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Girls football: Andrew Leo captures the courage and camaraderie of Bow’s Vicky Park Rangers [Photoessay]

Biting winds, bare legs and mud-caked football boots: local photographer Andrew Leo captures the spirit of Victoria Parks’ girls’ football team, the Vicky Park Rangers.

Threatening grey clouds, cold-hardened pitches and a persistent drizzle are prerequisites to practically every British sporting fixture. And it was no different for the Vicky Park Rangers FC playing on their home turf on a chilly Saturday morning last month. 

Joining them on this grey day was local photographer Andrew Leo who was determined to capture the infectious spirit of the female footballers despite the uninspiring weather conditions. 

‘For me it’s about the people, I always look for the emotion behind the scenes, which is why being a wedding photographer suits me,’ said Leo: ‘I also do portraits, street style and travel photography but even if it’s a really beautiful landscape, it’s always better in my eyes if there’s a person in it.’

When photographing the Vicky Park Rangers Leo said he wanted to capture the camaraderie and strong bond evident among the teammates. 

‘You could tell that all the girls got on really, really well, even those from different age groups,’ said Leo: ‘That was really nice to see because I still have mates for life from playing on sports teams at that age.’

For me it’s about the people, I always look for the emotion behind the scenes.

Andrew LEo

Although Leo’s captivating photographs of Repton Boxing Club would suggest differently, he said he doesn’t do much sports photography, especially not using a long lens that is required for sports like football. 

The black and white collection of photos reflects the grey, moody day, and lends a timelessness to the images impossible to achieve with glaring neon-yellow bibs and colourful football boots. 

Shooting most of the photos with his new Leica camera, Leo was disappointed to find that the ‘Rolls-Royce of cameras’ ran out of battery before the match had even finished. Luckily, he had his backup – a reliable Canon – to finish the shoot and capture a post-match shot of the girls enlivened by their victory. 

Egging for the team to make it all the way to the final, Leo hopes he can return to Victoria Park to photograph the emotion of a higher-stakes game. Seeing as the Vicky Park Rangers Under 14s are currently joint top in the league, it looks likely that this could become a reality. 

Under 14 Vicky Park Rangers FC team congregate on the pitch.
© Andrew Leo
Vicky Park Ranger goalie behind the netting.
© Andrew Leo
Two Vicky Park Ranger girl footballers sit on the sidelines.
© Andrew Leo
Vicky Park Rangers coach watches the football game from the sideline, facing away from the camera.
© Andrew Leo
Vicky park Ranger under 14 footballer sitting on the sideline smiling.
© Andrew Leo
Football goal from behind with goalie in Victoria Park.
© Andrew Leo
Female footballer smiles between teammates in half time chat.
© Andrew Leo
Under 14 Vicky Park Rangers team shot in front of the goal.
© Andrew Leo
Team talk showing Vicky Park Ranger coach and team at half time.
© Andrew Leo
Close up of football coach's clipboard.
© Andrew Leo
Vicky Park Ranger footballer at half time team talk.
© Andrew Leo
Vicky Park Ranger walking off the pitch.
© Andrew Leo

For more information about joining the Vicky Park Rangers, visit their website at: Vickyparkrangersfc.com.

If you enjoyed this photoessay, see our photos of boxing at York Hall Boxing in Bethnal Green.

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