will not be the only lasting ones.