Book Review: Come Sunday by George Nelson

Background and concept

Every four years sixteen European nations compete for the Henri Delaunay (European Championship) trophy. During the summer of 2012, photographer George Nelson set out to visit a number of London venues, (bars, restaurants, clubs and churches), screening Euro 2012 matches. His aim was to ‘follow’ every team with its London residing supporters and capture each experience in pictures.

There were only two self-imposed restrictions. One was a minimum of one venue to each participating nation and the second was the omission of England supporters, bringing down the number of locations to fifteen. The latter was a conceptual choice, as the gathering of immigrant collectives lay at the hub of this venture. The Euro 2012 project also serves as a demonstration of the London’s uniquely diverse make-up, locates several subtleties in cultural variation, yet more than hints at a universality in our relationship with ‘the beautiful game’.

From this vast palette, George settled on a single location in which to centre his book and the first Tatum Special publication. ‘Come Sunday’ hones in on the Italian Euro 2012 experience. On three Sundays* that summer Italian supporters gathered at C’asa Italiana – a penalty kick away from their Basilica-style Church, St Peter’s – as Clerkenwell reclaimed its ‘Little Italy’ status.

*       10 June 2012, Group C, Italy 1 – 1 Spain

24 June 2012, Quarter-Final, Italy 0 – 0 England (Italy won pens 4-2)

          01 July 2012, Final, Italy 0 – 4 Spain



In December 2013 Monte Fresco died at the age of 77. It’s a name that many people won’t recognise, although undoubtedly many will remember his work. Monte was an English sports photographer, and one of his most famous images was that of Vinnie Jones ‘tackling’ a young Paul Gascoigne.

Despite the fact that our screens are awash with football from all over the world, photographs which capture a moment, an emotion or are breath-taking, challenging or beautiful, will always have a place in ‘the people’s game’.

George Nelson in ‘Come Sunday’ has looked to focus on the fans rather than the action on the pitch. Nelson shared three games with the Italian fans, including those which saw, qualification from Group C, the drama of a penalty win over England and the disappointment of defeat in the Euro 2012 Final to Spain.

The book consists of thirty images which capture this journey. Nelson succeeds in conveying the emotion and drama of both victory and defeat, without an image of any of the games. Instead the ‘high and lows’ are conveyed through the expressions and body language of those gathered in Clerkenwell.

Nelson is successful in capturing more than just the football, in that the essence of family and community is evident, as the pictures portray the old and the young, men and women, all united in supporting ‘their team’.

One of the other themes which emerge from this collection is the idea of football as a religion. Not only are the images captured on a Sunday (the traditional day of rest), but the location is linked to the local Catholic church.

The great thing with the images is that you can initially focus on the central figures, but then also can revisit the pictures and understand what is going on in the background, so getting a feel for the context. For instance, the last image in ‘Come Sunday’ shows a mother, coat in hand, ready to take her children home. On the screen in the room, Spanish striker Fernando Torres celebrates victory in the Final as he takes his own child on a lap of honour.

It is a small tome, but is a collection of pictures you’ll want to look at again and interpret for yourself.

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For more information about George Nelson and to buy ‘Come Sunday’, follow this link

UEFA 2012 European Championship: Day 5

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Group D

France (1) 1 – 1 (1)  England

I said yesterday that I wasn’t nervous before the game and to be honest it stayed that way during the ninety minutes. Was it lack of expectation? Or was it that being a Fulham fan and from the evidence of the two England friendly games to date, that I knew Roy Hodgson would make England an organised and functional unit? Whatever it was, yesterday was rather a pleasant watching experience – something I’ve not felt or said about England games in tournament play over the years. I’m not saying the Three Lions are going to stride imperiously to taking the 2012 title, but it was an encouraging display. There will be critics and for my part, I worry that that style of play where the team has to work so hard in that heat may catch-up with players. However, it was a real ‘team’ performance and players looked like they understood their role. Wednesday will be no easy task, but England must go and look to expose the Swedish defence as Ukraine did. Finally, besides the performance on the pitch, a real bonus for me yesterday was that the England ‘band’ was not allowed to play after stadium officials confiscated their instruments. Long may it continue!

Ukraine                          (0) 2 – 1 (0)  Sweden

This game was ultimately about two forwards, for Sweden Zlatan Ibrahimovic and for the Ukraine, Andriy Shevchenko. In a goal-less first-half, the two best chances feel to these famous protagonists. Shevchenko was played into the box after a lovely move, but when clear dragged his shot wide. Ibrahimovic came even closer when a cross found him unmarked just outside the six-yard box, but could only guide his header against the post. Into the second-half Sweden made the breakthrough on fifty two minutes. Ukraine never dealt well with a Larsson cross, which was played back in by Kallstrom where Ibrahimovic calmly steered in from close range. However, within ten minutes the game was turned on its head – quite literally. On fifty five minutes Yarmolenko crossed and Shevchenko showed more determination than his marker to head in the equaliser. Then on sixty two minutes from a corner, the Ukrainian striker was more alert than the Swedish defence to flick in another header at the near post. Sweden though continued to press with three good chances falling to Ibrahimovic, substitute Elmander and Mellberg, but the co-hosts hung on and France next travel to the cauldron in Kiev on Wednesday knowing they are in an emotionally charged encounter.  On a final note, sitting at home, he noise levels at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev were quite unbelievable at times – it must have been incredible to be in the ground.  

The competition starts today in terms of the second round of matches and when the fates of teams takes more shape. In the first game tonight, Greece play the Czech Republic at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw. A draw wouldn’t eliminate either team, but the Czech Republic will be desperate after their dismal showing against Russia, to get back on track. If Greece play the way they did in the second-half against Poland it could be interesting.

The later kick-off at the National Stadium in Warsaw will see Poland take on Russia. In the BBC preview to the game they detailed the historical significance of the fixture. “…In Warsaw you could be forgiven for thinking that Poland’s army is going into battle with near neighbours Russia. Local papers have gone to town with references to their victorious 1920 battle against the Bolshevik Army, fuelling simmering nationalist sentiments ahead of this ‘eastern European derby’…The highly-charged match also falls on Russia Day, a national holiday, and some Russian fans plan to march from the city centre to the stadium – potentially provocative…” Russia know that a victory tonight would all but guarantee progress to the knock-out stages of the competition. Poland seemed to struggle under the pressure of being co-hosts and meeting the expectation of the home fans. If Russia get the first goal, it could be a very difficult night indeed for Poland.

The opening round of Euro 2012 has been open and entertaining, the second round of games brings more pressure so fingers crossed the drama and excitement continues.

UEFA European 2012 Championship: Preview

As summer stills attempts to make its mind up about whether to actually show up this year, June sees the beginning of the UEFA 2012 European Championships, hosted by Poland and Ukraine. The award of the event to these countries has divided opinion. UEFA President Michel Platini, unsurprisingly, is fully supportive of taking such a major tournament to new territories. However, Theo van Seggelen (Secretary General of the World Players Union, FIFPro) is concerned that the abiding memory of the Championships could be more about racism and violence than events on the pitch. This assertion is based around work carried out by FIFPro and highlighted at the Soccerex 2012 event in Manchester and covered recently by the BBC’s Panorama programme. It is a very real concern and UEFA must be holding it’s breath at what may ensue over the next month.

On the pitch, the general consensus is that there is no pressure on England going into the tournament as the expectation from the media and football public is low. The tournament has been swallowed up amidst the Jubilee Celebrations and the impending Olympics; perhaps it is no bad thing. Preparation has hardly been ideal for the Three Lions, with the appointment of a successor to Fabio Capello left in limbo for months. Then once appointed, Roy Hodgson received a less than overwhelming response from some sections of the media and fans. For my part I think it is a good appointment given that The FA were totally sold on having an English manager this time around. Hodgson has good experience at club and international level and I just hope he isn’t subject to the sniping that marked his brief time at Anfield. Of the England squad picked by Hodgson, it has a very familiar look about it and it will surely be the ‘last hurrah’ for the likes of Terry and Gerrard. There hasn’t been a great deal of luck with injuries either, as the squad has seen Ruddy, Barry, Lampard and Cahill all have to withdraw and there has also been some background dissent at the non-selection of Rio Ferdinand. Will adversity work for or against England?

In terms of how the 2012 competition pans out, I can’t see the shocks and emerging of an underdog to win, as happened earlier this year in the African Cup of Nations. Having said that, Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004, showed that upsets are possible. However in 2012 for me the European ‘big guns’ of Spain, Netherlands, Germany and Italy will be the ones to beat and in terms of the Groups, this is who I expect to emerge to the knock-out Phase:

Group A: Russia and Czech Republic.

Group B: Germany and Netherlands.

Group C: Spain and Italy.

Group D: England and France.

Tomorrow Poland face Greece at the National Stadium in Warsaw, in the opening fixture, with Russia and the Czech Republic playing later in the day at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw. Co-hosts Poland do not have a great track record in the European Championships, and have only ever qualified for the Finals on one occasion, that being in 2008. In their Group games the Poles lost to Germany and Croatia and drew against Austria. Poland won their last warm-up game 4-0 against Andorra, but will be under tremendous pressure from the home fans to get a winning start to their campaign against Greece.

This will be the fourth appearance for the Greeks in the Finals. Their debut came in 1980, where they drew 0-0 with West Germany, but lost to the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia. Greece had to wait 24 years before qualifying again and what an incredible tournament they had. In the Groups Stage, Greece beat hosts Portugal 2-1, drew 1-1 with Spain and went through on goals scored after a 2-1 loss to Russia. In the Quarter-Finals, the reigning Champions France were beaten 1-0 to set up a Semi-Final meeting with the Czech Republic. The game went to extra-time and a single goal was enough to see Greece into the Final. Incredibly the Greeks overcame hosts Portugal 1-0 with a goal from Charisteas to become European Champions. However in 2008 it was a rather different story for Greece as they lost all three Group games, to Sweden, Russia and Spain. Greece qualified for this tournament after topping a Group containing Croatia, Israel, Latvia, Georgia and Malta. The Greeks were unbeaten winning seven games and drawing three. However, going into their last friendly before Euro 2012, Greece had not won in four games, before a 1-0 win over Armenia provided a boost ahead of tomorrows game.

Russia (in the guise of the Soviet Union) were the first European Champions in 1960 beating Yugoslavia 2-1 and had an impressive record in the early years, finishing runners-up in 1964, fourth place in 1968 and runners-up in 1972. There were then barren years until 1988 when they reached the Final only to lose to the Netherlands. As the political situation changed in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union broke apart, by the time the Euro 1992 arrived a team that represented the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a regional confederation formed by 12 of the 15 newly formed sovereign states that emerged out of the break-up, competed in Sweden. In the Group games, the CIS drew with Germany and the Netherlands before bowing out with a 3-0 loss to Scotland. As Russia emerged as a footballing entity they qualified for Euro 1996, but finished bottom of their group, losing to Italy and Germany before ending with a draw against the Czech Republic. Eight years later in Portugal, Russia again finished bottom of their Group after losses to Spain and Portugal, although they did beat eventual Champions Greece 2-1 in their closing game. Four years ago, Russia had their best showing in recent years, reaching the Semi-Finals before bowing out to three second half goals from Champions elect Spain. In qualification for Euro 2012, Russia topped the Group in which the Republic of Ireland were runners-up. In their last warm-up game, Russia impressively overcame Italy 3-0.

As Czechoslovakia (prior to the political break-up in 1992), the country had a rather hit and miss European record, in that between 1960 and 1992, they failed to qualify for six of the nine tournaments. However, when qualifying they had an impressive record. In 1960, Czechoslovakia having lost to the Soviet Union in the Semi-Finals, beat France to take third place. Sixteen years later Czechoslovakia won the competition, overcoming West Germany winning 5-3 on penalties. Another third place was achieved four years later, overcoming Italy 9-8 on penalties. As the Czech Republic the team has qualified for every Finals from 1996 to date. In England in Euro 1996, they made it to the Final, only to lose to Germany. In the tournaments of 2000 and 2008, the Czech Republic didn’t get beyond the Group stage, but in 2004 got to the Semi-Finals only to lose to eventual Champions Greece in extra-time. Their qualification for this years tournament was sealed through the play-offs with a 3-0 aggregate win over Montenegro. Their last outing before this tournament ended in a 2-1 defeat to Hungary.

The opening round of games in any tournament are invariably cagey, as nobody wants to get off to a losing start, so part of me says that the two opening fixtures will end as draws. Let the action commence…