OFFSIDE Football in Exile
Dirk-Jan Visser & Arthur Huizinga

Photography and text: Dirk-Jan Visser and Arthur Huizinga | Concept: Bas Vroege (Paradox) | Graphic design: Kummer & Herrman, Utrecht | Production: Olaf Veenstra (Noorderlicht) | Translation: Niek Miedema

Photography and text: Dirk-Jan Visser and Arthur Huizinga | Graphic design book: Kummer & Herrman, Utrecht | Text editing: Cecily Layzell | Translation: Cecily Layzell, Aytac Movsumova and Taguhi Torosyan | Lithography: Colour and Books, Apeldoorn | Printing: Platform P, Rotterdam | Publisher: Paradox_YdocPublishing

Dirk-Jan Visser & Arthur Huizinga
Dirk-Jan Visser (1978) is a independent documentary photographer based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. He works freelance for different media, focusing on social, economic and political issues around the world. In 2005 he photographed the people of Kosovo on the brink of transformation, which resulted in the book Brave New Kosovo. He won a number of awards for his photobook Zimbabwe Exodus, including Dutch Photojournalist of the Year 2007 and a special recognition in the POYi World Understanding Award . The Human Rights Watch lobby used the book to help bring about a change of asylum policy in South Africa towards Zimbabweans. In 2009 he participated in the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. Visser is represented by Hollandse Hoogte.

Arthur Huizinga
(1980) is a freelance journalist and writer living in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Since 2008 he has been a regular guest at FK Qarabağ Ağdam, researching it’s remarkable story and general refugee-issues in the South Caucasus, which led to several publication in among others De Groene Amsterdammer, NRC Handelsblad and NRC Next. When the team played FC Twente in August 2009, he was involved in different radio and television performances. In 2012 he published a non-fiction novel on FK Qarabağ Ağdam.
The geopolitical conflict in the Nagorno Karabakh region is a forgotten one. Even as the war raged between 1991-1994, it received little attention from the West. Today, the unresolved yet frozen conflict remains a reality for up to hundreds of thousands Azerbaijani and Armenian refugees. In OFFSIDE, photographer Dirk-Jan Visser and writer Arthur Huizinga tell their story from the perspective of two football teams: FK Qarabağ Ağdam and FK Karabakh Stepanakert.

FK Qarabağ Ağdam is an Azerbaijani football club currently based in the capital Baku, yet longing to return to its home ground in Ağdam. During the war with Armenian separatists over Nagorno Karabakh, the Imaret stadium in downtown Ağdam remained packed for home matches. In 1993, Karabakh-Armenian forces occupied and destroyed Ağdam and it has been a ghost town ever since. The club has become the symbol of hope and pride for over half a million Azerbaijani refugees scattered around Azerbaijan. Sponsored by a Turkish-Azerbaijani holding, it has played in the Europa League several times. In 2009, the team enjoyed an unprecedented international run until it was eventually knocked out by FC Twente (The Netherlands).

The Armenian football team FK Karabakh Stepanakert from Nagorno Karabakh, meanwhile, is banned from professional football. Due to the lack of international recognition for the breakaway Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, football association FIFA does not recognise teams from the region. As a result, FK Karabakh Stepanakert has been isolated entirely. It has lost all but its local relevance and consequently most of its financial means, a catastrophe for the team that was amongst the strongest in the Azerbaijani zone of Soviet Union football.

The South Caucasus is a highly volatile region encompassing three culturally, religiously and linguistically different states. Historically, the region has been subjected to geopolitical power play by the world’s major powers. The ‘armed peace’ in Nagorno Karabakh is the greatest threat to stability in this part of the world and potentially beyond. Sooner rather than later the conflict will be back on the international agenda, as economic interests and disparities in the region have increased tremendously in recent years. While Azerbaijan grows richer with every oil shipment, Armenia sinks further into economic isolation.

The human tragedy of this situation is revealed through the eyes of six people, each one connected to the respective football teams: players and coaches, fighters and refugees, sons and daughters, wives and widows. The story of the Armenian FK Karabakh Stepanakert counterbalances the story of the Azeri FK Qarabağ Ağdam in a book and a travelling exhibition.

Selection Most Beautiful Photo Book De Volkskrant 2012
Nominee Canon Prize at Zilveren Camera 2012
Longlist Dutch Doc Award 2012

supported by
Fonds BKVB | Stichting Sem Presser Archief

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exhibition specs
Photographic prints, archival material, video and text

Project Manager:
Christophe Collas


OFFSIDE - Football in Exile
OFFSIDE - Football in Exile
Dirk-Jan Visser & Arthur Huizinga, Paradox_YdocPublishing, 2012.
Texts by: Arthur Huizinga
Design: Kummer & Herrman
Pages: 308
Colour: colour/black& white
Cover: Softcover
Size: 210 x 265 mm
Language: English, Armenian, Azeri
ISBN: 978-90-818876-0-1

Available in the YdocStore


American Photo review
'Visser and Huizinga have made a work that is very much a book, exemplifying all the narrative strengths of the medium
in fine form.'
- John Mahoney

Conscientious review
'OFFSIDE is not the first book to emerge from Holland that has a photographer working alongside a writer, and once you look through the book you realize what is to be gained from that.

OFFSIDE is another fine example of contemporary Dutch documentary photobook making. With so much hand-wringing about the state of photojournalism and about how to present documentaries, looking at recent examples coming from Holland might teach the rest of the world a lesson of what still is possible.'
- Jörg Colberg

GUP Magazine Review
'The vast ensemble of pictures is brought together superbly by Huizinga’s short remarks on the biographies of the individuals entwined in the conflict. However, it’s the sober and at no point stagy photography that makes this book stand out from other reportages on areas of conflict.'
- Moritz Scheper

Focus Magazine review
'Tekst en foto’s zijn samen-gebracht in een krachtige eigen vormgeving, die de vergeten landen, de mensen en hun onuitroeibare conflict volledig
tot hun recht laat komen.
Zó maak je een fotoboek. OFFSIDE verdient een prijs.'
- Frits Baarda

ELSEVIER selection
'Fotograaf Dirk-Jan Visser en schrijver Arthur Huizinga hebben een onmogelijk onderwerp
tot leven gewekt.'
- Frank Westerman

NRC Next review
'Het is klassiek engagement
in een modern jasje'
- Sterre Sprengers

'Conflict en boek zijn beide complex. Schijnbaar luchtige informatieve teksten met informatie over bijvoorbeeld paarden, tapijten en Azerbeidzjaanse wijn geven veel inzicht in hoe het conflict zijn tentakels over allerlei terreinen uitstrekt en hoe nationale trots de bevolking overeind houdt maar hen ook tegenwerkt.'
- Lise-Lotte ten Voorde

FC Twente website
'Trainer/coach Steve McClaren en speler Wout Brama namen een exemplaar van het boek in ontvangst.'

Turkish Review
“Although the authors humbly claim that the book does not pretend ‘to offer even an attempt at the solution for the ongoing conflict’, Offside – Football in Exile provides a valuable precedent for similar projects that may ultimately help bring conflicting societies closer together.” - Vahram Ter-Matevosyan


On Tuesday 26th of June 2012 a special edition of Kaukasus Café took place at Pakhuis de Zwijger (Amsterdam). Point of focus was the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and Paradox' project OFFSIDE that tries to reveal this story through an Armenian and an Azeri football team.

Guido de Graaf Bierbrauwer (IKV Pax Christi) started with a short introduction on the history of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Leon Willems (Free Press Unlimited) spoke with Dirk-Jan Visser about his experience as a journalist in a country where freedom of press is not appreciated. Frank Westerman (non-fiction expert / writer of Ararat) and Arthur Huizinga discussed their approaches to storytelling as non-fiction novelists.

Bas Vroege (Paradox/YdocPublishing) and Jeroen Kummer (Kummer & Herrman/YdocPublishing) gave insight into the making of the OFFSIDE exhibition and book. Chris Keulemans (director Tolhuistuin) moderated the evening.