Images worth their wait in goals

By Ross McKee
BBC News

Image caption,
Pele celebrates with a team-mate after Brazil's 1970 World Cup final victory

Images of World Cup final goals are spooled in the memory of many a football fan, but few get to catch up with the men who delivered the historic strikes.

Only 34 of the 55 players who have scored in the tournament's ultimate game since its inception in 1930 are still alive.

Now a Belfast photographer has tracked them all down and is set to unveil the results of his encounters at an exhibition in his home city.

Footage and interviews from the meetings will also feature in a series of films for sports broadcaster ESPN which he is producing and co-directing.

Michael Donald began the project in August 2009 and found that about half the players were still involved with the sport.

But there were a few surprises along the way, with the Dutch scorer of the equaliser in the 1978 World Cup final, Dirk Nanninga, plying his trade as a bathroom salesman for 20 years.

Michael has just returned from Brazil, where he completed his odyssey by photographing Pele, Ronaldo and Gerson.

"With Pele, it was incredibly difficult to get access, it took about a year of negotiation," he said.

"But like so many of those things whenever you get to him he was absolutely delightful, and gave us all the time we needed.

"His particular shot was done in his office which was not particularly interesting, so I just did a tight shot where you will hopefully look into the eyes of the man that did so much.

"His name is synonymous with the World Cup and with Brazilian football so it was brilliant."

On a previous trip to the South American country, Michael had travelled to Rio de Janeiro to film one of Brazil's other goalscorers in their 1970 World Cup final triumph - Jairzinho.

This was to prove his most dangerous mission.

"In Rio if you are filming, you have to use the protection of off-duty special forces policemen," he said.

"But if you are going into the favelas this causes more trouble than not, you have to get permission from local druglords.

"Once it gets dark you are on your own, the people who were looking after us cleared off and left us.

"We were shooting film of Jairzinho with a table football game when this guy pulled up on a motorbike with two guns on him.

"He told us to leave, so we left."

An exhibition of Michael's photographs will be on display at La Boca restaurant in Belfast next month, ahead of this year's World Cup in South Africa which begins on 11 June.