World Cup Girls

Thomas Mandl

July 12, 2018

For his “World Cup Girls” project, the Munich photographer, Thomas Mandl, took pictures of female football fans from all over the world, with one clear goal in mind: to seize the #worldcupgirls hashtag, to free it from sexism and to give it positive connotations. In an interview, he talks about the reactions triggered by the project, his impressions during the World Cup, and the role of images in football.
LFI: What do you want World Cup Girls to draw the attention to?
Thomas Mandl:

My main concern with this reportage is to strengthen the culture of female football fans. I also want to draw attention to the sexism that, unfortunately, is still very much linked to the question of female football fans.

What has the reaction been like?
Predominantly very positive. I’ve received many messages from all kinds of countries, and many people have thanked me for my commitment. All the women that I portrayed for the reportage are thankful and proud to be part of the project.

What techniques did you use to achieve your photographic goal? Was your approach different compared to the rest of your work?
First of all, I had no idea what to expect in Russia. I hadn’t received any accreditation from the Russian authorities, so I had to behave like a football fan. I had a total of four different fans scarves with me. Virtually all the pictures were taken at the same place in Moscow. In the down town area, there was only one place where I could take portraits with a black backdrop, so I had to be very patient at times and wait – or convince women to go to that spot with me. I don’t normally speak very much with the people I plan to photograph for a reportage; but for this project I had to take the offensive, be open and chatty. There were often long conversations with the fans before the pictures were taken.

How did you yourself perceive the World Cup?
In the many conversations I had with female fans from all over the world, I learnt that drastic changes are needed in many countries, so as to put sexism in football aside. Above all, in Russia itself a lot needs to be done.

What influence do you think photography has on football?
Pictures have a very big influence on football, because in some cases only 40,000 fans can be at a game in person, and the rest of the world follows the action with (moving) pictures. That’s why it’s very frustrating that over 95 percent of the female fans are not shown, because they don’t fit into the one-sided beauty ideal of the ‘Perv-Cam’, or are not sexy enough to be shown on instagram under #worldcupgirls.
EQUIPMENT: Leica M-P (Typ 240), Summicron-M 50 f/2 Asph

Thomas Mandl+-

© Miguel Oliveira
© Miguel Olivera

Thomas Mandl was born in Munich in 1990, and started taking analogue photographs when he was 16. After finishing high school he decided to study Geography and Politics. In parallel to his studies he began working in fashion photography, and as a film maker in Stockholm and Munich. Since 2017, his focus lies on his own reportages, and on activist, politically-motivated projects. More


World Cup Girls

Thomas Mandl