Emotions overflow in wild scenes of celebration for Portugal’s passionate fans.
Captured by London based photographer Neil Massey, these moments of unbridled joy came during the Euros in 2004.
Portugal were hosts and had just secured their place in the final with victory over The Netherlands, and Massey, there on holiday, was ideally placed to record Portuguese passion at its most fiery.
The bubble burst with defeat in the final against Greece, but a 19 year old CristIano Ronaldo had earlier opened his Portuguese goal scoring account, with the first of his 118 goals for his country in this, his first major international tournament.
Now Portugal are back on the cusp of maybe more glory, this time in the Qatar World Cup, which will almost certainly bring down the curtain on the glittering career of that man Ronaldo.
Massey, with camera at the ready, found himself in a fishing village beach bar in Sesimbra, just outside Lisbon, watching that Euros semi-final unfold.
“I happily got caught up in the melee with the locals,” he recalls. “I loved the spirit and sheer joy of the whole community coming out on the streets to celebrate this win – you can see how much it meant to the Portuguese people.”
He has experienced such euphoria time and again throughout his career, recently shooting material for Emmanuel Adebayor’s foundation SEA in Lome, Togo.
“I photographed him in his home and during a AFCON qualifier. What struck me the most was the Togo fans during the game. Dressed in the red, yellow and green – the fans, men and women, sang gospel style; before and all the way through the game, including half time.
“It was hypnotic, infectious and joyful. I think we’ve all seen during the world cup 2022 how incredible the African fans are.
“The art of capturing fleeting moments of humanity, be that joy, sorrow or life in its different guises is what keeps me taking photographs,” he said.
It is that involvement with the fans that has been the hallmark of Massey’s success. He has achieved similar results following Arsenal, and says getting up close is the key for any aspiring photographer.
“With football photography,” he says, “get stuck in with the fans, shooting it from the inside. A small camera is fine. The key for me with my Arsenal series was being in the middle of it looking out rather than the other way around.
“Small camera is fine. You don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself.”
“In 2001 I moved into a flat opposite ‘The Gunners’ pub,” said the lifelong Arsenal fan.
“I was then offered a season ticket by a friend of mine. In return he said come and take some photos during the 2001/02 Season. Deal.
“For the next nine months I took along my Contax T2 point and shoot film camera to every game I could go to, games down ‘The Gunners’ pub and a few away games to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge.
“What struck me most during my first season as a ticket holder and fan was how quickly I got drawn (very happily) into the ritual. The meet up before the weekly game outside my flat / ‘The Gunners’ pub drinking a few beers catching up with friends, then going to the stadium in the boisterous Clock End singing all the latest and old chants.
“Then finishing up in ‘The Gunners’ after the game to celebrate or commiserate.
“As a photographer I was Interested too in the tribal nature of being a football fan. It was easy to embed myself in amongst it, as Arsenal were my team. We went on to win the double that season.”
Originally from Fleet in Hampshire, Massey, just like his North Londoner parents, has followed Arsenal since the 1970s.
“My dad was brought up in Kings Cross, my mum Shoreditch and Islington,” he said. “My dad used to sell programmes at Highbury when he was a kid so it was a given I was going to be a Gooner.
“When I was at primary school myself and my best mate formed the ‘Gunner Gang’ with two other Arsenal friends. I remember marvelling at Liam Brady’s dribbling skills on TV.
“I went with my family to my first game in 1983 at Highbury. We sat in the West Stand and saw David O’Leary, Pat Jennings and Graham Rix play. At this time my bedroom wall was covered in all these Arsenal players and BMX posters – my other love at that time.”
In his mid-teens he and some pals took their place on the North Bank after going to a first Arsenal game together, catching the train from Fleet to Waterloo, then the underground to Arsenal tube station.
“At some point during the journey the away fans piled onto the tube,” he recalled. “I remember it got a little lairy.”
Massey discovered photography as a 15 year old, shooting, then developing and printing his own banger racing ‘Demolition Derby’ pictures for an art exam.
That signalled the start of a long and rewarding photographic journey, that early on featured a trip to Wembley and a first taste of international football working as a professional photographer.
“I was commissioned by Umbro to photograph England during a friendly,” he said. “It was my first time pitchside with a very long sports lens. I seem to remember my brief was to just photograph John Terry.”
He has subsequently taken pictures at clubs, raves, gigs and demonstrations.
“I’ve always really enjoyed being in amongst the action when It’s all going off,” he said. “So photographing during a game or in a noisy pub when the football is on is where I’m happiest. I like to photograph the whole gamut of emotions we go through when supporting a team.
“With my Arsenal series I also love how after 20 years the images become interesting to me not just in a historical sense but with the fashion and hairstyles of that time.”
You can keep up to date with Neil by following him on Instagram, but make sure you also check out all his other work including NFTs on his website and subscribe to his newsletter for all his latest news.
If you enjoyed that, you may also like David Corio’s throwback pictures of England football fans in New York during England’s France 98 World Cup clash against Argentina. We all remember how that went…