SPECIAL REPORT: SOCCER IN THE “A”

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In this three-part special report, we delve into what’s happening with soccer in Atlanta. We take a look at the game in the A through the eye of influential people in the worlds of sneakers, art, music, and fashion. Soccer is reaching into areas in Atlanta that it never has before, and the culture that is growing in the city is something different than what has been seen up until this point in the US.

When you see soccer pitches at the metro station, hip-hop icons in the stands, 70,000+ fans in those stands, and a fan base that reflects what is arguably the “blackest city in America”; the soccer culture on and off the pitch in ATL is unique to the Dirty South. It is only fitting that the team took care of business and brought home the cup.

Special thanks to Wish ATL(Pat), Vera Zeigler, Mo Hairston Waka Flocka, Whoo Kid for taking the time to chat.

PART 1


 

PART 2


 

PART 3


WOULD YOU WEAR YOUR FAV ALBUM AS A SOCCER JERSEY?

Well, if you’re a fan of both music and soccer then we can safely assume your answer would be yes, right? The concept of taking your favorite album’s artwork and turning that into a soccer jersey begs the question of why it’s never been done before. Well, thanks to graphic designer Nick Texeira, we now have a good reason to push this design notion into reality, as his reimagining of some of today’s most popular music album artwork into kits proves just how amazing this idea can be.

Texeira’s concept artwork seen here focuses mainly on popular hip-hop albums, which he has turned into the designs for an array of global team kits, as well as throwing in his own choice of sponsored branding. This includes such mashups as A$AP Rocky’s Testing with Chelsea FC; Post Malone’s Stoney with FC Barcelona, Migos’ Culture II with Atlanta United FC; Drake’s Scorpion with Toronto FC; and Young Thug’s Slime Language with LAFC and more, not to mention other types of concept kits on Texeira’s Instagram account. Have a look at the designs Nick Texeira has put together, as well as his official website, then leave us a comment on what album x soccer jersey you would want to wear.

WATCH 5 CREATIVES UNITE UNDER THEIR LOVE FOR SOCCER

Soccer, football, the beautiful game – whatever you want to call it – yet again unites those with a passion towards the sport outside of the game itself. Creators of the Game is an ongoing mini-series presented by Red Bull that sees soccer bringing together five different artists, each with their own unique background and style. Featured in the above episode is LA-based artist Joshua Vides, top U.S. soccer freestyler Indi Cowie, Miami hip-hop artist Twelve’len, street photographer Jenny Abrams, and street artist ABSTRK, all of which share in-depth their own personal stories and experience surrounding the game. Hit play to watch the seven and a half minute-long video, then be sure to keep tabs on the channel for more episodes to come.

THE IMPORTANCE OF NIKE’S SHORT FILM ‘THIS IS NAIJA’

“As an African kid, you don’t learn to play football on the synthetic turf or learn football with well-planned grass, you learn it the hard way… on the street corners.”

The night is alit — the roaring of trumpets, the banging of drums, the cheering of thousands, hopeful — as the Nigerian National Football team prepares for the biggest moments of their lives. For a country of 186 million, 60 percent of which is under the age of 20, this is a new Nigeria. One to which represents a new direction, a new spirit, channeled across a country of over 500 different tribes in what is known collectively as Naija.

In conjunction with Nike, Nigerian photographer and filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu captures this vibrant optimism in a new short-film titled, This is Naija: A Nigerian Football Story. At the forefront is the new Nigeria home kit, a devilishly beautiful shirt highlighted with neon green accents and an iconic zig-zag pattern which shattered the kit record, by selling out three million units in mere minutes. However, this is a story that runs far deeper than a flashy kit; this is the tale of a country, who’s relatively recent independence, is now revealing its deeply rooted creative history. A history of song and dance, of food and culture, of mythology and folklore — all of which permeates with every pulsating kick of the ball.

“When I think of Naija swag — swag is edgy, edgy is rugged, it’s authentic. Its the way we dress, its the way we carry ourselves, its the way we speak. its the way we move,” says Nigerian musician Nneka. This movement is ever-present in the likes of Wilfred Ndidi and captain John Obi Mikel, but also in rising musical and creative talents such as photographer Yagazie Emezi, filmmaker Grace Ladoja and Wizkid, to name a few.

As the most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria oozes this creativity, as it ranks second worldwide in terms of films produced and one that has birthed musical giants such as Fela Kuti and the Afrobeat movement. Footballing wise, Nigeria continues to grace the world with maestros — from the legendary Nwankwo Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha of the Olympic Gold winning team of 1996 to Premier League stars Alexander Iwobi and Victor Moses.

“Hosting the World Cup in Nigeria would take Nigeria from where it is now amongst some of the poorest countries in the world, to where it can be, one of the most advanced civilizations in the world”, says Nigerian Football legend, Segun Odegbami. The resources are there, the talents is there, the passion and energy is there… it is now up to this new Naija to use football as a catalyst in spearheading both Nigeria and the continent of Africa in what could be a domino effect of infrastructural development for the years to come. Enjoy the full This is Naija: A Nigerian Football Story below.

RICH THE KID, SABER & MORE AT ADIDAS’ X18+ WC EVENT IN LA

While the world is aware that brands like to put in money and effort into their campaign events, it’s safe to say that as of late adidas has risen the bar, especially with what they’ve done out here in Los Angeles – their 747 event for basketball back in February being a prime example. Last week the sportswear giant went at it again for its soccer division to celebrate its latest innovation for the sport, coinciding of course with the 2018 World Cup. If you’ve been following us – and any other soccer-orientated platform for that matter – you’ll already be well aware of adidas Soccer’s X18+ silhouette, a slim and sleek, laceless offering that focuses on the power of speed. It’s been dubbed “the fastest and lightest laceless boot available.”

Highlighting its release, the X18+ Energy Mode event brought in crowds to experience a live customization of adidas soccer kits, enjoy the open bars and food courtesy of Sweet Chick, and to witness a live Tango League with an MVP to be chosen to win a trip to Russia to compete in the global Tango League final. Rolling up to the event, which took place at adidas’ The Base location in Los Angeles – yup, the same as where we hold our The Association game nights – we were set loose to enjoy all the aforementioned happenings and then some.

While soccer was very much the main focus of the day, adidas managed to mix in music and art with the beautiful game by inviting OG Graffiti legend Saber, who conducted a live art installment that saw him spray painting over a wall of soccer balls, each being handed out to the public along with a Saber signature. The main event, however, was when adidas brought out Queens-native Rich the Kid who got the crowd into a frenzy. To cap the night off, a squad of motorbike riders tore up the cement outside – from wheelies to donuts – all in a bid to create some near-deafening noise to celebrate the Tango League MVP winner: Melvyn Owen Perez Cortez – congrats, kid!

While we managed to enjoy ourselves at the event, if there’s a work opportunity, you know we’ll take it, so we asked adidas if they could sit us down with its soccer division’s merchandising manager Joseph Sleven to talk all things X18+, as well as his thoughts on the current landscape of soccer culture. Check out the interview below, as well as our official visual recap of the event throughout.



To start, can you summarize adidas’ new X18 Energy Mode pack for those that are still unfamiliar with the innovation?
Put it frankly, the thought process behind the design of the shoe was to build something for the fastest player possible, down to the look, down to the field, down to the weight. Everything about it is supposed to enable our most explosive – our fastest players – to perform at their top level.

So there’s obviously a lot of aspects when it comes to playing soccer in terms of product design. Why focus on speed for this release?
When we create the range, and when we look at our footwear, there’s any number of players that take part or participate in the game. So for us, the predator is that person who controls the game, they dictate the tempo, their touch, their field or class… everything they do can kind of permeate throughout the team. X players are extremely explosive with getting to the end of the pitch and putting the ball in the back of the net. Nemesis is for those agility players who are really unpredictable – they don’t really fit into a box. Maybe they’re floating around the field but they have these moments of magic that you can’t recreate. And then the Copa is the boot. It’s the soccer player… It’s almost your favorite player’s favorite boot. So everything within that portfolio speaks to different players of the game recognizing that no two players are the same.

Can you speak about the thoughts behind the X18+’s colorway and the overall aesthetics of the shoe?
Well, first and foremost it needed to look fast and speak specifically to that speed player. So you look at its sleek minimalistic design and all these elements which are kind of pulling back and giving it that almost movement visual – even when it’s stagnant it looks like it’s moving. That’s what we want for the speed silo. When we talk about the flash you have these iridescent parts at the branding, as well as on the sole of the shoe. When we talk about colorway, again when you’re on the field you want it to pop. You want something that really jumps out. So this blue is really shocking, it kind of jumps out at you and it really speaks to this silo because it’s like nothing else within the footwear family right now. When we talk about being fashion-forward, with bringing it on to the street or into the cage, the fact that it’s laceless for us is our top technology. We wanted that to be something that also lent itself to being worn with shorts or as you can see in the cage. It doesn’t just necessarily have performance tooling only. There’s a lot of, I would say, fashionable detailing in there, whether it be raises where there would be lasing, or for that speed look, we’ve given it that see-through aesthetic on the upper, or even the flash on the bottom. So a lot of things come from just thinking through the 365 of what our players’ day looks like.

Moving on from the X18+, with you coming from adidas, how aware are you with the way that soccer is going on a cultural standpoint, or what it looks like when it comes to say fashion, music, or art? Is that something that adidas is very much up to date with?
Absolutely. I think that’s really what they look at when they’re putting everything together. So even beyond cleats, take for instance jerseys, we look at that and recognize that these aren’t just specific to playing on the pitch. We’re looking at the hem line, looking at shoulder drop lines, the technology, and those tech details, or even call outs for that country specifically, those are things that we feel lives on the pitch as well as off the pitch. So it’s recognizing that again, soccer is 365 for people who live, breathe, eat, and sleep the sport. And beyond that, when you look at what we’re offering, it’s not just cleats, it’s not just performance jerseys. We have seasonal specialty product that is bespoke to Argentina or Mexico, but it’s really for the street specifically. Maybe not for an avid consumer, but somebody who recognizes that they are a casual fan of this club and that they can wear that shirt, they can wear the pants or the woven shorts, creating a whole offering across every federation, across every club that allows you to rep no matter the circumstances – after, before, or during a game. We’re looking at product holistically now through that lens of the entire year and day.

Last question: speaking of repping, with the World Cup underway, do you have a country that you’re rooting for?
For me specifically, I mean I would love to see Messi get one, right! But honestly, as a fan of the sport, I just want good games. I want to see just incredible moments, the ones that give you chills and that keep you wanting more, and I think when you put the best countries in the world together, you’re going to get those moments inevitably. So I’m just really looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

Images by Ben Higginbotham.