Goal ?

“Football match” (Madrid 1960)  Ramón Masats

This is one of RAMON MASATS best known photographs and certainly one of the most reproduced in the Spanish photographic anthologies of the sixties. And with good reason. The virtues of this shot are extraordinary. First of all, we should highlight its simplicity, one of the most valued features in photography; few elements, each full of meaning. But there are many others, such as its plasticity, the singularity of the subject and the unique moment it captures.

If we go deeper into the image we will find ourselves on a sunny mid-morning watching a football match, the sport par excellence especially in those years where other sports were practically nonexistent. A barren football pitch, probably located in the outskirts of the city as the distant tower blocks in the background indicate is the setting. A sparse urban landscape quite different from today’s football stadiums surrounded by enormous blocks of flats. A very poor “sports complex” to use a current term; goals without nets; just a flat surface with three pieces of wood which was all that was needed  to “play ball”, as the saying went in those days.

And what about those peculiar players? That’s another matter. A group of young novices that between latin or theology classes have gone out to play a bit of sport. Without passing by the dressing room, which in any case didn’t exist, dressed in the habit which must have been really uncomfortable to run and play in.

All of this takes us to another far off time in which I remember well the chaplains at the school running in the yard at break time very often getting tangled up in their skirts. At that time liturgy had to be present at all moments …

A part from this evocation, the picture captures the magic moment, the crucial moment in the game: the ball about to enter the goal. And the novice with the extraordinary dive about to stop the shot. His hand has not yet reached the ball but it seems it finally will. But we can’t be sure. Will the ball enter the goal between the hand and the post or will the goalkeeper manage to turn its trajectory and send it for a corner? The photograph doesn’t solve the mystery and leaves the spectator in the dark. Everybody can reach his own conclusion. We could say that it’s on open shot. And it’s worth underlining the exceptional plasticity of the photograph.

Apart from the beauty of the goal keeper’s movement, his cape-like dress and especially the shadow it casts on the ground gives him a special sense of weightlessness which turns him into literally a flying figure. Almost as if he were an angel made flesh in the figure of a novice, coming to stop Lucifer’s threat. But if we look more attentively at the acrobatic goalkeeper we see that his legs and trousers appear under the cape. The future priest recovers in this way this image –half man, half saint- so familiar from childhood; an image that very often made one doubt the real nature of the religious teacher or the parish priest.