When it comes to documenting the weird and wonderful world of Argentine football, sometimes a picture really can tell a thousand words.
That was the premise for Sebastian Frej, the photographer who took it upon himself to capture the essence of the sport through the medium of his camera lens.
The 43-year-old, born in Poland and currently based in London, travelled to Argentina four times and took in more than 50 matches the length and breadth of Buenos Aires province, from the heights of the Primera to the rough and ready B Metropolitana.
The results can be seen in Football Passion Buenos Aires, a lavish example of photojournalism lovingly put together by Sebastian, which went on sale at the start of 2018.
The Times caught up with the author, who – like so many visitors to this nation – left the country with a profound love for all things Argentina.
What is your background as a photographer?
I don’t have a big CV, this was my first project of such a size. Normally, over the last few years, I have been working with Premier League matches.
How did you come up with the idea of documenting Argentine football in such a way?
In Europe, the only time the media talks about Argentine league football is when the barra bravas kill each other, or when a goalkeeper eats a hamburger on the pitch. I wanted to show that there is something else there, a lot more.
Did you have prior awareness of the sport in Argentina before beginning?
I knew a little bit about the league, in particular the strange (from a European point of view) relegation system. I learnt this from the game Football Manager!
Were there any particular challenges to creating such a project here?
I only know about 30 words in Spanish, that was the biggest problem for me! On the other hand I am the editor, publisher, sponsor and photographer, all-in-one, so there were a lot of things I needed to do all by myself.
Argentine fans are famed for their fanaticism, that must make for extremely promising material...
Yes, I loved every moment here and still feel like I can do more. The fans there are amazing, from the little kids to the oldest gentlemen.
Of all the stadiums you visited, which left the biggest impression on you?
[Racing Club’s] El Cilindro is my favourite but truly I love them all, they are all different to each other compared to the new modern soulless arenas in Europe.
What memories stand out from your time taking photographs? Can you remember a moment, a fan, or any game that was unforgettable for whatever reason?
Tigre versus Rosario stands out for personal reasons. The day before I was feeling very sick at La Bombonera and couldn’t get all the pictures I wanted to, and the next day I was standing in the middle of the pitch just before the players came out. My morale was very low, I was thinking ‘What I am doing here?’ And then Rosario Central’s players came out with with a banner that said “Fuerza Seba.” It wasn’t for me obviously but it had the same name as mine, so that made me cry and then smile again.
Games in Argentina are infamous for episodes of violence in the stands. Did you feel that atmosphere of tension as someone new to the country?
No, I have been in some potentially dangerous matches before in Europe. But of course I was careful with certain things.
What were your impressions of Argentina overall, as a society in and away from football?
Friendly people, but very nervous taxi-drivers!
Lastly, just for fun: Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi, who would you choose for your team?
[Claudio] Caniggia! No, Maradona, always Maradona.