Offbeat Video

By Josh Saunders

A soccer superfan has reveals incredible images of the most beautiful part of the last five World Cups… the fans.

Doug Zimmerman, 43, from Oakland, California, has spent hundreds of hours over 16 years photographing the ecstasy, heartbreak and exhilaration since 2002.

The photo-series captures the spirit of the World Cup through the elaborate and vividly coloured costumers of the fans, the musical instruments brought by each nation and the reactions.

PICS BY DOUGLAS ZIMMERMAN / CATERS NEWS: 2006 WORLD CUP: An German national soccer team supporter at the Fan Festival next to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin Germany, on July 4th, 2006 reacts to the loss of Germany against Italy in extra time. The FIFA World Cup Semi-Final match was won on two late goals in extra-time by Italy, which defeated Germany to advance to the final. Ive learned its always best to treat your photo subjects with great respect, especially in a moment of sadness. This German fan looked quite scary with his shaved head and numerous tattoos but with the tears steaming down his cheeks I had to attempt the photo. I got in close, made eye contact and got the tacit permission to take this image.

Doug describes the games as a ‘month-long party’ that opens common ground for people to bond over, share culture and enjoy the beautiful game itself.

He intends to turns his photo-series into a book and is fundraising to produce the ‘One World, One Love: The Fans of the World Cup’.

Doug, a photojournalist, said: “I’ve always been fascinated by the passion of football fans.

“Sure, there is no World Cup without the action on the field, but it’s the intensity, devotion, and fanaticism of the fans that make the World Cup so special.

“Each country’s fans bring their own unique way of contributing to the event. Many fans have travelled from far away and met together on a neutral ground.

“It creates a most significant exchange of cross-cultural communication and understanding.

“The Brazilians bring their samba drums, the South African’s their Vuvuzelas, the British with their cheeky and inventive chants.

PICS BY DOUGLAS ZIMMERMAN / CATERS NEWS – (PICTURED: 2010 WORLD CUP: Dutch fans celebrate at a bar in Cape Town after their national team defeated Uruguay in 2010 FIFA World Cup semi-final at Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa on Tuesday, July 6, 2010. Netherlands defeated Uruguay 3-2.These Netherland fans know how to party. They found a bar in Cape Town, South Africa to celebrate after advancing to the World Cup and frivolity followed.

“To the Dutch with their overwhelming display of the color orange and frivolity, or the Koreans with their loud unifying chants.

“They are all different in how they express themselves for their singular passion for soccer.

“I feel that the story of how most fans experience the World Cup is largely untold.

“Headlines about soccer violence or hooliganism can grab our attention but the focus of my photo essay is to show that despite our differences, soccer brings us together.

“From my experiences at the World Cup I truly believe that it does.

Doug became enchanted by the ‘magic of the World Cup’ during 1994 games when watching Nigeria vs Italy in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Catching an overnight train to attend the event, he was overwhelmed by the ecstatic reaction of Italian fans after Roberto Baggio equalised in a game that would end 2-1.

He said: “As luck would have it my seat was right in the middle of a group of Nigeria fans behind the goal. It was even more fun when Nigeria took an early lead.

PICS BY DOUGLAS ZIMMERMAN / CATERS NEWS: 2018 WORLD CUP: Photographer Douglas Zimmerman (right) poses for a photo with a South Korea supporter in Nizhny Novgorod on June 18, 2018. NOTE: This is the Korea fan I mentioned in my questions

“The Screaming Eagles fans became increasingly excited as they nursed their advantage through most of the second half.

“Meanwhile, besides this one section, the stadium was full of Italy fans who were deadly silent with worry.

“Just when it appeared that Nigeria would pull off the upset, the legendary Italian striker Roberto Baggio broke through and tied the game up for Italy.

“What I experienced next was pure pandemonium. The stadium unfurled into an explosion of ecstasy.

“The fans were running up and down the stairs, unfurling flags and chanting ‘Italia! Italia! Italia!’ at the top of their lungs.

“I had never experience that much intensity at any sporting event ever.

PICS BY DOUGLAS ZIMMERMAN / CATERS NEWS: 2010 WORLD CUP: Serbia and Ghana fans cheer together at Loftus Versfeld Stadium during the second half of the 2010 World Cup first round match between Serbia and Ghana in Pretoria, South Africa on Saturday, June 12, 2010.This was one of the most amazing moments I have ever experienced between the fans at the World Cup. Security in the stadium believed that this Serbia fan was bothering the Ghana fans and attempted to boot him from the stadium. The Ghana fans rushed to his aid and convinced them to let him stay. They understood that they were all just there to support their team with as much passion and energy as possible and respected it.

“It was clear to me that being a soccer fan, especially at the World Cup, meant so much more than any other event. It was at that moment that I was hooked and I became a soccer fan.”

Doug went on assignment to photograph his first World Cup in 2002 for the games hosted by South Korea and Japan.

Initially intending to solely document the US fans, who would go onto reach the quarterfinals, his perspective quickly changed to follow supporters from all nations.

Doug said: “Everyone in their county [South Korea] supported the team. You could tell that the fan’s energy made the team achieve much more than the had any right to.

“It also opened up my eyes to how soccer, especially at the World Cup, brings people together leading to greater awareness and understanding.

“One minute you are talking to a guy from Ireland, and the next someone from Senegal, and the next a fan from South America, and then you are dancing in the streets with South Koreans.

“Attending the World Cup showed me how ‘American’ I was and how that had shaped my view of the world.

PICS BY DOUGLAS ZIMMERMAN / CATERS NEWS: 2010 WORLD CUP: A fan wearing a suit titled the Elephant of Ivory Coast stands in the pathway with his ticket after not finding a suitable seat to sit with fellow Ivory Coast fans at Soccer City during the FIFA World Cup first round match between Ivory Coast and Brazil at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa on Sunday, June 20, 2010. The Elephant was forced to attempt to watch the seat from behind the stands. This was one of the saddest moments I photographed at a World Cup game. This Ivory Coast fan could not find a place to sit and support his team in the stands and was forced to watch it from behind the seats. All the work and effort that went into his costume was for naught.

“Being a soccer fan opened up a pathway to learn more about people outside the country I live in.

“I think that is even a more important message to convey at a time when many countries and leaders are attempting to build walls between us.

“Soccer, especially for the fans who bring back their experiences from the World Cup, can help us break those barriers down instead.”

Doug believes the World Cup allows each host nation to introduce themselves and their culture to other nations.

In addition to changing perceptions and prior beliefs about the nation. 

Doug said: “For Korea it was about being accepted as an important world power. For South Africa, it was showing the rest of the nations what Africa has to offer.

“For Russia, the World Cup is a stage to ‘correct’ misconceptions many may have about the country, especially in the west.

“The country is surprisingly open as are its people and have embraced fully the role as hosts and welcoming the World.

“Many individual Russians are proud to share their pride and opinions of their nation with all of the visitors at the World Cup.

PICS BY DOUGLAS ZIMMERMAN / CATERS NEWS: 2006 WORLD CUP: In Erfurt, Germany, German national soccer team supporters took to the streets waving large German Flags from their cars and honking their horns to celebrate Germanys win over Argentina. Germany and Argentina played their 2006 FIFA World Cup Quarterfinal match on Friday, June 30th, 2006. Germany defeated Argentina on penalty kicks 3-1 to advance to the semi-finals.I based myself in the town of Erfurt in Germany for the 2006 World Cup, which is literally right in the center of the country and located on a high speed rail line. Fans celebrated just as hard in the small city the victory as they wouldve right outside the stadium=

“But besides all of these important storylines, the World Cup essentially is the largest month-long party for the fans, and everyone is Russia is invited to take part.

Some special moments he recalls include during the 2010 game between Serbia and Ghana, where the opposing team’s fans saved a Serbian fan from being ejected from the stadium.

They convinced a security guard that the Serbian fan was not causing trouble, highlighting how they both understood the passion they both shared for their teams.

Doug said: “It once again showed me how soccer fanatics mutual love for the beautiful game can open up a common ground that leads to a higher awareness and understanding.

“Another time, a fan from Ivory Coast had constructed a full body orange elephant suit to wear during their game against Brazil.

“It was quite cumbersome, and he even needed two friends to lead him in around in the outfit.

PICS BY DOUGLAS ZIMMERMAN / CATERS NEWS: 2002 WORLD CUP: South Korean national team supporters celebrate in the Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul, South Korea on June 22nd, 2002 after South Korea defeated Spain in a World Cup quarterfinal match on penalty kicks 5-3 . The victory celebration after South Korea defeated Spain to make the semifinals was one of the most indelible moments for me of the 2002 World Cup. The absolute joy and excitement of the Korea fans that day was incredible and the partying continued into the wee hours of the morning

“For some reason when the Ivory Coast fans got inside the stadium, there was a mix-up with their tickets, and they ended up not being able to watch the game in the stands.

“This guy had spent months building this suit and was so excited to show his devotion to ‘Les Elephants’ but was stuck to not even being able to watch the game.

“Finally, resigned to the fact he wouldn’t be able to really support his team, he ended up taking off his elephant head and stood dejectedly.

“Different fans witnessed what happened and came up to him during the game to talk and shake his hand and tell him how sorry they were for him.

“It was sad but also beautiful in a way. They all understood how much effort he had made to be there and everyone respected it.”

Doug is fundraising $7,500 (GBP) to cover some of the costs to cover the Russian World Cup and to publish a book that will showcase the photographs he has taken over the last 16 years.

He hopes the series will show the beauty of the World Cup and how the spirit of the games can change the world.

PICS BY DOUGLAS ZIMMERMAN / CATERS NEWS: 2018 WORLD CUP: Mexico fans celebrate their 1-0 victory over Germany at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia on June 17, 2018 at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The Mexico fans were incredibly supportive and passionate the whole game. It was amazing to watch them celebrate the unexpected upset over Germany.

Doug said: “With my photo essay I want to show that soccer (football), and in particular football fans, have the ability make the world into a better place.

“The process starts with the fans who attend the World Cup. 

“I’ve experienced first-hand how being at the event has changed mine and other people’s view of the world in a positive way.”

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