The United States is hardly known for its love of "the beautiful game", seemingly more in thrall to the pleasures of baseball and American football. But for Californian Austen Ezzell, football – or soccer, as he calls it – was always his sport of choice.
A web designer by trade, 30-year-old Ezzell has spent the past five months travelling and taking pictures of football pitches around the world – everywhere from a beach in Vietnam, to a yard in Sri Lanka, to a field in Cambodia – for an ongoing project called The World's Game.
"I wanted to find a way to give back to the game that has helped me in so many ways," says Ezzell, who played from junior school, through university to a stint as a professional. "Soccer created opportunities for me that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to obtain otherwise."
Although a supporter of Liverpool FC (he has family from there), Ezzell wanted to capture the game in its purest form. "No money, no sponsors, no high-stakes," he says. "The people here are on the field because they love the game."
Ezzell always joins in and plays with the locals after photographing them. He found it to be a bonding experience and insists it has changed the way he interacts with new people. Although most question his skills before he starts, after kick-off everything changes. And he never leaves the field without shaking hands with the locals.
Austen Ezzell's project The World's Game
"On the pitch everyone is equal. We may be from opposite sides of the world, speak different languages, have drastically different customs and beliefs, but we share a love for the game. When the only thing that really matters is skill, cultural barriers are a non-issue. Football is something that can unite people."
That said, he will be rooting proudly for his country in the World Cup next month. "I'll be watching as many games as possible with my friends and family back in California. I will be cheering for the US and hoping against all odds that we make it through the group stage."
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