If there’s one place every football fan should experience a game, it’s in South America. And more specifically, Argentina. More specific than that? Get to Buenos Aires. A place where French photographer Basile Bertrand captured first hand the unrestrained passion that people have for the game.

A young photographer with a love of football, Basile Bertrand had experience of Ultra Culture in the game, having cut his teeth shooting his home city club, PSG. But when looking for a new challenge and somewhere that truly shared his own passion for the beautiful game, there was only one place to head: Buenos Aires. And within this vibrant city that is spilling with football fever, it was San Lorenzo that he chose to focus on, both literally and figuratively, for his next project. Having completed the shoot earlier this year, we spoke to Bertrand about his experiences.

You’re a photographer with a passion for football, but which one grabbed your attention first?

I have been into football since I was a kid. I played in the club of my town and in the suburbs of Paris at the age of 10. I always loved this sport. My first really bad memory was when the national team lost against Italy in the World Cup 2006 Final. But one of my best memories was when we won the World Cup two years ago. My city is Paris, my club PSG and with this passion for one club I discovered the Ultra culture. Photography came after, it’s also a passion but I see it also as a job.

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Can you give us a bit of your background? How long have you been shooting for and how would you describe your style?

I have been a photographer for six years. When I finished high school, I moved to Paris and since that day I have really explored the medium of photography. I have a preference on sub cultures and like exploring the suburbs of Paris as an example. I think ‘my style’ is more like a documentary approach. I like to put lights on things people don’t really know, to go beyond the stereotypes.

Can you talk us through the project you created in Argentina? What took you out there and what was the experience like?

I went to Argentina for a six month exchange. I went to university classes there but I chose this country, and specially this city – Buenos Aires – for the love of football they have. At first, I really tried to improve my Spanish so I could talk and connect with local people. Also, I knew San Lorenzo before I came here – the Ultra culture – it’s one of the club’s that is really recognisable for its supporters (hinchas). It was really easy for me to go to the stadium, I subscribed and got a “socio card” which meant I could go in the most popular stand, where there is the “La Gloriosa Buteller” (The San Lorenzo Ultras).

At first, I was going without a camera. I didn’t want to be rude or offend anyone. I know that a stranger in the popular stand can be problematic. The Parc des Princes and PSG taught me that. After 3 months, I started to know some people over there and I asked them if it’s possible to go into the stadium with my camera, and they liked the idea, they told me to do it. So for my last 3 games I went with my camera and started shooting the atmosphere and the fans.

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How would you describe the connection people out there have with football?

It’s not a myth; it really is a religion over there. Everybody, every generation, is into football. In Buenos Aires, there are more than 20 clubs. Almost every neighbourhood has their own club and their own stadium. It’s also really a family thing. If your grandfather is for Boca Juniors for example, all the family will be for this team. Football also helped me as a first connection with a lot of people, you can talk football with anybody in Argentina! (especially when we won 4-3 against them in the last world cup...)

Is it like any football experience you have witnessed before?

I have had a really good experience with my mates in the stadium of PSG, and in other cities for away games. While in Europe it’s possible to go to away games, in Argentina it’s forbidden due to the fights there are before the match. But in Argentina I feel that everybody is into their club. When you go to a stadium to see a game, all the people are behind their team. In Europe, there are a lot of stadiums where you still see people sit for example. You’d never see that in Argentina – everyone is on their feet with so much energy.

Why should everyone experience Argentinian football in their lifetime?

Because it really is a religion.

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What surprised you about the atmosphere and energy of the fans? Can you talk us through the match day?

It was when San Lorenzo played Boca Juniors. The 3 main enemies of San Lorenzo are; Huracan, Boca Juniors, and River Plate. The atmosphere before the game was incredible and when the players entered the stadium, it was just a huge mess. There was so much noise, the stadium was really moving, and there was a lot of ticker tape and balloons everywhere. San Lorenzo lost 0-2, but it was the best game I saw in Argentina. 90 minutes of madness.

From a photography perspective, what made it so good?

I liked the fact that San Lorenzo is not as famous as Boca or River for exemple. It was easy for me to create a real connection with the fans. You can’t go to the stadium and take photos like that at Boca and River easily as people are wary of those making documentaries. One thing I love about photography are the before and after pictures. They have such a moment in time?

Will you be going back?

Of course!

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Check out more of Basile Bertrand's work here.