AN IMAGE taken by a Suffolk Non-League photographer has been shortlisted for a prestigious worldwide award.
The shot by Leiston FC official club photographer Ben Cunningham is one of 40 shortlisted in the amateur category of the World Sports Photography Awards 2023.
The photograph was of Leiston’s Adam Mills performing a backflip as he ran towards the camera after scoring the winner in their 1-0 victory at Needham Market last season.
Ben, who celebrates his 37th birthday this Sunday, said he was praying the photograph was in focus and checked to see as soon as he got back in the clubhouse after the game ended.
The 90th-minute goal earned Leiston three points against their Suffolk rivals at Bloomfields en route to the visitors finishing third in Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central last season.
Ben, who lives in Lowestoft, has been covering Non-League games for the past five seasons and joined Leiston after doing some freelance work for the club when current joint managers Chris Wigger and Darren Eadie took over.
Ben recalled: “At that time, about 70 minutes into the game, I was thinking to myself I should have just stayed at home as it wasn’t the greatest of games.
“It had rained pretty much all day, I was covered in mud, soaked through, cold and bored. Then Adam pops up in the 90th minute on the edge of the Needham box and scores a screamer in the local derby.
“He started to run in the opposite direction when the ball flew in the back of the net, which I was a bit annoyed about, but then he checked back on himself and started to head in my direction, and I thought ‘here we go’ as we had some epic team celebrations that season.
“I wasn’t expecting him to do a backflip. I refused to look during the rest of the game as I was just praying that it was in focus and hoped that I managed to capture some of it as he came at me full speed.
“It was when I got back into the clubhouse to dry off, I thought I’d have a quick look to see…and there it was!”
Ben said he particularly liked the fact that Mills was right in the middle of the photograph upside down with members of the team in the background running over to celebrate with him, all smiling as he is in mid-flip.
Asked if he thought it is the best sports photograph he has ever taken, Ben replied: “I’m not sure, like I mentioned earlier we had some epic team celebrations last season and I cherish those as much as Adam’s backflip for different reasons.
“When I shared the image on social media it went viral on X (Twitter) it went crazy for about 3-4 weeks, with so much interaction from so many people and I was tagged in various posts and the competition was one of them.
“I looked at the previous year’s entries and with all the love it had received I thought, why not? I haven't got anything to lose, and it might be one of those once-in-a-lifetime images.”
Ben said it was the first time that he has entered the competition, but hopefully not the last.
“I’m not sure on how many people entered but it was open to all amateur sports photographers in the world,” added Ben.
Ben said he is expecting the winners to be announced at the end of November or beginning of December but didn’t know what prize the winner will receive.
He said: “It’s sponsored my mpb.com which is a camera equipment seller, so it could be something epic.”