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City Girls - photography exhibition portays womens’ experiences at a football stadium

PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 December 2017

A young fan proud of her team

A young fan proud of her team

© Nudrat Afza, courtesy of the National Science and Media Museum.

A self-taught photographer records fans’ experience during magical time at Bradford City Football Club

Photographer Nudrat AfzaPhotographer Nudrat Afza

The passion and emotion among female football fans are revealed in a new photographic exhibition in Bradford. City Girls at the National Science and Media Museum is the result of two years work by photographer Nudrat Afza who said seeing other women cheering, singing and shouting on the terraces at Bradford City FC had an enormous impact on her.

Nudrat, who moved to Bradford from Pakistan in the 1960s said: ‘In the 1960s and 70s there was a lot of racism on the football terraces in England, so cricket was the game I grew up with and I knew nothing about football.’

But about three years ago she discovered how much had changed when friends of her daughter invited them to a game. She said: ‘It was incredible, but I had no idea what to do. I just sat there and one of the male Asian stewards was looking at me, smiling, because he knew I was so far outside my comfort zone.’

But seeing other women cheering, singing and shouting had an enormous impact and gave Nudrat and her friends the idea for a photography project.

Winning smilesWinning smiles

Speculative correspondence with Keighley-born Oscar-winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy resulted in the man who wrote Slumdog Millionaire, The Full Monty and recent release Battle of the Sexes providing a high-quality Hasselblad XPan camera for the project.

Nudrat, a self-taught photographer who is a full-time carer for her daughter, then received permission from Bradford City to take photographs of the crowd inside the ground. It was around the same time as one of the club’s most recent high points – beating Chelsea 2-4 at Stamford Bridge in the 2015 FA Cup fourth round - and Nudrat’s first pictures from inside Bradford’s stadium soon followed.

Nudrat said: ‘It was a magical time for the club, and I was really taken in by the way the scenes would completely change each week. The pictures would be completely different and the facial expressions would be different. It made me think how exciting photography is. I feel so fortunate to have been there at that time, and not only that - now I can stand and shout along with the rest of the fans.’

In City Girls more than 70 black and white images show women of all ages and backgrounds over the course of a match day, from portraits taken before or after the game, to goal celebrations and reactions to key moments of drama.

Seeing other women cheering, singing and shouting had an enormous impact, says NudratSeeing other women cheering, singing and shouting had an enormous impact, says Nudrat

John O’Shea, senior exhibitions manager at the National Science and Media Museum, said: ‘City Girls shares a new, close-up perspective on the fan experience. Nudrat is a photographer who was previously unfamiliar with the world of football, but through this project she has captured the emotion and feel of a contemporary match day experience. As she focuses on the female fans of Bradford City she also manages to encapsulate aspects of Bradford’s diversity, sense of community and cultural pride.’

Nudrat added: ‘I am very excited to see City Girls exhibited in my home town at the National Science and Media Museum, a venue that is both local and national. It is wonderful to know that City Girls will be seen by many of the visitors that the museum attracts. Bradford, like many UK cities has a well-known football team with thousands of loyal fans and it’s good to see the museum both reflects and draws strength from the culture and context of its location.’

City Girls is on at the National Science and Media Museum until June 2018 nationalscienceandmediamuseum.org.uk

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