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The duality of emotion in sports: World Cup edition

Learning how to capture heartbreak in a sea of celebration.

Captain Popp after Germany’s loss to Sweden.
Nikita Taparia

The world cup is over and I am going through massive withdrawal. As a fan, I remember losing my voice within 20 minutes at the 2015 final. As a photographer, I teared up when the final whistle blew and the USWNT stormed the pitch. I quickly held them back because I knew I had to capture one last postgame celebration...and heartbreak.

Postgame: USA vs. England
Nikita Taparia

I already wrote about how NWSL taught me to capture the game in my own unique way. I think one of the biggest lessons I learned from the World Cup is the importance of capturing heartbreak and specifically, the duality of emotion.

Postgame: USA vs. France
Nikita Taparia

When I would photograph NWSL, I would shy away from the sad moments. I remember specifically avoiding it at the NWSL championship last year. I could barely stomach the idea of photographing teary eyed Thorns players thanking their supporters. As a result, I missed one of the most important pictures in that game and I absolutely regret it — a moment that captured the bond between supporters and the team they loved no matter the result.

Postgame: USA vs France.
Nikita Taparia

In a similar fashion, at the World Cup, it almost felt like a breach of privacy as a player walked around the pitch aimlessly, in tears, trying to thank fans for their support. But I knew I had to capture it no matter how much it hurt.

Postgame: Netherlands vs Sweden
Nikita Taparia

As a visual storyteller, my first priority has always been to illustrate how these athletes have given their life and soul to every single game. The postgame moments are the only time you truly see how much it means to them. The spectrum of emotion, as soon as the whistle blows, is probably one of the most powerful things I have ever witnessed, especially on the world’s stage.

Postgame: USA vs Netherlands
Nikita Taparia

And I will never forget it.

Postgame: Netherlands final huddle.
Nikita Taparia