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STYLE: DESIGN : Different Countries, Common Goals

July 17, 1994|CLAUDIO DECHIARA

Everyone has their moment in the sun. So now that the World Cup has arrived, maybe my time has come. At last. You see, I have a hobby. Some call it an obsession. Wherever I am, wherever I travel, I go off in search of soccer goals. I look for two poles, a crossbar, a net, a line traversing the goal mouth. Invariably I find them, for I have an instinctive sense for where in town they are hidden. Then I take out my camera, focus and shoot.

I have soccer goals set in the pastoral Tuscan hills. I have others in Bolivia's vast southwestern desert. One between bomb craters two miles north of the old DMZ dividing North and South Vietnam. One in Plains, Ga., of Jimmy Carter fame. I have goals crowded with Guatemalan pigs, Panamanian horses, Thai cows. Goals in the Brazilian jungle, in the African jungle, in the urban jungle called New York.

But no one cares. People take my collection of more than 300 photographs begrudgingly, scan them and go on with their lives. My grandfather has said, and I quote: "That is the stupidest hobby I've ever heard of." This spoken by the same man who refers to himself as a comiconomenclaturist, a collector of amusing names like Faith Popcorn, the Brazilian Pafia Pifia Pefia Pofia Pufia Da Costa, Odious Champagne or the door-to-door firewood salesman Marmalade P. Vestibule from Cambridge, Mass.

When I showed my mother my latest addition, she said: "A soccer field is a soccer field, it seems to me." But she's wrong. Certain nuances make each one unique: the backdrop, for example, the materials, the varying states of disrepair, the feel of the field or simply the fact that they are there, everywhere.

I grew up in Italy playing soccer, as all children there do, and I've played on most of the fields I've shot. My favorite goal is the one in the shade of an enormous South African baobab I came across while driving along the Botswana border in 1990. There's something haunting about the red earth, the extraordinary vastness of South Africa's veld and sky, the goal's humility and loneliness beneath that tree.

Now, finally, soccer permeates American airwaves, newspapers, conversation. Twenty-four teams have been reduced to two, and 51 matches have boiled down to one. The victors' time has come. Perhaps mine has, too.

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