As The Homeless Football World Cup kicked off at Bute Park last weekend with a series of matches and events, ‘One Match’, a compelling exhibition by Cardiff photographer Paul John Roberts opened at Ffotogallery on Castle Street. The exhibition explores the lives of homeless and socially excluded individuals taking part in this year’s tournament.

The aim of the exhibition, supported by Arts Council of Wales and Ffotogallery, is to raise awareness of people facing homelessness and challenge the negative stereotypes associated with them. Paul was driven to capture the trials, tribulations and celebrations of the event and its impact on those involved.

Paul, who specialises in creative documentary, editorial and commercial portrait and performance photography, said: “It was a hook to shed light on some of society’s most vulnerable. I had heard about the Homeless World Cup coming to Cardiff and thought it was a good idea to captue the players involved. Fortunately it stuck and I got backing from the Arts Council of Wales and Ffotogallery to continue. It was a privilege to spend time with these individuals and become their friends.” 

Paul documented the run-up to the event capturing the social benefits and joy of football - goalkeepers teaching one another, players taking a break from training, laughing together. The photo project follows the journeys of these players, both as individuals and as a group. After spending a total of four months with the Welsh players and trainers, Paul has accurately depicted the real lives of people involved. As three of those months were without any backing or funding - ‘One Match’ is truly a labour of love for Paul.  

He said: “I hope this raises awareness of the fact that these are real people, rather than a section of society. They are smart, intelligent individuals that deserve a chance. I have found deep joy and utter despair in this project. It evokes in me contemplation and introspection on how humanity squanders our most valuable resource - each other.”  

There is a sense of empowerment that comes through in the exhibition, of taking part in something significant and working together. While the portraits draw attention to their personal journeys, a series of short clips playing on loop show their moments as a team and a sense of comradery shines through.  

Talking about what’s next, Paul said:  “I’ll be capturing the players throughout the week so this is phase one. I think it has made a difference that I’ve been getting to know them for the past four months. It means that they feel they can be themselves on camera. In the long-term I hope we can do workshops with more disadvantaged people so that they get the chance to experience photography.” 

'One Match' is open at Ffotogallery on Castle Street until 10 August between 11am and 5pm. 

You can find out more here.

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