The world’s largest and most prestigious annual photography contest is run by the Amsterdam-based World Press Photo. Since 1955 they have given out an award for their winning photograph of the year and some of the most seminal images of our time have taken the coveted prize. A photographer winning this award is akin to a player winning the European Footballer of the Year title.
It’s a heavyweight affair and the award is invariably given to intrepid photographers who have put themselves at personal risk to capture dramatic images of major world events. The Vietnam War, the troubles in Northern Ireland, famine in Somalia, genocide in Rwanda, earthquakes, revolution, AIDS: these are just some of the major flash points and global issues that have produced inspired photography and accompanying World Press Photo recognition.
A subject as comparatively insignificant as football shouldn’t really belong in this sort of company, yet once, back in 1958, the award was given to Czech photojournalist Stanislav Tereba for the stunning image (left) he captured at a domestic League game between Sparta Prague and Cervena Hviezda Bratislava (now FK Inter Bratislava). Miroslav Čtvrtníček is the drenched, miserable keeper; glumly contemplating a goal-kick while being unwittingly immortalised for posterity in fifty shades of monochrome. That it is the only time in the award’s history a sports photograph has won is great testament to its compositional beauty.
For Stanislav Tereba, shooting sport was more of a hobby than his stock in trade. He catalogued huge political changes over the years in his native Czechoslovakia and was on hand to capture the Prague Spring in 1968. Nature, portraits, China; even when photographing sport it was as likely to be athletics or gymnastics as football itself.
His other football work was uniformly excellent too though, in particular some of the shots he took of Czechoslovakia’s success in the European Championships of 1976. There’s a gallery selection below (click on any image to open) – look out for the wonderfully lugubrious Antonín Panenka, resplendent in his swapped West German shirt, clutching his winner’s medal, yet still not quite managing a smile.
Some years ago now I was fortunate enough to be bought a print of this seminal, award-winning photo direct from Mr Tereba himself and the Miroslav Čtvrtníček image remains my favourite footballing image to this day.