WSS x KTTP PRESENTS | SHIRTS AND SKINS: TASHA KAI

In this episode of Shirts and Skins, we catch up with Natasha (Tasha) Kai, former USWNT player and member of their gold medal-winning squad. Tasha takes us on her tattoo journey from her very first ink, which, she may or may not regret to the, to her getting tattooed in the traditional Hawaiian method of “bone tattooing”. Tasha is not shy about the way she expresses herself and her love for ink. Enjoy getting to know Tasha Kai. Check out the full conversation and photoset below. 

Follow Tasha on Instagram: @NatashaKai6

photo cred: @idriserba

MAKING MOVES W/ DENISE JONES

We had the pleasure to catch up with our own multi-talented and unboxing leading lady Denise Jones. Born and raised in LA she tells about how football represents a family, culture and a global fashion. How her style is inspired by sports, people and mostly her own journey.

Follow Denise: @youknowdenise

Photo Cred: @stephyperea

Can you share your first memory of football?

I was like eight or nine and one days and my dad, he’s really my stepdad, but raise me like his own, surprised me with an entire Nike set. So it was like a matching Nike Ball, matching Nike shinguards, matching Nike cleats pink and green. And I didn’t even like pink at the time, but I was just like, wow. I don’t know how he did this, because my brother and I would have to hand me downs or play with like tennis shoes. And so when he came out with this, even my brothers were like, they had their jaws dropped and I clearly remember this.

I feel like when you’re raised amongst boys, it can go one of two ways. You’re either like the princess or you’re one of the boys. And I was one of the boys. And so, as we all did everything together, we all played soccer together, we all did swim together, we all did karate together. And so when it was time for soccer, that was like my dad’s like forte.

So I fell in love with the sport, just playing. And then that memory with my dad, because he was the one that taught me just like how to move up and down a pitch and how to like to be aggressive in the game, that is probably the first one that I really remember. 

Can you tell us about your football journey?

It’s such a funny story. So after that experience, I was playing soccer heavy. Growing up until like 7th grade. And I remember not really knowing if it was what I really wanted to keep doing. So I took a step back from soccer. And so I played basketball all four years of college. I did swim during like three of those years as well. But it’s so difficult to manage to be a student, being a student-athlete and then also working. Hard to manage it all at once. 

But it’s so funny because during my internship at Power 106  things came full circle with soccer. Because at that point I had gained so much familiarity with soccer, swimming, and basketball. And when I was talking to people at the radio station everyone was passionate about soccer and it was mostly because I want to say like 80% of the radio station, honored jocks and producers were Mexican American. So it was like something we all connected with. Everyone loved soccer. So that’s where a soccer Sunday started and that’s how I got back into the sport.

Can you tell us about what you do for work?

I’m very well connected in the entertainment music industry. I started in radio, at like a Gospel radio station and then transitioned over to Power 106. It’s the number one Hip Hop station in LA. It was my dream to always be there. So I ground my way into music, from an intern to a producer to the street team. 

Currently, I am the sideline reporter for Lakers nation, a host for Kicks to the Pitch Unboxing and I also host football events when it’s in season. So I do a lot of sports reporting. And recently I’ve also been helping more on the consulting and business development side when it comes to like immersive experiential marketing with companies such as Nike.  

I have a lot of fun. That’s first and foremost. I have a lot of fun and that’s literally number one in all my jobs to make sure that I’m having as much fun as possible. Because if not, it would be impossible to juggle everything that I do.

How would you describe the football culture?

The great thing about sports and soccer, in particular, is that you can connect with so many individuals across the globe. And that’s probably my favorite part about it. It is not just one-sided. There are so many aspects to the soccer culture that some people forget to recognize. There’s fashion and there’s a cool factor to it. There’s a language to it and there’s a community. I love that.

When did your love for sneakers and streetwear begin?

My love for sneakers and streetwear began actually with basketball. Because it was a sport that I played in high school. So when I was like 14, 15 years old. I remember we were fundraising for these ugly shoes, I think it was like a Shack Shock or something like that. And for my birthday someone surprised me with Kobe’s and it was really awesome because I was like, heck yeah. Like at that moment I recognize the value that comes from wearing something that you like as opposed to wearing something that you don’t like. I started just connecting the dots. If I was happy with what I was wearing and I was happy playing. And I started like really growing into what my look and my fashion is.

How would you describe your style?

So I’m a tomboy. Like, again, I grew up with boys. I’m half black, half Mexican. So I feel like I’m always trying to make sure that I’m interjecting both cultures. In what I’m wearing because people see what you wear first before they recognize who you are. And so I, I love the Hip Hop scene, but I’m also big on like nortenas and cumbias and like bright colors. And so I’m making sure that I’m applying that to what I’m wearing.

I remember my first sneaker I purchase was the Jordan 1 Chicago. And it was only because I felt like the red embraces the Mexican culture part of me. It could have also just been me convincing myself that I was doing this for buying this shoe for a bigger purpose. That was my first Jordan 1 that I copped out of pocket. I still have those to this day.

.

FEMALE IS FOOTBALL: SABRINA COLS

Introducing Sabrina Cols. Sabrina is the newest member of the KTTP writing team and our feature for this edition of Female is Football. The Netherlands has long been an epicenter of not only how football is played but how life reacts and exists around it. To help chart the modern rise of the Dutch female footballer, we sit down with Sabrina Cols: marketer, a player, the lioness behind the scenes helping grow the game through her experiences with Nike + the Dutch FA.

Follow Sabrina: @sabrina_cols

Photos: @bybrando

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Sabrina Cols, 35 years old and I come from Holland. I originally grew up in a city in the east of Holland and moved to Utrecht, where I currently live, during my studies. I got connected with the game of football through my cousins, because they were always outside playing. So when I had the chance to join another sport, after swimming lessons and martial arts it was quite logical that I would join a football club. My mom found a great club and I joined when I was 11. I’ve never stopped ever since.

What was the presence of girls and women’s  football growing up. Was it common?

For everyone starting in the 90s, it was there: girls and women’s football, but it wasn’t as big as it is now. In Holland you also have the opportunity to play mixed football, which means that you can join every club. That got a lot of girls started in that time. My club had enough members and could therefore also organize girls teams. 

Were these games televised? Were they hard to find and watch?

When I started to play there was hardly any women’s football on television. So you’re absolutely right. It was not broadcasted and the Dutch Women’s team at that time was not participating at the big tournaments. So I had to watch Eurosport to see a little bit of international women’s football and that started during the Women’s World Cup in 99. Especially the USA women’s team stood out for me. They were playing for big crowds, winning the tournament in the end. Really special to see that on tv and to see all these great players from the different countries at that stage.

How hard was it to watch?

It’s really nice to nowadays see the attentions for the women’s games during the big tournaments. At that time I would kamp in front of the tv and try to catch a glimpse on Eurosport to follow the Women’s games during the big tournaments. Players like Mia Hamm really stood with me, with her great technique and scoring great goals. The following years the USA women’s teams made it easy to follow them, because they were really active and into presenting themselves. To me the team that set the tone and really showcasing how you can do that as a team, as players and of course always combined with great success and winning prizes. 

What part did style in football play into your life?

Growing up you always see your cousins, friends and the kids at school who wear cool things. In Holland we didn’t have the school uniform or anything like that, so we could always express ourselves from a very young age. Wearing whatever you like. If you are a football player, then you also tend to look at what the football players are wearing and how that meshes with your own style. Sneakers growing up was a big thing. I think that’s definitely something that was as important as wearing the best cleats.

Did you have a favorite brand? Or more of a variety?

Back in the days I like the old school ones: the Air Max Lights, [ones] I was always playing football in the lunch breaks,  so so I always needed to have that second pair with me as well. So I would not to not mess up my good pair. I still remember wearing white and baby blue LA Gears, red velvet Kangaroos, the Kill Bill yellow Puma’s during high school. But Nike’s were my favorites. Those are the shoes that I remember.

Now that we know the soccer side of things, Can you talk about what you do for a career?

I started working as an independent [sports and culture consultant] in 2017. Before that, I worked for 10 years for Nike and the Dutch FA. So my background is pretty much in football and the sporting goods business. At Nike, I started with a retail marketing internship and after that I had multiple jobs within the company. My thread within my Nike career was that it was in a way connected to football. At the Dutch FA I was a women’s football marketing manager.

Some of the great memories from my Nike time was meeting the Dutch women’s national team when they got their first women’s fitted kit and supporting the first women’s football photoshoot back in 2008. Introducing also Anouk Hoogendijk (former Dutch international) to Nike. My last gig at Nike was as a kids- and women’s football project manager. 

A dream ofcourse to work as a professional in football. Nowadays I’m working as an independent also really exploring other worlds. So I’m still doing projects in football, but I am also working on arts theater and dance-projects and a social impact-project.

How did your football journey start?

I just grew up loving football. I had a great time playing season after season. With great memories of winning prizes, even playing abroad and just having great laughs with my teammates. At some point, I just realized that I maybe was not that good and interested to make it to the top on pitch. So I had to see if I could pursue another career in football. Sharing what I learned and enjoyed on a professional level. Looking back it’s really cool that I managed to do that. I ended up working for my top two companies. Giving a real pulse to Dutch women’s football and work on kids and women’s football within a big multinational.

I’ve been playing and watching women’s football for so long. And I just couldn’t understand why companies like that shouldn’t pay good attention to it. So I am hoping that I played a part in giving energy and help translate how you can make women’s football work professionally. Whether you are a big sports brand or a federation. Not forgetting also to motivate the players, whether they are internationals or young girls starting, clubs and other people involved on how they can also play a role in promoting the game.

What was it like in the early days of working in women’s football at Nike?

Growing up as a young football fan Nike to me always had the best football stories and the best commercials starring Brazilian team, great players such as Ronaldinho, Henry and Zlatan. So of course I would love Nike to do the same for women’s football. But when I started the first conversations in 2007 at Nike Holland there was still a lot to win on getting to know the sport: how many girls and women are playing, how is it developing, who are the big clubs, who are the players to watch, how many people are watching games. So in other words: is the sport really a sleeping giant and how interesting it is business wise. But it was definitely at that time when I got a real good understanding of what sports business means, what makes great product and even better storytelling. It was not the right time, yet.

What was it like in the early days of working with the Dutch FA?

Yeah. I  was probably the first full-time women’s football marketer, in Holland, in Europe, maybe in the world haha. When you’re in it, you’re just working really hard and doing your best. But if I now look back, I started in 2008 on the parttime project women’s football and I helped develop it into a marketing category with people working full time and many more colleagues involved by 2017, it was quite unique. 

At the Dutch FA at that time, it was really important that they presented girls and women playing, from grassroots to the Dutch national team, in the best way possible. Mind you that at that time the mindset on women’s football was not as good as it is today and the Dutch women’s national team was not as visible and successfull. So we first started with making well though of marketing communication plans, creating it with and for the players, using campaigns around the big tournaments and using quality productions to also shape that image of women’s football. Really inviting girls, women, parents, clubs to join and play football. And setting the stage the women’s national team and getting Dutch fans excited for the other Orange team. 

It’s just really cool to think of how it all came together. A lot of girls and women started to play football, female membership was growing constantly. Giving the Dutch women’s team, the OranjeLeeuwinnen (translated: Orange Lionesses) their own identity and a stage to really present themselves to the Dutch fans. We developed and organized the women’s national team games into the national women’s football events. And the final big step was to win the women’s EURO 2017 bid and making Holland the host of the European Championship. Good times.

What does style mean in terms of empowerment/femininity ?

Well, I think to me style means identity. A really big gesture was, for instance, the orange lioness in the crest of the women’s Dutch national team in 2007. Nike changed the crest from a lion to the lioness. Not just having a new kit, with all these new technologies and an even better fit. It’s those elements that makes you want to wear it even more. The players felt really proud wearing that crest and the story got even more elevated when they won the Euros. Really amazing.

It goes beyond being proud of playing for your country if you know that something is made for you. What you wear fits better when you know it’s made with your insights and embodies your thoughts and dreams. That feeling, that’s what makes your style and what makes your identity. 

What’s different now that you’re working independently? Tell us about your project “Blood in Blood out.”

What I like about working independently today is that I can do a variety on football storytelling. I love the football culture. I love it when arts meets football and vice versa. So I am proud to part of the “Blood in Blood out” project. What they create is a shirt and they evolved it into an even bigger story. The elements in the shirt represents a career, the roots of your family or just the clubs that your a massive fan of. The piece of art that comes out not only looks cool, but is also really makes strong very tangible statement. I love that.

So with Blood in Blood Out, what are you roles?

I do research on players and story opportunities. Once that’s in process I also help with the production side. Whether it’s organizing the meet up with the player or the photoshoot. Another part is to help connecting with magazines or other media platforms to see if we can team up and present the story around the shirts and players. So it’s those three things: research, production and publicity.

How would you describe your work personality?

Sometimes I just describe myself as a creative multiplayer, someone that you always want as part your team and who can play on multiple positions in any stage of the game. Especially working at the Dutch FA, I started women’s football as a project, so I had to prove that it could be bigger than that. So I had to act as a marketing multiplayer: be a product manager, do event promotion, create and produce promotional tools and see if I could join or create teams to help grow the work. Crazy, I did it all. So yes, it was really great that the team became bigger and more colleagues got involved to join the fun. That’s where I learned to be very flexible, present what can be done, help create great teams and teamwork.

Brands you like right now?

I think for me, I am wearing the Veja sneakers at the moment. They are a very conscious sneaker brand. I think that’s really cool. I like Patagonia for the same reason. It’s very nicely designed. It’s great quality. And they present themselves through the world that we should cherish and love. I try to be conscious in what I am buying and to be smart in how to combine that clothes and shoes that I have. Nowadays I like the brands that do the same. 

Closing thoughts on the industry and pushing the women’s game forward?

Yeah definitely. I feel very lucky to have met and worked with many great players, coaches, clubs and people in football. It’s the people and the opportunities through the game that makes it a lot of fun to work on. I think there’s still so much to tell and win. As for the players, the teams and everyone involved just keep going and keep having fun. Nothing is stopping the women’s game to evolve and as it is part of football it is part of a never-ending beautiful story. 

SOCCER FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE W/ SOCCERGRLPROBS

What started as a side project among three friends in college, SoccerGrlProbs has grown into a cultural phenomenon for women’s soccer. Started by Shannon Fay, Carly Beyar and Alanna Locast, SoccerGrlProbs was first started in 2011 during their collegiate soccer preseason. What originally started by sharing tweets that every female soccer player could relate to, quickly turned into much more as they struck a cord that resonated with their core audience. Within a couple of weeks of launching their Twitter page, Soccer GrlProbs was racking up thousands of fans and they were being inundated with requests for videos. Capturing on the trend at the time of such videos as “Sh*t Girls Say”, Carly, Alana and Shannon set out to create their own video aptly titled “Sh*t Soccer Girls Say.” You can see the video here.

They shot this video on an iPad, put it up on YouTube, and the next day the video already had one million views. Clearly the video resonated with people as it was relatable, hilarious and authentic to who the girls are. Their online presence was growing, their fanbase exploding and demand for all things SoccerGrlProbs related was only growing.

Fan requests continued to roll in for more content as well as merchandise. SGP decided to take three funny tweets that they had put out and turn those into t-shirts. Once again demand was strong and the shirts sold out in five hours. Everything that SGP did was working as it struck a chord with a niche group of women which helped to create a strong sense of community among global lady ballers.

Since 2011 (and that first video in 2012) SGP has continued growing their brand and their following and it works so well because they know exactly who they are, their fans know who they are and their success is proof that authenticity matters most. Whether sharing content, telling stories or selling product. Being true to who you are matters.

I’ve seen firsthand the support they have and the passion that their fans have for them and what they do. Years ago we were in a suite in a stadium watching a game. They had tweeted out that they were at the game and within minutes there were close to 100 young soccer players standing outside the door waiting to meet them. This is what SGP means to female soccer players and it is incredible to see what they have built. And even though they are eight years in the game, it feels very much like this is just the beginning for what is to come.

With the Women’s World Cup taking place right now, SGP finds themselves in France doing what they do best. Creating content, meeting new people, sharing their love of the sport and being ambassadors for the women’s game. They were also recently featured on the Fox segment “She’s Next” in which they talked about how girls can exceed beyond the field when they stay in sports.

And that is an important part of this story. Their desire to empower young girls, to show what is possible on and off the field all while helping to grow the sport. When asked what more can be done to help women’s soccer grow in the US, they answered quickly and decisively. They want more people to support the NWSL. The support that is shown during the Women’s World Cup is great, but they want to see more being done daily with fans getting out and supporting the league, the players and their favorite teams. They know that to grow women’s soccer in the US requires daily support and engagement from fans around the country. That kind of daily involvement is exactly what we see from SGP and they are the leaders in helping to not only grow the sport, but to help young female soccer players drive for greatness and achieve their dreams.

Follow SoccerGrlProbs:

YouTube – SoccerGrlProbsVids
IG – SoccerGrlProbs

And their latest endeavor, Sh*t Soccer Girls say Podcast where they talk all things soccer and life on and off the pitch. – Check it out on iTunes here.

 

Photoshoot Cred: @thomvsfrs

 

WORLD SOCCER SHOP x KTTP PRESENTS | KIT STORIES: SHAWNA GORDON


On this episode of Kit stories we sit down with Shawna Gordon, former pro player and current personal trainer, mentor, personality, actor and model. Shawna takes us back to the days of playing youth soccer in authentic Arsenal kits and we find out the moment when she realized that she could pursue a professional career in soccer.

UNDFTD’S TRIBUTE TO BRIANA SCURRY

Briana Scurry paved the way for future generations of African American talent on the USWNT. The starting goaltender for the 1999 World Cup U.S. Women’s National Team is not only the first African-American woman in the National Soccer Hall of Fame, not only the first female goalie chosen for the Hall but also the first woman to be featured on UNDFTD’s billboard on La Brea.

Beginning her soccer career at the age of 12 in Dayton, Minnesota, Scurry was already breaking barriers then, being the only African-American and the only girl on the team. Her coach at the time, placed her in goal to avoid her getting hurt by the other boys. After that, she took that spot and ran with it. She continued to play at the varsity level at Anoka High School and was a scholarship athlete for the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. And it was in 1993, that the U.S. women’s national team coach, Tony DiCicco, called her in about playing goalkeeper for the team.

Fast forward to 1999, when women’s soccer in the U.S. started reaching peak levels with a record 90,000 spectators filling the Rose Bowl to watch the U.S. take on China in a World Cup match that some will never forget. During that match, Scurry is most remembered for her cross-net deflection of China’s Liu Ying’s spot kick that set up Brandi Chastain’s game-winning penalty-kick-to-shirtless-slide succession.

Twenty years later, that same heart and passion got Briana on an iconic billboard, on one of the busiest streets in Los Angeles with a little help from UNDFTD. We talked to Evelynn Escobar-Thomas, the Social Media Manager at UNDFTD on their thoughts behind the billboard.

 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: World Cup champion Briana Scurry of the 1999 United States Women's National Team makes a halftime appearance during the game against Belgium at Banc of California Stadium on April 07, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Denise:

You mentioned hearing stories about your uncle playing for the Guatemalan national team. How strong was your connection to the sport before this and what did your family say when they heard you were working on the project?

Evelynn:

I’ve always viewed it from the outside, I never actually played the sport but being involved with this project, my cousins were always in the back of my head. As this was unfolding, I definitely texted them saying, “Omg! Guess what happened?” So, it was cool to do something meaningful for a community I’ve always admired.

Denise:

You’re half Guatemalan-half African American. How do interject both cultures in your role?

Evelynn:

I feel like it drives everything. Being from two communities who are historically marginalized, I’ve always challenged myself to push boundaries and tell stories that aren’t commonly told.

Denise:

And that same heart, that same mentality brought us the billboard. Talk to us about that story and your role behind it.

PASADENA, : US goalkeeper Briana Scurry (L) lunges as she stops the penalty kick by Liu Ying of the Chinese soccer team in a shoot-out at the end of their game in the finals of the Women’s World Cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California 10 July 1999. The US team scored all of their five penalty shots to win the game. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/HECTOR MATA (Photo credit should read HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)

Evelynn:

We had the opportunity because of the 2019 World Cup. Nike wanted us to activate as a brand around it in a larger way and one of those components they asked us if we could use the [UNDFTD] billboard to help tell a story. Initially that was met with a lot of reservations because the UNDFTD billboard is such an iconic landmark for the brand. There’s never any marketing on it. It’s always an artistic take [on it]. It’s always a take on what’s happening in society right now. So, when they asked us that, at first, it was met with shock value to the team because it sounded like a big marketing plan. But, I’ve always had that vision and said we do artful takes on a number of things and there’s no reason we can’t do an artful take on this. There are so many big stories in women’s soccer that haven’t been told or put in a mainstream light. So, the lightbulb went on for me and I said we have to do this because it would be so meaningful. After that, I took it upon myself to get inspiration images to send over and get the ball rolling. From those, I had a photo of the 99ers, with the whole team, a photo of Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, the classic Brandi Chastain sports bra photo, and a photo of Briana Scurry saving the goal in that same game [against China’s Liu Ying]. Obviously knowing my background, I wanted to get Briana from the get-go. For me it was operation: Get Briana On That Billboard. Just because she has insane talent, an incredible story, and the fact that it hasn’t been told in a bigger way. Growing up, I looked up to Mia Hamm but had I been presented with Briana Scurry in that same light, who knows what that would’ve done for me. So I had that responsibility. Obviously this was going to be big period because we haven’t had a female athlete on the billboard but I can really push the envelope and make sure that we blow it out of the park.

Denise:

Wow. That’s beautiful and so inspiring. What was the battle you were fighting when really leading with Briana during all these conversations?

Evelynn:

I think, leading with the fact that she was the first black woman inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, I think that really made it click with everyone. After I presented the images I pulled up, they had to go through approval and one of our owners, James Bond, he narrowed it down to Brandy [Chastain] and Briana [Scurry] but he proposed the photo that is now on the billboard that’s the one he came back and said, “hey, let’s do this.” After that, I was so happy and taken aback because I didn’t think that they would want to have a big, prominent image like that on the billboard concerning this ask [by Nike], so I was super happy and down for that image change. But obviously, we had two options, and for me, had we presented the Brandy Chastain photo to Nike and Briana Scurry photo, they were going to go with Brandy because it’s the most commercial, safe and commonly known pic so I told them we can’t even give [Nike] that option. We can only give them Briana and if they come back, then we have another option but we’re not leading with two. We’re just going to give them Briana and tell them, “this is what it is” and hopefully it goes through and thankfully it did. But even then, I heard that there was a little questioning on [Nike’s] side, saying well is this what we should be going with but everything said and done, we got her up there and it was amazing. I knew there was potential for some trouble getting it up there because even though she has an amazing story, there’s still those things that we have to fight today about being commercial and being this and being that.

Denise:

I love that you used your platform and your voice for something bigger! What’s been the feedback you’ve received from people about the billboard?

Evelynn:

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, a lot of gratitude around it. I knew how big it would be to get her on the billboard from the get-go but I didn’t really know the gravity of how huge and how much it would affect other people. So that was overwhelming in the best possible way. At the end of the day, this really has nothing to do with me. I’m just thankful that I was able to use my voice and fight for something that I knew was important and that mattered and to be able to have actually done that. This really is about her story. It’s about inspiring the next generation. It’s specifically about inspiring young women of color and even more specifically about inspiring young Black girls to be able to see someone in such a prominent space like the La Brea billboard and say “I can do that too” or “I want to be like Briana Scurry.” You never know who’s going to see that and internalize it and go off and do great things in the world with it. And other people shared the same sentiment too like Union for instance through a ton of support behind it. And also see to brands like Kicks To The Pitch who are prominent in the soccer community give recognition. That was really cool and I’m just thankful I could play a role in getting it done.

Denise:

I gotta ask, have you had a chance to meet Briana or have you heard her say anything about it?

Evelynn:

Yes! It was a super overwhelming moment in the best way possible. I went to the USA vs Belgium friendly that they had here, I saw you there! You remember how Nike had the whole little thing and walk right over? So I got there really late with a group of friends and we hadn’t eaten and we heard there was food inside but they were kicking everyone out. We went against their wishes and went inside and then when I went inside I see one of our counterparts from Nike and she comes up to me, it was Rachel who by the way also had a huge hand in helping getting this up on the billboard. She definitely fought on her end, I fought on my end and we made sure we got it up there. But she was actually with Briana and tells me “hey Evelynn, I actually want you to meet someone” and then here it is — Briana Scurry. I was so taken back and totally caught off guard. And so then we had a whole conversation and she also had that same sentiment about the billboard. She said “thank you, thank you for telling my story. This is a huge deal when it comes to showing the younger generation what’s possible and on the role model front, this is major.” So the fact that we both felt it on a deeper level, for me that just sealed the deal. For one, being proud to have a role in it but two for knowing that the meaning was not lost. Even Briana herself felt it and knew what this meant and that was just amazing.

So, in closing, when you think of legendary women’s soccer players, Briana Scurry is one of the names you have to put on the list first. The way she played exudes excellence, and her excellence inspired a nation. Follow Evelynn at @Evemeetswest

ART TO THE PITCH W/ STEPH MORRIS

Steph Morris is an artist from Manchester currently living in London. Using the traditional combination of pencil on paper, her work showcases the perfect union of skill and heart to create timeless classics. Her love for football and sneakers started when she was a kid and she tells about how the football classics are part of her work today.

Follow Steph @stephfmorris

Can you tell us a little about who you are and where you are from?

My name is Steph Morris and I am an artist from a small place called Chorley, just outside Manchester. To be honest, I never really took drawing very seriously as a young child growing up. It was mostly just something I did as a hobby. Of course I enjoyed it. It was fun for me, it was a way to release, but yeah, it was all very accidental how I got into it. 

I was kind of stuck around my 20s, didn’t really know what to do with my life. So I nearly dropped out of uni, but one of my tutors asked me ‘Why don’t you try drawing? Because we can see, you know, that you are interested in that’. So I was like, I’ll give it a go, see what happens. And that really sparked the idea that I could maybe do this for a living. 

Before that time I had no idea that you can actually make money from drawing, which is crazy. Lots and lots of young people don’t know that and I think that’s really sad. So I’d love to go and visit some local schools and talk about career pathways as it’s such a shame that young people who are creative and love drawing think that they need to give up on that dream. I’m quite passionate about that. 

When you started what were you drawing?

It wasn’t sneakers. I started drawing portraits and really weird things like messed up teeth and  injuries on hands. It was always very detailed though, so that was always my style. I’d love to capture as much detail as possible. Through that process I kind of learned how to make something come to life on the page. It was through that process of hours and hours of practice and drawing that helped me learn and develop my own style. And that’s pretty how I got to where I am now.

When was your first published work? 

Oh, good question. After I graduated from uni, I graduated within a graphic design course, I started working at size? at their head office doing graphic design work. They knew I could draw because when I had the interview, I supported my application with the drawing side. They had me do an illustrated campaign for Reebok. That was my first major gig and I was so excited about that. I think I ended up doing four drawings for them in the campaign that supported the release of the shoes. So yeah, I was really stoked about that. They supported me in that aspect. They always allowed me to explore my illustration side so that was really cool of them.

 

Such a great story so far, really nice to hear how you got started. So how did your connection to football start?

I actually love football. I used to play for the Blackburn Rovers girls when I was younger, so I would always be playing matches every Sunday. and kicking a ball around with the boys. I think football and football culture has had an influence on my work as well. 

How would you describe that? 

It’s all about the fans, the people who are so passionate about their team. There’s a huge nod towards fashion within football as well. And that nostalgic feeling that you get with football and following a team. That’s something that I always try to tap in on really. 

I love looking back and remembering iconic moments in football that takes me back to being a child. That’s why I drew the 98 World Cup jersey from David Beckham, because I remember that like it was yesterday. I think that football has the power to do that… it can connect an audience as well, because it’s a great conversational starter and everyone appreciates those iconic moments in football. So I think it’s a really special sport. It’s why it’s definitely my favorite sport. 

What inspires your style when it comes to football? Or is it tied to to those big football moments like England playing the Euro’s?

I think it’s more to do with looking back, because I unfortunately can’t play football anymore. I’ve had many knee surgeries, so I stopped. But when I think back to playing football I just feel this nostalgia about my worn out World Cup series boots that I used to wear. I remember the shin pads and the battered up goalie gloves. You know, the kind of things that you can almost smell. It’s the memory that sparks when you see something visual and that’s what I try and tap into. And that’s why I love to draw special objects that you will look at and think, oh wow, I remember that.

Which players and maybe his style was remarkable to you? 

Good question. I think one of the biggest is probably David Beckham. I was always a massive fan of classic iconic players really, not just English. I admired Henry, Zidane, Ronaldo. Those players kind of molded my memories of football and I always remember admiring their fancy footwork on TV. And obviously David Beckham is a huge, huge style icon, even today.

Who are your favorite teams? 

Uh, well, my team is Blackburn Rovers. Been supporting them since I was a kid. I also have a massive soft spot for Arsenal. I always liked watching players such as Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. Great and classic players who I used to admire back in the days.

When did your love for sneakers begin?

I mean that’s always been there to be honest. When I was a kid, probably around 10. I used to get pocket money which I would save up and buy trainers with. And you know, I wasn’t interested in magazines and makeup, like all the girls were. I would just go into sport shops and see all the sneakers and think ‘Oh, wow, that’s such a cool pair, I’m gonna buy them next’. It kinda started from there really. I’ve always kept hold of sneakers and my collection is pretty big now. It’s what makes me happy. Just happiness. That’s it.

Maybe it all started with David Beckham and now we are in 2019. How do you feel that football, streetwear and style are connected?

I think roughly everything is interlinked, and I think that that has made its way into streetwear as well. The high-tech/high performance category has taken influence massively. It’s a new kind of product that we’re looking at. The old clunky form has made way for super sleek. I have drawn quite a few football boots and looking at the modern day football boots compared to the more classic football boots, there’s such a huge difference. And I think that represents how time has moved along.

How do you see yourself going from here? Or maybe what’s your dream when it comes to your work?

I’m actually planning a series on iconic football shirts. I’m going to be producing some of the most iconic football shirts and in color and life size as well. So pretty big. What I always try and achieve with my work is a connection. Obviously football is a huge sport, so many people who are passionate about it will have stories to tell. I just want to get that across in my work. A pair of beaten up football boots or a shirt that looks a bit tatty and worn, for me that tells such a cool story. It’s super interesting and people can relate to the work. So I’m definitely going to explore that going forward.

How do you feel that the women’s game evolved? 

I mean, obviously I’m a huge advocate for women’s football and I think it’s great. It’s absolutely fantastic. I still don’t think we need to call it ‘Women’s football’, just football. I’ve been to see lots of women’s games myself and the quality is fantastic. It’s something that is becoming much more accepted which is great. Even the difference from when I used to play until now is massive. It’s amazing that we now have positive role models such as Steph Houghton and Toni Duggan who young girls can look up to. I still think there’s a long way to go in terms of pay and equality, but at least it’s improving.

Anything you would like to add to your story?

Like I tell the students, just believe in yourself. Just be confident, go out there and grab whatever dream you have. And believe me, it is possible. Because five years ago, I was that kid who had dreams of doing what I’m doing now and I’m actually doing it. So I think the most important thing is to work hard, keep your head down and just stay in your lane and anything is achievable.

Rapid Fire Questions:

Top 3 sneakers 

• Travis Scott ‘Cactus Jack’

• Parra AM1

• Sean Wotherspoon AM1/95

Sneaker shop

• SNS

Clothing

• Oi Polloi or END

Food

• Padella, THE best pasta!