SOCCER FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE W/ SOCCERGRLPROBS

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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

 

UNDFTD’S TRIBUTE TO BRIANA SCURRY

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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

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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!

PATTA’S PITCH FOR CULTURE

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As a black man born and raised in Italy, my life, identity, culture, and influence were something I had to fully commit myself to. Being raised by Ghanaian parents and knowing my origins kept me grounded though. Most of the influence I got from outside of my home was from stars on the pitch that looked like me. Players like George Weah, Marcel Desailly, Edgar Davids, Stephen Appiah, and Lilly Thuram just to name a few. The rest of my inspiration flowed through music and what I considered stylish as an adolescent. All these helped me connect and move in confidence in a place where people of my background had to make things happen without handouts. Some made it happen with a ball that afforded them a platform highlighting their culture, while others like the Sabajo brothers Edson & Tim — leaders of the Patta streetwear brand — gradually connected the dots and grew from success to success until they reached where they are today. After interviewing Edson & Tim, there was so much to share that I think will connect dots for people to see the game of soccer, hip hop, and culture itself as a greater gift than what it is portrayed to be in the past.

If you’ve never made the connection between football and streetwear culture or thought about hip hop having an influence on the global sport you have been missing out on some highlights. No worries though, the experience isn’t a limited edition sneaker, there is more room to be filled.  This movement has been documented in the form of threads that tell stories through collaborations by your favorite brands, crafted by the culture mavens at Patta.

Patta—the Dutch street brand created by Edson Sabajo and Guillaume ‘Gee’ Schmidt, is more than what meets the eye. The brand has been able to do something that not many can. They have nurtured and remained true to their roots and foundation while simultaneously being leaders of creative innovation in streetwear culture.

What makes Patta so special is the stories that live within their creations. This value they stand on pays homage to their roots of Surinam (the country in South America where their parents migrated from), life experiences from street football, music, and sneakers. It doesn’t just end there though. Patta thrives as a story of neighborhood heroes claiming their territory and living what they considered cool in their neck of the woods. Edson and his brother Tim Sabajo, represent what it means to be trendsetters and the notion that holding your own in a world where proving yourself gives you a pass in your neighborhood. Sounds pretty familiar right?

In America, you’ll find a basketball court close to every neighborhood where legends were made. But none compare to the Mecca aka Rucker Park where you can’t step foot on the court to compete unless you got game or a superb sense of style. Well—imagine that same type of culture and pressure, but in Europe. The sport being football and the game being played by people who don’t all look like you—yet coming from the same struggle as immigrants. There was too much happening in their world to sit still. Edson and his brother Tim grew up in Holland as Ajax fans and were heavily involved in soccer, but not just friendly matches. Instead, they were entrenched in street football where you would play against some of the most skilled, toughest, and flashiest players.

“So you play outside and every hood, every block has like a basketball court, but it’s a football court and you come together and we all play football. Then you went from one court to another court to play the other guys. So you know each other, but then you see each other on the pitch. So on the field you will see each other and then you look at each other like what do you wear.”

The top performers became mavericks and mostly built their reputation on the pitch by being top players, which then transcended into the streets. There was no love for the ones who could not hold their own in the game of soccer or lacked style while playing it. The Sabajo brothers quickly figured something out about getting a rep and the culture they loved so much. So they took advantage of it by meshing their love for the game with music and making sure that they stayed fresh in the latest gear.

“Sometimes you end up seeing guys you see in the club, but you also know them from the pitch would say oh, he is nice with the ball. He was a nice football player. He was nice with that. Plus he had style, you know, that’s how you connect.“

The hunger and grind are just different. The Sabajo brothers had to be playing for something bigger than themselves. Being raised black in Europe is already an experience of its own, but adding the pressure of carrying the torch and leaving a mark is a whole different ball game. Imagine living in the Netherlands, facing the challenges that come with being black and trying to craft and lead a culture. The challenges they might have faced had to have been tougher than what others deal with today, but backing down was never an option.

I remember many challenges faced as a black child growing up in Italy. Though happy moments outlive the bad moments, I was always reminded that I was black. I recall one day after playing outside with friends, most likely soccer, I decided to go to the store and buy a snack. As I stood there, a child about my age walked up to me staring and then rubbed her hand on my arm and looked down at her hand to see if my skin rubbed off. I walked out of the store that day realizing how different I was. Yet the only place where I felt like I belonged or wasn’t being judged was on the pitch, where all worries left my mind and my dreams along with friendships came alive.

The brothers credit street football as the inspiration for their fashion while admiring some of the guys in their neighborhood. Some who would construct and customize their own shoes or even rock fresh jerseys. But that fashion sense was only a part of their overall style. Hip hop sounds from the likes of Public Enemy to Whodini blasted through their boomboxes, affording them the opportunity to connect with people from other crews. Hip hop sounds connected their community as one and empowered the young people to represent where they were from. The brothers who have always identified with black culture saw the movement that took place in the United States. They admired it, studied it, mastered it, and eventually made it their own.

Edson and Tim capitalized on the opportunity to craft their brand after the culture they had been part of by creating their own soccer jersey repping their home team Ajax in collaboration with Umbro. The Patta brand wasn’t just born when the brothers were flying abroad to America or Japan to buy exclusive sneakers to resell in Amsterdam. It instead came to life when they decided to involve people in their community who they knew and admired and who understood their vision. A vision bridging the gap for people who want to relive their prime, while connecting with the present culture of streetwear.   

We now are in present day where Patta is a well-respected streetwear brand having collaborated with brands like Nike, ASICS, adidas, Converse, and Reebok. The future of connecting football, hip hop, and streetwear is in good hands if you leave it up to Patta. They’ve been able to connect the dots, while educating all of us on why their designs mean so much. Having a similar background as me, they have personally inspired me to use my experiences, challenges, culture, and dreams to share stories that empower communities and its people. So if you’ve never understood the correlation between the sport of soccer, hip hop and style—Patta is a great place to start.

THE PUMA NON-COROPRATE ​BOX |EMIRITES STADIUM

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The corporate box is typically reserved for an exclusive set of people and more often than not, retains a stuffy feel that never accurately captures the essence of the club or its fans. Arsenal, PUMA, and ad agency GBH London set out to flip what we have come to expect from a corporate suite and inject a fresh and modern outlook on what the corporate box experience is all about.

Set inside The Emirates, the Puma Non-Corporate Box takes elements from the club’s history and key details that have a deep connection to the club to bring more of a terrace feel to the space.

According to Mark Bonner from GBH London, “PUMA were given two executive boxes at The Emirates and Arsenal were open to disrupting the hospitality experience at the stadium.  The whole Non-Corporate Box where fan culture and the terrace experience from both Highbury and The Emirates would be celebrated up there.”

A tremendous amount of thought went into making the PUMA Non-Corporate Box a once in a lifetime fan encounter. “We wanted to make sure that Arsenal fans got to experience the box as well. We had a contest called ‘The A-List’ that gave Arsenal fans the opportunity to win tickets to the Non-Corporate Box.”

The box is plush with details and historical context that celebrates the history and legacy of the North London club. There are steel and concrete seating that pay tribute to the old terraces. Famous chants adorn the walls. A lighting layout that takes inspiration from Herbert Chapman’s famous “WM” formation. There’s even a nod to the Highbury squirrel who made its debut against Villarreal in 2016. Probably my favorite element is a foosball table that features two Arsenal teams—a classic Arsenal XI decked out in yellow kits vs the current Arsenal XI that are sporting the classic red kits.

In talking to Mark about the idea and execution of this box, we spoke about the need for modern day football to have modern day ideas. To flip what has been done before and give it a contemporary refresh that better engages with fans, players, and the sport itself.

This season marks the end of the Arsenal/PUMA deal and with it the end of the PUMA Non-Corporate Box. As with anything good that must come to an end, there is a legacy that lives on with this. With the PUMA Non-Corporate Box, Arsenal, PUMA, and GBH London brought in a new perspective, heightened the experience of any fan that has been able to experience the box, and ultimately brought a fresh and genuine outlook to the sport itself. Hopefully, part of the legacy of the box and what was created inspires future ideas about how to reimagine and refresh our experiences with the game.

VINTAGE | A BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK AT CLASSIC FOOTBALL SHIRTS

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We had the enviable opportunity to peruse the colors and crests on the racks of the Classic Football Shirts warehouse. Nestled in the shadows of Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, the aisles upon aisles of shirts and gear worn on the hallowed football pitches all over the world spark vivid memories tied to these historic pieces.

Each strip from the classic patterns down to the blood stains bring to mind moments cherished by footy fanatics far and wide. Moments that evoke a simpler time before every football fan had virtually every match from every corner of the globe streaming in their hands.

For Gary Bierton, preserving the moments and history before cell phones filled the stands, has been the mission for the passion project that first began in 2006 with the inception of Classic Football Shirts, founded by his older brother, Doug and friend Matthew Dale.

“It takes you back instantly, you know,” recounts Bierton as he sits in a warehouse with over twenty thousand kits ranging from the most loved to the most loathed, from well-known to the most unknown clubs around the world. “I’m looking at that France ’98 shirt. I can remember where I was when I watched the World Cup final in ’98. It puts you back in the room instantly.”

With Classic Football Shirts, Gary has been instrumental in buying, documenting, and providing the biggest collection of football shirts online in the world for fans and teams alike.

Looking for the 1999 kit worn by the treble-winning Manchester United squad? Take your pick: David Beckham. Paul Scholes. Roy Keane. It’s all there on their website.

The digital gatekeeper of football relics began in student housing his brother Doug and his partner, Matt,  finished university studies in Manchester. More so a clubhouse with a few rails carrying product for passers-by, with the first pop-up shop happening in 2018.

Not long after starting Doug and Matt got things started, Gary found himself working holidays cataloging shirts as he followed his own path at the Manchester Business School.

“I don’t think any of us expected to be here in 2019,” laughs Bierton as he recalls moments from the store’s infancy.

As the de-facto leader of marketing and brand growth, he has leveraged the collection into pop-up stores across the UK and exhibitions showcasing kits from brands such as Nike, adidas, Umbro and Kappa.

Classic Football Shirts created their first exhibits under the brand ‘Fabric of Football’. The cataloging the shirts online had already started years before and the catalog just kept growing.

Around the same time the team at Classic Football Shirts was expanding their online presence they got ready to dive into retail pop-ups.

Bierton’s mother raised concerns about the uncertainty of a career choice as a glorified second-hand merchant. Friends too wondered about the sustainability of the idea and where this side project would take them next.

Bierton continued to see the growth even those around him questioned the career choice. The doubters turned into believers when they saw the hundreds of people clamoring to get a chance to purchase a shirt at a London pop-up.

“A lot of my friends live in London and they come to see what you’re doing. Then they’re like, ‘Why are people queuing down the street to look at this stuff,’”

His friends might have been slow to catch his vision but it did not take long for them to realize the influence Classic Football Shirts has on the culture.

The impact of companies like Bierton’s has been far-reaching. Today tastemakers and fashion-centric individuals outside of the game and culture are choosing to rock classic football kits with growing frequency. Players have cross-pollinated their influence into different avenues. Seeing Drake or Kylie Jenner showoff their favorite football shirts on the ‘Gram is commonplace.

Brands like adidas and Nike have geared their campaigns and collections to fuse fashion with sports as a way to be more inclusive of the audience they are marketing to.

From the avid fan to the casual enthusiast of the game entrenched in everything fashion, leveraging the influence of designer juggernauts such as Virgil Abloh and Gosha Rubchinksiy has blurred the lines of ready-to-wear runway designs for the pitch.

That wasn’t always the case. Bierton recalls the moment that his type of inventory transcended the hardcore football fans.  “Not until maybe 2013, 2014 did it become a fashionable thing,” he says. “The moment we realized it had gone a little beyond from what we thought, was a post with Kendall Jenner wearing a Juve ’98 Kappa jacket.”

Celebrity influence has turned shirts that might otherwise be forgettable into hype-fueled items. The aforementioned Italian club Juventus donned rose pink Adidas kits for the 2015-2016 campaign. As soon as Drake and Snoop Dogg were captured wearing the shirts across social media, fans pillaged retailers to ride the trend.

But for Bierton, the affinity and passion for shirts will never fade. Beyond the trends and influence driven by the who’s who of music and design, he knows there’s someone looking for that vintage kit from his beloved Manchester United or the local Macclesfield Town football club shirt.

Regardless of the buyer, he’s thankful to play a part in connecting with fans and new aficionados.“It’s bigger than football. And we’ve come from the perspective as football fans, but then it becomes more than that. You can keep it quite rigid or open up to anybody.”

THE ASSOCIATION SEASON 2 | FUTSAL MEETS LIFESTYLE

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We live in a beautiful time where soccer and culture are overlapping more than ever. The unique ethos of the beautiful game and everything that surrounds it continues to evolve with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives shaping its culture and helping it grow. 

There is no better example of the collision of soccer and culture than the Los Angeles based soccer league, The Association. Born out of a desire to grow the sport through culture, The Association blends the best of music, art, and fashion with some of LA’s best brands and most influential social media personalities.

Started in 2018, the goal of The Association was to create the most dynamic and interesting soccer league in the United States. A league that wasn’t based solely on the competitiveness on the pitch but the culture and the people vying to make soccer more than just a game but a culturally diverse movement. The Association has become a hub for LA’s creative community that also happens to have a deep love for the beautiful game.

In the second installment of the league, The Association has brought back six original teams from season one (Beats by Dre, Complex, SpaceX, 424 on Fairfax, Niky’s Sports and Dash Radio) and added two new teams for season two (ShoeSurgeon and Guess). These brands represent some of the best that LA has to offer in terms of tech, fashion, media, music, and retail. And as diverse as the teams are, each of them shares a deep love for soccer, the culture and they all have a desire to help grow the sport not only in Los Angeles but across the US.

Each team in the league is given the opportunity to flex their creative muscles and design one of a kind kits that can only be seen on Association game nights—custom made kits by SpaceX, The Shoe Surgeon, 424, Guess and other paragons in their fields. These uniforms have helped drive the story around creativity within the league and pushed the boundaries of what a soccer league looks like.

The Association is truly an example of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The teams, players and kits are just a part of the story. Each game night is designed to give fans and players an experience that goes above and beyond the games. Through partners adidas, el Jimador, and Kona fans are treated to the incredible music from resident DJ Kappa as well as free tacos, tequila, and beer.

For more hands-on experiences, FutPool provides a novel soccer-meets-billiards competition. There are also FIFA video game stations onsite.

In addition to the music, the food, and the drinks, each game night features a unique activation. In the spirit of competition, season two includes a number of exclusive battles including a live art battle curated by Secret Walls, a barber battle featuring some of LA’s flyest barber shops, and a B-Boy battle that brought back serious 1980s breakdancing vibes. With three weeks left of season two and the playoffs beginning this week, The Association team has a few more tricks up its sleeves for the final activations.

The Association is a celebration of soccer and the culture that it inspires. The goal of the league has always been to elevate the sport for existing fans and use culture as a bridge to new fans.

Season two of The Association has three weeks left. If you are in Los Angeles on a Thursday night between now and June 13th, stop by for a drink. Eat a taco. Watch some incredible games and connect with the beautiful community that we are all a part of.

The Association

Thursday nights from 8pm-11pm The Base LA

352 N. Ave 21

Los Angeles, CA 90032

Entry is free and The Association is open to all ages.

THE JUMPMAN ON THE PITCH

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About six months ago I wrote a piece on the website where I stated that lifestyle and soccer had come to a peak with the collaboration of PSG and the Jordan Brand. When I first learned about the range, I was just a fanboy searching through all the press releases and images of the collection online and getting my wallet ready to buy the entire collection. The collection that represented, so perfectly, everything that we’ve been talking about at KTTP for the past four years. 

At that time it was a far-fetched notion of mine to shoot the iconic collection in action on the pitch. But just like a lot of my great notions in recent years, far-fetched isn’t always so far off. On the back of 2 and a half weeks of bouncing around cities in the UK and Europe fate would have it that PSG and Man U were meeting in the Champions League at the same time we were in Paris. 

The football gods smiled on me and the far-fetched idea became reality. I was blessed with the opportunity to shoot the second leg of PSG’s Champions League quarterfinal with Manchester United in Paris. The stage was set, and thanks to the homies at PSG, my photographer credential was set as well. 

The day before the match, I visited the PSG training facility to shoot the first 15 minutes of training. I got an up-close look at the training outfits. Bold red mixed with black pants spoke to that iconic “BRED” colorway that Jordan Brand has made infamous. Mbappe broke out the special edition Jordan Vapors. In the corner of the trainging ground stood two basketball hoops next to a soccer goal, painting a quite literal picture of the combination of two worlds. 

On match day the energy was buzzing from the streets to the metro, this was no ordinary day. One thing that was different for me, was waiting until the evening for the match to start. In the US I’m accustomed to watching Champions League matches at lunchtime. That wait intensified my anticipation. The combination of it being my first Champions League match (as a photographer and/or spectator), my first match at Parc des Princes, the significance of the match, and the thought that this far-fetched drea, was actually happening made for a few nerves. And then it rained and continued to rain pretty much the entire match. 

The rain set a unique frame for a match that held such significance. And while the result didn’t have PSG shining in the end, the Jumpman on the pitch definitely did. It wasn’t just the kits during the match. From the aforementioned “BRED” warmup/training fits to the all black coaching gear to bright white Flyknit pregame track tops to seeing fans rock both the home and the away kits in the stands (I didn’t see anyone with my coaches jacket though)–it was evident Jordan Brand and PSG came correct on all levels with this one. I even got a bonus snap of a fellow photographers fire on feet with his Jordan 1s. 

Of course, the black “home” kits did not disappoint visually on the pitch. Whether it was the whole team huddled together in moments like the team photo and celebrating the first goal or an individual player coming over to the corner flag to take a corner, the black kits with white the Jumpman showed out. No lie, every time I put my camera to my eye I said to myself, “man those kits look good.” Down to the Jumpman over “Paris” on the socks, all the little details of this kit just work.

One thing I did notice was missing, was the Jumpman on the feet of Mbappe. Now, I know this was probably due to some contractual obligations and what not, but still, a match of this level and a player of Mbappe’s level, you want the potential man of the night rocking the Jumpman on feet. Regardless of that omission (and of course the outcome of the match),  photographing the Jumpman on the pitch was well worth it. Jordan Brand set the bar high for themselves with this one, we are all waiting for next season. Too soon, too soon, I know.

LEGOS AND FOOTY | F.C. BRICKSTAND BRICK BY BRICK

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Beneath the racks of throwback kits with commemorative patches and dog-eared ticket stubs lies the naked truth: football fans are sentimental creatures. Sentimentality, unfortunately, seldom pushes football culture forward, but in rare moments it does help produce someone like Chris Smith aka @Brickstand. The Manchester-residing, Palace supporter is a fan on a mission to build all 92 League stadiums in English football, brick by Lego brick.  

Chris’s passion for football and its stands may be a matter of fact, but his mission to erect shrines to English football took some coaxing. He was neither a Lego prodigy nor a Macauley Culkin Home Alone-type setting up elaborate domino mazes of blocks and trinkets. “I worked at a school and the kids would play with Lego a lot.” Chris just wanted to do something to commemorate his fandom. And so “Brickstand” was born. 

Selhurst Park, the current “palace” of Crystal Palace, was always going to be the beginning, but there was this adjacent desire for an anthology. Block by block, Chris built—constructing the halls of Old Trafford, the Stadium of Light, Goodison Park. In the early days, the only breaks from the English landscape were by commission: Barcelona’s Camp Nou being one significant delivery. On the purely Lego-end Chris is still very much a one-man shop. All pieces are purchased by him personally, and just as he stacks every block, he’s also the one hand-delivering the model to your door.

No piece of Lego is actually purposed to create a football ground, which means every goal post, every safe standing terrace is actually full-scale creativity in action to the very micro level. But according to Chris, that kind of creation amidst the unknown is the fun part, and fun for a guy who spends as much time as he does building blocks is paramount. 

Chris recounts his joy at not only how his build of Fulham’s Craven Cottage found a worthy home, “The idea was always to give it so it would it fit nicely in someone’s house.” but how enjoyable it was to build the unique stand at Fulham. “Sometimes you end up with one beautiful façade on the back of one of the stands, while the others are just plastic and corrugated metal – then you have this contrast with something Victorian almost.” 

Chris references Archibald Leitch, the architect responsible for not only designing Selhurst Park but many of England’s iconic stands with a kind of reverence. The nostalgic beauty of even the foundation material of old grounds is not lost on Chris who laments how similar the plastic and corrugated metal of modern stadiums can feel. 

The malaise of building copy and paste stadiums made sure that the fun of building a stadium in the first place began to dry out. Add to that the pure material cost of the Lego and Chris realized he wasn’t enjoying it anymore. “It was getting really difficult to replace the bricks. I couldn’t buy Lego fast enough to replace what I was giving away.” 

It became so routine Chris would find himself completing the model, taking a picture and stripping it down for parts. Turns out in the world of gleaming collectible, the un-glamour of it all still rests with the guy who has to build the damn thing. So with the knowhow of Football Manager and the newer, vaster imagination imparted by the Lego universe, Chris Smith decided to build something new.

 

The idea for FC Brickstand was to design the kind of club that would play in one of the many Lego stadiums he’s built – a club built completely out of Lego and the friends and family that make up Chris’ life. This Lego team would play in the simulated “Diorama Conference” with a full slate of opposing teams with equally whimsical names: Makersfield Town, Olymbrick De Marseille, Connection Orient etc. In the FC Brickstand world, results are shared via Twitter as Chris would stage his “players” in game situations and give the match recap through a caption. This new universe of FC Brickstand was a welcome one for Chris. Laughing, he says, “It can be a relief from following your real football team. It can be an antidote.”

The fictional football club is not a particularly groundbreaking concept on its own merit. Sophnet’s FC Real Bristol or Nike FC have been using the “club” as avatars/mannequins for football culture merchandising for years. And yet, this communal multimedia journey around a club built on Lego immediately depicted something innately deeper than just a Spring/Summer collection.

In today’s landscape of in-game/in-app transactions, FC Brickstand occupies this interesting gap between the completely analog Lego terraces Chris built and the immediate validation of something like FIFA Ultimate Team. For the first time in its nearly 100-year history, Lego was beginning to reflect the football world like a weekly magazine or publication would—one match day at a time. For Chris the switch came at a pivotal time, “It got me re-enthused. I’ve gone back to the start because all the stadiums were built on trial and error. The enjoyment part of it was not knowing how it would work out but saying let’s just start it and see what happens.”

The Brickstand squad continued to take shape with Chris no longer only creating replicas, but emphatic storylines wholesale. The social media community around FC Brickstand in return started following stat and storylines of Brickstand players like star striker and Lego figurine: Conor Muldoon whose goalscoring prowess is directly related to how Chris is feeling on the day of. Yet the supporters of Conor and FC Brickstand love it and engage because the scale and care that these matches are staged with makes it feel real.

FC Brickstand’s unique place in the hearts and minds of football fans is also rooted in the relational aspect to real-world results. When a black cat ran on the pitch during an Everton game, Chris recreated the scene for FC Brickstand within the week with Lego-licensed cat and all. Real football — it seems — gives him all the material he’d ever need. 

For someone building a fantastical club, the results are still mired in a heavy dose of reality. Maybe it’s Chris’ Crystal Palace fandom or some deep tenet about football culture thriving despite the lack of winning, but it tells you a lot about the man when FC Brickstand currently sits in 2nd place of something akin to the Lego 5th division. Just like his run at building all 92 stadiums, Chris has created FC Brickstand for the long haul.

In his daily life Chris, who had been fairly solitary in his design of the stadiums, began receiving extra help from fans across the country who wanted to be a part of the team. “I have a guy who approached me and said, ‘I’ll help you do the results and help you with the league table.” After a Twitter contest that saw Brickstand’s fans select the inaugural kit for the team, Chris partnered with a company that custom painted kits onto the Lego figurines. He’s even gone as far as opening up a FC Brickstand membership portal, where for 5 Pounds/year, anyone across the footy internet, can be turned into a Lego figurine and placed in the seat of their choosing. In the vast world of football culture, Chris has invented one of the most creative ways to support.

At the time of writing, Chris is about halfway through building his 92 stadiums. With about a two-week window for each build, Chris estimates he’d have spent a full year of pure building when he completes his run. While daunted by the hours and labor ahead, Chris is quick to point out that his favorite memories involve him hand-delivering a piece and talking football with the super fan who just received the gift of a lifetime. Somehow, even after all those blocks, Chris Smith found the happy medium between the brick, mortar and digital worlds with his sentiment still fully intact.

You can follow Chris and his 92 builds here at brickstand.com and on Instagram: @FCBrickstand

 

SNEAKERS W/ IVES GALARCEP

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It all started with Run-DMC. The pioneering rap group who became worldwide celebrities singing about their sneakers. “My Adidas” was the song that hooked millions, and it hooked me too, a 10-year-old kid from New Jersey who found a way to convince his mother that he had to have the shell-toe adidas.

It wasn’t long after that when I started my first paying job, selling newspaper subscriptions door to door, and there was no debating what I would spend my first paycheck on. The Air Jordan 2 cost $100. A price that doesn’t sound like much today, but in 1987 it was considered outrageous. At least to my mother, but she didn’t need to know how much they cost because I bought them with my own hard-earned money.

Little did I know then that I was starting a love affair with sneakers that would last a lifetime. 30 years later I can still get a thrill from opening a pair of kicks I’ve been chasing after. My wife can’t begin to understand it, but my two sons are starting to get it, because slowly but surely the same sneaker bug that bit me more than three decades ago is starting to bite them too.

In my 20 years as a sports writer I’ve come to find out that there are sneaker heads in all walks of life, and in every sport. The soccer world is teaming with them. It can be the team’s manager, captain, rookie and even camera man. It can be the young American player, or even the veteran from Eastern Europe who points to your Jordans and gives you the, “Nice kicks,” that can make your day.

Many of them have similar stories to me, the same tale of being the kid who didn’t have much growing up, but found a way to get the sneakers that became their most prized possessions. Even athletes who now can have any sneakers they want will wax nostalgically about their first pair of Jordans or first pair of adidas.

You also get those athletes who have to set aside their love for certain sneakers because of contractual obligations. I’ve heard, “I wish I could wear those,” more times than I can count, while also hearing stories of the shoe collections gathering dust in basements, waiting for the day when show contracts might expire, or when the players might retire and once again be free to wear whatever sneaker they want.

Non-sneakerheads struggle to understand the appeal, and fail to realize that the emotional connection isn’t as much about the combination of leather, plastic and rubber that makes up the shoe. For some, it can be simply about the look, and the style, and how it helps you present yourself. For others, it is about the feeling of completeness and of security a prized sneaker can provide. A cool pair of kicks can be like armor for a kid who doesn’t have much else, helping some find the confidence to be their true selves.

That’s a feeling you don’t forget, which is why you see sneakerheads go particularly crazy about the shoes they wore when they were young. A few years ago I made it my mission to track down a pair of white, black, and red Jordan 2s, more than 25 years after I bought an original pair. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t remember the actual act of buying the original pair, and had no pictures of me wearing them back then. That didn’t stop me from opening the box of my new pair and smiling, suddenly conjuring up emotions I hadn’t felt in ages.

I’ve only worn those Jordan 2s a couple of times, but I take them out of the box every now and then and just stare at them, like looking at an old photo album, remembering the days when it was the only pair of sneakers I had, back when I never could have imagined owning as many sneakers as I own now, back when I couldn’t have imagined being a journalist lucky enough to have a career writing about sports.

That emotional connection to sneakers isn’t confined to the United States. Step onto any continent with a fresh pair of kicks and you will feel some love. I’ve covered four World Cups, on four different continents, and never failed to find conversations about kicks. From Tokyo to Cape Town, Berlin to Rio, sneakerheads have stories to share, and memories resembling the ones experienced here in the USA.

I will be partnering with Kicks to the Pitch in the coming months to bring you stories like mine, speaking to players and coaches and people throughout the American soccer community to share their love affair with sneakers. A love affair enjoyed by more people than you might realize.