FOOTBALL CONNECTS DOTS: A WOMEN’S WORLD CUP STORY

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This summer I was getting prepared to shoot the Women’s World Cup in France and a very unexpected thing happened. The type of thing that can only happen when you have a Grandmother that has lived through three generations. A few weeks before I was set to get on the plane to France, I was having a conversation with my mom and she tells me that my grandmother mentioned that she thinks we have cousins that play on the Jamaican Women’s National Team. I have to be honest, I took the news that we may have family that plays on the team with a grain of salt. Not saying I didn’t believe my grandmother, but I needed more proof. 

A week or so goes by, and then I come across an article that ESPN put out that sparked my curiosity about this potential family that I have that may play for the team. The article shared the story of how Cedella Marley helped save the Jamaican women’s program and helped them get to the World Cup. After reading the article I immediately text my mom to find out the last name of the girls that my Grandmother was talking about. After a few texts back and forth, a conversation with my Grandmother and a few google searches it turns out she was right, well at least she was right about the last name of these sister’s that played on the team. 

The family connection was still yet to be locked in, but just a few days before I left for France, I get a call from a distant cousin, who now, thanks to my grandmother connecting us became not so distant a cousin. We talk for about an hour, I learned that she was born in the UK, and moved to the Northeast United States and built a life with her husband (who is from Jamaica) and raised two daughters who grew up loving and playing the sport of soccer. I learned that her oldest daughter just finished playing at Boston College and recently signed with Roma women’s club. I learned that her younger daughter is going into her senior year at Rutgers.

Allyson Swaby

Chantelle Swaby

I learned a little about the struggles the team had leading up to the cup. I learned from first-hand sources about the shortcomings of the Jamaican federation and their allocation of resources to the women’s program that was written about in the ESPN article about Cedella Marley helping the team. After the conversation, we were not sure of the exact connection between my Grandmother and her parents but what was important is that we knew we were family. We set a plan to try and meet somewhere in France. 

Fast forward to the second group stage match, Jamaica against Italy in Reims, France. The most random place for almost 4 generations of a family line that started on the tiny Island of Jamaica to finally connect. I met my cousin Diane Swaby at the train station in Reims and we had lunch before heading to the match. We both learned more about each other and our families who, although somewhat strangers, were connected by parents and grandparents that have been blessed with so many years on this earth. 

That evening I was there on the sideline and shot the match between Jamaica and Italy. I felt like it was an opportunity to give something to the family that even then I had yet to meet. I made it a point to find the Swaby family in the stands along with their friends who made the trip from the Northeast to France and get pictures of the whole group. From the warmups to the walk out of the tunnel to the National anthem to the final kick to greeting friends and family after the match, I was on a mission to capture every moment so that I could share not only with family but with the team as a whole. Their journey to the cup was not all glitz and glam like other countries. Despite a lack of support, marketing, sponsorship, and planning the women on that team made it to play at the biggest stage. I wanted to make sure I did that justice. 

I actually didn’t get to meet my cousin’s till about 3 days later, in Grenoble, a day before they played their last group match versus Australia. We met in a small pizza shop in the city center. It was funny because I felt like I was the old relative that your parents would force you to say, “hi” to at the family gatherings when you were little. I’d like to think I am a bit cooler than one of those creepy uncles, hopefully. Either way, Chantelle and Allyson Swaby have a fan for life. Chantelle is back with the National Team right now at the Pan American games and Allyson is back in Italy getting ready for the Roma women’s season. Football has been in my life since I can remember and to this day it never ceases to amaze me. It has the power to bring joy, pain, cross borders, end wars, or maybe start them. It is universal. It has a language that is understood all over the world and it connects dots, even dots that you never knew existed. 

Check out the rest of my favorite photos from the match vs Italy below and be sure to follow both Chantelle and Allyson Swaby @chantelleswaby and @allysonswaby10 as they continue to do their thing on the pitch for both club/school and country and the rest of the “Reggea Girlz.” 

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

 

EXPLORING THE MOST CAPTIVATING CREST ORIGIN STORIES

Three lions, four birds, and a cross of the knights templar walk into a World Cup… The origins of global soccer crests is a tangled mess of lions, tigers, eagles and rosaries — as complex and intertwined as the beautiful game itself. Now that we’ve passed the knockout stages, here are a few of the best origin stories behind the sigils of our World Cup favorites.


JAPAN (The three-legged crow)
Japanese design culture has always a boasted a beauty rooted in being painstakingly well-considered. The nation’s soccer kits for their beloved “Samurai Blue” are no different. The JFA crest prominently depicts the Yatagarasu – the three-legged crow – who in Asian myth serves as a kind of avatar for divine intervention or a messenger from the gods. Under the crow’s front-most talon is, of course, the rising sun, emblematic of modern Japan. To this day, the winners of the “Emperor’s cup,” Japan’s oldest domestic trophy, are awarded a Yatagarasu emblem on their kit as a reward, further conflating Japanese monarchy with the divine.


MEXICO (El Tri)
El Tri’s current crest has been in rotation since ‘94 and shares the same eagle as the Mexican flag. But instead of the eagle perched on a cactus, it is instead rocking atop The Aztec calendar. That nod to the ancient Aztecs weaves a rich tapestry of Mexico’s indigenous iconography into the Passion and Orgullo (pride) of their soccer history.


FRANCE (Rooster)
Sometimes a simple pun, perhaps even a homonym, can stir up a symbol to last over 100 years. For many scholars, the fact that the Latin root for the region of Gaul (Gallus) was identical to the Latin word for the rooster (Gallus) served as a genuine LOL moment for the people of the Middle Ages. Oh, how these people would laugh at the pleasant coincidence while associating the Gauls with the attributes of a rooster: stubbornness and brazenness. Joke’s on them, the French would run with it and since 1909 Fédération Française de Football would march out onto the field of play with the proud rooster emblazoned over their heart. From Zizou and Thuram to Pogba and Griezmann, Les Bleus unleash the rooster’s crow of French culture and sport in 90-minute intervals.


BRAZIL (Seleção)
The iconic yellow and green adorned with its five World Cup victory stars are as iconic a brand as any in sporting culture. Yet, because of how vibrant and decadent the crest is, the cross anchoring it all often hides in plain sight. A second look will begin to avail the similarities of the crest shape and cross to that of Portugal, as the cross in the middle is a nod to the Portuguese Templar Knights in the Order of Christ’s Cross who uncovered a large portion of South America for Europe. The crest as a whole serves as a reminder that while the language of the nation may be rooted in Europe, the flair and joy is something uniquely made up of Brazil.


ENGLAND (Three Lions)
Ahhh, the originators of heraldry. Masters of lore and Knighthood, the English FA and the three lions have receipts going back as far as anyone when it comes to the genesis of the crest in culture. While the Three Lions are a living homage to the different iterations of King Richard the 1st’s coat of arms, the 10 Tudor roses scattered symmetrically across the shield represent the 10 regional branches of the FA. On a stage crowded by large felines, the English may just have the most iconic rendition.


RUSSIA (Double-headed Eagle)
From our lovely tournament host comes some of the most brazenly gangster symbols in World Cup history. Taken straight from the Russian coat of arms. the two (well, three when counting the two heads of the eagles) are the double-headed eagle of Ivan III and a sigil of St. George trampling a dragon. With both Byzantine and Hittite origins (that one’s for you AP Euro nerds) the hosts showcase an equally rich tradition of heraldry as that of Western footballing nations. Their bold crest serves as a reminder that no two eagles are alike.

OLYMPIQUE DE MARSEILLE OFFICIALLY TAPS PUMA FOR ITS KITS

France’s long-standing football club Olympique de Marseille, a brand that has 119 years and 32 major trophies under its belt, has recently partnered up with global sportswear giant PUMA and its Football division to provide the club’s worldwide kits. This is course comes as a massive deal for both partners, with one gaining the expertise in sponsorship an design of a well-respected sports brand, and the other the prestige and association with one of Europe’s most iconic clubs. To celebrate its newfound relationship, PUMA Football and Olympique de Marseille have come out with three new 2018/19 kits for the team – home, away, and third – that pull inspiration from the sea, more specifically the power and ferocity that it wields.