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Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Tuesday, 18 May 2010 10:12 UK
Football: from Port Talbot to Rustenburg
Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg
The Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg is the only privately-owned arena used for the World Cup, with the profits ploughed back into the local community

Football fans are relishing the prospect of seeing the beautiful game being played at the highest level during Africa's first World Cup.

Preparations for the tournament, poised to make more money than any in the history of the event, have focused on the stadia that will host the games.

Five of these extraordinary venues have been renovated, others rebuilt and some constructed from scratch.

It's a long way from small local clubs on wet Saturday afternoons in Wales.

image by Beth Mitchell of Port Talbot fans in the stand
Port Talbot fans cheer on their team

Flat caps

But set against the backdrop of this enormous event is the work of Swansea documentary photographer Beth Mitchell who has recorded portraits of 18 Welsh football grounds.

There is no sign of permanently tanned Wags or designer handbags among these pictures.

There is much more about flat caps, single figure entrance fees, and grandchildren singing in the stands.

The idea was to reclaim football from the glamorous world of celebrity and take it back to its roots.

At least six of the clubs she photographed in Wales face changes, unable to afford the essential improvements to remain at their current Welsh Premier Football League level.

Ms Mitchell said: "A lot of them are rundown and in need of a bit of TLC, but the clubs haven't got the money to do it."

"There's a real community spirit at these places," she said, "it's a dedicated fan base - winter, rain, summer or snow."

She started the project in Porthmadog in September 2009 and worked through the colder months to complete it.

And when the weather really turns nasty, most fans shuffling on the terraces reach for the nearest available carbohydrates.

"It's always pretty standard fare - hot dogs, pies, Bovril and tea. Smiley women serving hot beverages in extreme conditions - they're all very welcoming, very open," she said.

Airbus UK Broughton FC has retractable floodlights because of its proximity to a runway
Port Talbot Town FC traces its roots back to one of the first association football clubs in Wales
Legendary Scots football manager Jock Stein signed for Llanelli AFC in 1950

She confesses that it was the people on the terraces, rather than the action on the pitch that prompted her initial interest. So has Ms Mitchell developed a love for the beautiful game?

"I've become a bit of a Llanelli Reds fan," she said. "They have been very supportive and six of my pictures are up in the cafe there."

For The Love of The Game opens at the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea on 18 May and runs until 13 June 2010.




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