FEMALE IS FOOTBALL: ANEESHA DEWSHI

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Aneesha “Neesh” Dewshi is a self-proclaimed jack of all trades. A creative based in London she has been working in the fashion PR industry for more than 8 years. Born and raised in the UK, football and sneakers have been a part of her life since primary school. Neesh also is a co-founder of the creative football collective called Romance FC. The collective located in Hackney, East London is a female football club created out of the love of the beautiful game and a desire to find like-minded womxn.

Follow Neesh: @crayfish8

Photos: @richimpossible

Tell us a little about where you are from and you and your family’s background. 

I grew up in a city called Nottingham, which is located in the heart of the East Midlands in the UK. Although my parents are Indian, they like many others were born and raised in East Africa and came to the UK in the late 1970s when my grandparents decided to make the move.

Where, when, and how did your connection with the game of football begin?

I was first introduced to football through my dad, as he’d always have it on the TV. Whether it was MOTD (Match Of the Day) or the Champions League, it would always be on in the house. We were quite a sporty family growing up, so football was always a game we’d be playing at family gatherings.

When I went to primary school, my parents used to have a car share system in place with a couple of other families. Which meant that each parent took it, in turn, to drop and collect the kids from school. So I’d play with the boys during school breaks and then after school on the street in between parked cars, whilst we were waiting to be picked up.

Talk to us a little about what you do for work.

I’ve been working as a Fashion & Lifestyle PR for the past 8 years across a number of global clients. It can be quite demanding at times but every day is different. I always say to work in the PR, you must be a jack of all trades because you never know where certain projects will take you.

When did your love for sneakers and streetwear begin? 

I would say my earliest memories of my love story with sneakers started at primary school. We had to wear a school uniform but there was no rule for footwear, which meant we could wear sneakers. So from my early years, I was stunting on the playground in the freshest kicks – the other kids didn’t know what hit them!

The first pair of kicks that I recall I had were a pair of Fila basketball high tops, they were all white with the iconic navy and red branding. After that I had a pair of adidas Galaxy with pops of orange and navy, I think this is where my love for running silhouettes came from. Then came the most memorable sneaker of my younger years, mainly because I had to really work the charm on my parents for them. It was my first pair of Nikes, so it was a big moment and also a big shock to my parents when they had to part ways with their hard earned cash. As soon as I saw the Nike Air More Uptempo in the store, I knew I had to have them. They were the OG black/white colourway with the big “AIR” across each side panel side, they were big, brash and bold—and I wanted them more than anything. I have so many fond memories stomping around the playground and attempting to run around in those chunky basketball sneakers. So much so, that when the retro came out a few years ago, I had to cop.

Working with clothing, footwear and fashion how do you see those three things merging with the game of football on or off the pitch?

I think fashion, footwear, and football have always gone hand in hand from the early days of terrace culture with people consciously seeking premium Italian fashion brands such as Stone Island and CP Company to team up with their Adidas to now, where you see many fashion brands adopting football culture and style such as the last Off White x Nike football collaboration, which saw a range of shirts and even boots adorned with the unmistakeable Off White branding. 

Another example of this is when Nike launched the Nigeria kit last Summer ahead of the World cup, there was so much hype built around the launch, similar to that of a sneaker release and of course the kit was straight up fire, so unsurprisingly it sold out within seconds.

So, I have to ask, what professional team do you support in the UK? If that team is not your hometown team, then why?

My team has always been and always will be the Red Devils aka Manchester United. Now, I know what you may be thinking.. but she’s not from Manchester! Well, my love for United started when I was a young girl watching United play in the early/mid-’90s. It was Eric Cantona who really drew me to the team, I loved his energy on the pitch, always creating chances, scoring goals with such flair and creativity, it had me in awe. I always thought that there was certain arrogance to the way he played, obviously, he did get into a bit of trouble but I liked that bad boy streak in him.

We had a good run when Cantona joined and had other young top class players on board like; David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, and Andy Cole who all made watching United play so mesmerizing.

I want to talk about Romance FC. For those that don’t know, give us a little background.

Romance FC is a creative football collective that we built in Hackney, East London out of the love and frustration of the beautiful game and the lack of spaces where you find like-minded womxn. When we started the team in 2012 we were originally called Boiler Room Ladies FC where we met at the early Boiler Room nights, shared a love of music and trained alongside the guy’s team. When we first started playing, we noticed that there weren’t many other casual womxn’s grassroots football teams around London and we struggled for a few years to even find any that we could play friendlies against. Then over the years, we started to see more womxn’s teams cropping up in London and were playing against them in tournaments, which was fantastic. However, we were left consistently frustrated in the way these tournaments were executed as we always came across misogyny and tokenism, which left us feeling pretty deflated.

So in 2016, we decided that enough was enough and we hosted our own womxn’s football tournament called—Playing For Kicks. We created a safe space for womxn and non-binary folk to come to play and enjoy a day of great football and music all designed and executed by ourselves.

Now coming into its fourth year, we’ve seen the tournament grow from strength to strength, with teams participating from key cities in the UK and even France. Each year we take on more teams, splitting them into groups based on their ability levels to ensure that all teams feel confident and encouraged in their groups. We want to lead by example and encourage young womxn and girls to take up spaces and continue to play sport, therefore we always include a junior football match within the programming of the tournament where they can experience all the elements surrounding the game. Football is there for everyone.

In the lead up to the World Cup, we will be hosting a very special Spring Kicks womxn’s tournament on 11th May in London—this will be our biggest tournament to date as we will have a total of 28 teams participating. Expect some amazing football, DJ sets from some of the best womxn in London and strictly good energy only. Head over HERE for more details.

What was the process like working with Nike to create the capsule collection?

Nike has followed our journey from the early days of Romance FC. At the end of 2017, we were contacted and asked if we wanted to design a kit for the team. This had been a dream of ours since the beginning of Romance FC’s journey. Before getting overly keen on the idea, we asked how much creative freedom we would have—we think big and create with the heart so it was key to know where we stood. 

Luckily we were given complete freedom to design what we wanted, excluding the cut of the top. Founding Manager Trisha Lewis and Design Artist Aimee Capstick designed the kit and typography, which took inspiration from classic geometric print football shirts of the 80s/90s and a gradient colour fade to recreate the evening sunset over our favourite park to play in during the summer evenings in Hackney.

Following the submission of our design, we were approached with an opportunity to then work on a global project with Nike Football for the Nike By You program. This would be the only womxn’s jersey included in the launch, which would then be sold on their site.

From the get-go, we expressed that in order for this to work and be authentic, we would have to have creative control to tell our own story. This was a lengthy process, communicating with multiple teams within the company but finally, we got the sign-off and the rest is history.

We then honed all our skills and fields of expertise together to create our own shoot photographed by Striker Stephanie Sian Smith. This imagery was then used by Nike to accompany the product being sold online.It was a great opportunity to work collaboratively with a global brand in this way, whilst still retaining autonomy. As I am sure you can see, we are really happy with the outcome and proud to wear our kit on and off the pitch.

From your perspective, is the perception of women’s football changing in the UK and Europe and do you think projects like the one with Romance FC and Nike are helping?

Football is the most watched sport in the UK, with the Premier League being the most prestigious league in Europe. Growing up all I would see on TV and hear would be men playing football. I had played football at primary school with my friends and briefly picked it back up again in Secondary school when we had a women’s team, which lasted all of three games. Unfortunately, that’s where my experience playing football stopped until I picked it back up again in 2012.

I believe that the perception is changing, slowly but it is changing. We see more coverage in the media of the women’s games, the level of the professional women’s teams has propelled due to financial backing enabling these players to solely focus on football like their male counterparts.

I feel that projects like the Romance FC collaboration with Nike Football helped to generate awareness but it is the hands-on approach of local communities, grassroots projects and local initiatives like Hackney Laces #lacesfamily and East London Ladies that are really making a difference.

What are 3 go to sneakers for you right now?

Converse x Brain Dead (can’t take these off!)

Mizuno Wave Rider OG

Nike Air Max 95 x Atmos

What are you listening music wise at the moment? 

I listen to a wide cross-section of music across a number of genres, but it if I look through my most recently played we have; Noname—who I recently saw on her Room 25 tour, Slowthai—one of the best sounds coming out of the UK right now, Koffee—because the Rapture EP is sensational and Rosalia—whose voice is so unusual and captivating that I forget that I actually can’t understand Spanish!

Who are you rooting for in the world cup this summer?

England of course, the Lionesses are on really good form!

For someone visiting London for the first time and that wants a more “lifestyle” tourist experience, give us your must dos/visits for: 

Too many to list but below are some of my all time favs:

Sneaker Shop: Sneakers n Stuff and Pam Pam (great selection of women’s kicks in both)

Clothing: Goodhood

Food: Troy Bar (Shoreditch) for some of the best Jamaican food in East London, BBQ Dreamz(various locations). incredible Filipino inspired street food in London and The Shoreditch Stop, which is an unassuming off license that sells delicious homemade curries to take away and is always mad busy.

 

FEMALE IS FOOTBALL: ASHTIN LARKIN

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This installment of Female is Football is featuring Ashtin Larkin, a So Cal native that played soccer at the University of West Virginia. We bounced around some iconic spots in Downtown LA with Ashtin. Special thanks to 424 on Fairfax for a couple of the looks with their fresh throwback Hummel collab. Check out the shots and the BTS video below and learn more about Ashtin through our Q&A.

Q: To start, can you tell us where you’re from and what you like most about your home town?

I am from Cerritos, CA born in Torrance. I grew up in Cerritos and I can’t say there is too much great about it haha. We have the Cerritos Auto Square, which is what it is probably best known for. But, as far as location I appreciated the fact that I was in a good middle ground between LA and Orange County and having the ability to grow up and have access to both areas was always convenient.

Q: How did you first get involved with the game of soccer, and what made you fall in love with it?

I actually had a friend introduce me to it in the 1st grade. No one in my family ever played so I knew nothing about it. I grew up as a two-sport athlete playing soccer and basketball and at some point I fell in love with it and knew it was what I wanted to pursue in college. I think I most enjoyed the competition and physicality of the game. I would say my strengths are my low center of gravity and quickness and I think soccer really accentuated things strengths along with my competitive nature. I think I also fell in love with the angles of the game, which sounds weird. It reminds of basketball in the way of angles, but for some reason I see it much more attractively portrayed on the field rather than on a court.

Q: What position did you/do play. Why does that position resonate most with you?

I’ve always played midfield. Depending on the formation I grew up playing outside wing, then moved to attacking mid. In college we played in a 4-3-3 system and I played holding mid, which is a little different because I’m 5’1. Over the years I’ve grown to really appreciate center-mid, whether it be holding or attacking. I am a natural passer so I enjoy distributing the ball and just having an overall view of the field. Although I am not an avid runner, I appreciate the aspect of getting back on defense and then being able to get into the attack. I also am a big communicator so being able to communicate from that position on the field is very advantageous. I also enjoy defense and getting into tackles, so I think the defense mid position is something that over the years I’ve grown to appreciate and really see my best attributes excel. The 6 is my bread and butter 🙂

Q: Are you still playing now? If So where?

I currently still play during the week and on the weekends. During the week I play in an adult co-ed futsal league in LA Urban Futsal, which was originally something fun and different than I wasn’t used to. Now that I am not playing consistently, I really enjoy any indoor or short-sided soccer that gets the ball moving quickly. I also play in a Sunday women’s league. We just show up and play, similar to the Bad News Bears, except we are all ex-collegiate players lol. It’s nice to get outside and just play with girls who know the game and get the outdoor feel every so often.

Q: Got to ask, what are your go-to sneakers?

I recently bought a pair of Flyknit 270’s, which I am a big fan of. They look sleek and they are very comfortable. I wasn’t always a big sneaker person, I was always in sandals and letting my feet breathe since I lived in soccer cleats and basketball shoes lol, but over the years my shoe collection has grown. I like Nikes that are different or just not something that everyone has. I like the style to be a little bit unique, whether it is style or colorway. I try to pick them strategically or if I’m really going to wear them, otherwise I will want way more than I need.

Q: With that, how would you describe your style?

I would definitely say my style is very athleisure. Growing up immersed in sports I really got used to being comfortable at all times, and now I just try to dress that up a bit. I appreciate a good pair of Nikes with a feminine outfit or sweats and a hoodie. I like to get dressed up and wear heels, but it’s definitely not a regular thing. For me, if I can be comfortable and cute then I’ve done the trick. I would also say that my style is minimalistic, like less is more or a pop of color to something plain. I really enjoy fashion and for me being able to put fashion and athletics together whenever I can is a plus.

Q: Different styles and colors of soccer boots are almost as popular as sneakers right now, what are your go to soccer boots?

I’ve always been a Nike vapor girl (typically the men’s styles). I appreciated the sleekness and lightness of the cleat. Over the years the vapor has evolved, which is great because it was always rough when someone stepped on your toes smh. I’ve had multiple colorways in the vapors and at one point I had the gold Ronaldinho R10 cleat, which I really liked.

Q: Do you have a favorite pro team and/or favorite professional player?

I would be lying if I said I had a favorite professional team. I watch foreign soccer occasionally, and I somewhat keep up with the MLS, but I don’t have a favorite team. In regards to players, similar to everyone else I appreciate Ronaldo, Beckham, Messi, and Neymar all the flashy players. But I really enjoy the players that orchestrate and get into the physicality of the game. So like a Michelle Akers and Zinedine Zidane, people that get after it every game and have a little tenacity. I mean similar to a Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, I like the ones that play with a little grit.

Q: Ok, so here is a random question, what are your top three favorite guilty pleasure foods and then the same with music?

My top 3 guilty pleasure foods are chocolate, recently a cupcake with ice cream inside of it (Frosted bakery) and street tacos. When it comes to music I love the old Eminem, sad music when I’m emotional (don’t want to listen to upbeat lol) and any 90s R &B.

Q: What are some of your biggest pet peeves?

Ha, let me think; slow drivers, lying, poor communicators, people who pretend to know it all or know more than they do and messy people.

Q: What personality traits do you admire the most?

I admire people that have a good work ethic and are honest. People that don’t take life too seriously and people with a willingness to step out of their comfort zone and not care what others think.

Q: Talk a little bit about your profession now?

I am currently a Forensic Specialist. I work for a local city and my day to day could be in the lab and evidence processing or out at a crime scene. No two days are the same which I appreciate, but it also challenges me because at each scene you have a completely different experience. It’s something that I was always interested in. I knew I wanted to do something and be hands-on and not work in a lab all day, in regards to chemicals and the science portion. I would say my current job allows me to have a happy medium.

Q: What’s next for you, or what are you working towards.

Right now that’s kind of up in the air and something that I am personally working on. I would love to continue to grow/excel in my field of work and I would love to do/ participate in more things that involve soccer or incorporate soccer more in my life now. My ultimate goal would be to achieve a work-life balance. The ability to pursue a career that I love/enjoy and be able to do things outside of work is the current focus.

Shots by @richimpossible