Life’s a Ball 90s is a documentary photobook by Zak Waters that takes a nostalgic and affectionate look at diehard UK football fans in the mid 90’s.

Contrary to what you may think ‘Life’s a Ball 90s’ is not a book about football – it is a book about people who like football – REALLY like football!

First Edition 2021 (Fistful of Books)
Zak Waters & Ivor Baddiel
140 pages – with 95 colour photographs
200 x 300mm
Edition of 750
Offset colour printing
Buy the book: FISTFUL

It is a photobook of two halves:

The second half is all about Groundhoppers, a group of like-minded people (men mostly) who Tyneside-based newspaper The Journal described as “the train spotters of British football”. The Groundhoppers documented in Life’s A Ball 90s visited football grounds in the Northern League – it didn’t matter who was playing (they didn’t support a particular team), they were fans of football in the purest sense! They were also fans of the grounds on which the game was played and they had their little rituals – some liked (had) to touch all the corner posts, some would log every pass in every game they watched and so on. I accompanied the Northern League Groundhoppers on two Easter weekend outings – the first in 1995 and then again in 1996. The following images are a slection of Groundhoppers from the book.

Wolfie “About 10 years ago the ball hit me four games in row. Every game away to the ball seemed to come to me, so I thought it it’s going to come to me, I’m going to go to it.”

Consequently, at every game he now goes to, Dave surveys are ground very carefully, walking around it if possible, and positions himself in the spot which he reckons is the most likely to allow him to touch the match ball. He’s successful 95% of the time at non-league grounds, though admits to a slightly lower hit rate at the league grounds.

Having been to some 260 different grounds today, Dave reckons he can read the game well enough to have a fair idea as to where ball is going to go out, though sometimes, touching it can be somewhat traumatic.

“I went to see a team called Rolls-Royce Engines on one of their goals backs onto an airfield. When the ball went out there, I jumped over the fence, made sure a plane wasn’t landing or taking off, ran over the runway, grabbed the ball, check for planes again and ran back through the fence with the ball.”

All that effort just to get a feel of the ball. It must be particularly exhilarating to succeed.

“After I didn’t I just think great I touched the ‘ball,’ which is more than some of the players have done if you think about substitutes.”

Makes it all so worthwhile.