Capturing the final moments of Sawwas Exouzidis’s playing career
When Milad Ahmadvand, the team photographer of Swiss club FC Winterthur, learned that former fan favorite Sawwas Exouzidis would play his final game as a professional footballer against his one-time club, it was an opportunity he couldn’t resist. The result is an heart-wrenching, intimate portrait of a man coming to terms with the end of his career. Eight by Eight spoke with Ahmadvand about the photo series, titled “My Last Game,” and he agreed to share a truncated version of the essay.
Why did you pick Sawwas Exouzidis as a subject?
Before he joined FC Wohlen, Sawwas used to play for the FC Winterthur as a fan favorite. He is charismatic, likeable and his heart is in the right place. As a football player, he is someone you want to have on your team: fierce, a good runner and great at headers.
When I heard he would be playing his last game and of all teams against “us,” his true football love, the FC Winterthur, I realized I had to capture the day in pictures. For him and his fans in this city. When I called him and asked to spend the day at his side, he agreed right away. We met in the morning in Winterthur, where he still lives, and drove to his club, the FC Wohlen.
What was it like following a footballer on his final day?
For me it was less stressful than for Sawwas — I could feel his tension even before the game began. His wife and his daughter said goodbye to him with tears in their eyes in the changing room when the game was about to start. In that moment I started to realize what the day meant to them – and what it would offer for me.
As a photographer, one needs to stay susceptible for these kind of moments and even look for them. However, there is no time to absorb the energy and emotion. This happens later, when I look the pictures. That is the moment I get goosebumps.
When I am on the job, I am very focused. I try to keep track of everything happening around me, not just on the field but also around, without losing the nuances and the strong moments.
The most intense moment was, when Sawwas was sent into the game. He was sitting on the bench until minute 80. Shortly before he went in, he watched his team even out the score. Everyone was tensely waiting for the coach’s signal. Those few minutes before he entered the field were very special.