FEMALE IS FOOTBALL: MAXINE GOYNES

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For Maxine Goynes, sports were part of her DNA. With her mother hailing from the UK while having a love for athletics and football (soccer) heritage and her Father playing American football at UCLA, Max was almost destined to be on a field or track. Maxine takes us through her story from growing up in and around the Bay area, to playing college soccer, to moving to LA to pursue a career in acting, fitness, and modeling. Check out our conversation with Maxine as well as the Photoshoot and BTS video. 

Thanks to Nike for providing a few NSW pieces for the shoot.

Follow Maxine: @maxinegoynes

Visit: @NikeLosAngeles

Photos: @richimpossible

So to start things off could you give me your background,  where you’re from grew up and how you got connected with the sport of soccer.

I am originally from Modesto, which is in the Central Valley of Northern California. I considered the Bay Area as a second home as I would commute from Modesto to Pleasanton and play on the club soccer team there. My classes would finish early in high school and then I would commute to practice with the hope of having more opportunity and exposure to continue playing. I earned a scholarship to play soccer at Santa Clara University. I also played in the Olympic development program and was fortunate enough to travel a bit.

My parents met through sports. My mother is British, from Salisbury in the UK and my father actually played American football for UCLA.  After winning the Rose Bowl UCLA decided to send several players over to the UK to teach people how to play American football. My mother was overseeing Sports Promotion for the county Department of Parks and Recreation and one of the facilities happened to be where my father was visiting. Reluctantly, my mom was given the duty to give him a tour and happened to quickly appreciate his sensibility, integrity, and charisma. It reminds me that the universe works in miraculous ways and you never know when you will meet the love of your life. They stayed in contact back and forth after my father left.  Eventually, my father went back to the UK where he and my mother got married and had my older sister Danielle. They moved back to the USA and that was that!  I like to say, soccer and sport especially became part of my DNA.

So there is something really powerful about sport, based on the story of your parents, I would assume you would agree?

Yeah, you really realize the power of athletics.  My parents would have never met, let alone started an interracial relationship at that time had it not been for sport. You have two people from completely different sides of the world with completely different upbringings, but they understood each other.

So do you have siblings? And if so did they play soccer as well?

Yes, I have three sisters and I am the second oldest. We all played soccer. I truly feel that my older sister was probably the best soccer player out of all of us. She actually broke her ankle playing competitively, so it wasn’t really something that she continued to pursue after the injury.  We all had very different temperaments and personalities. Sasha my younger sister  very much the girl picking flowers, wanting everyone to get along, my baby Erica was the strategist and I was always just very intense; a run and gun type. My father coached our teams  and I always subconsciously thought of it as an opportunity to prove to him having daughters wasn’t a consultation of any kind. It was our chance to prove to him that, having athletic daughters was a big win. We really tried to play very strong and I think my mother in fact  the foundation of us being strong women.

I always felt at a crossroads because I  wanted to cheerlead & dance. My parents wanted us to be able to play a sport that they felt was gonna would give us permission to take up space in an aggressive manner. Not to say you can’t do those things within the arts, but soccer is just different. Now I can appreciate that as it was very forward for women’s empowerment. I did always try to find a way to marry those two things; femininity & masculinity.  I was a player that was very assertive but I wore a ribbon in my hair while doing so. I always wanted both and I think that soccer was a way that you can still explore femininity and masculinity. That’s really cool. That’s really the way I kind of put it into perspective.

So can you talk a little about your transition from playing in college to moving into things and career off the field?

I played in college and then while I was in college, the league for women at the time both opened up and also folded. So this was a time where you knew there may be potential to play and then quickly also realized that it may be fragile.

Looking back I definitely start to recognize how fear and a  scarcity mindset can start to affect your decision making. I knew how much my family had sacrificed for me to get an education and wanted to know that I would be able to support myself financially immediately following school.  That can be intimidating, most of us had dedicated our whole life to playing.  Emotionally I decided regardless of pay I was ready to leave playing the game. I was ready to use everything that soccer taught me off the field with new challenges.  I very much recognize that there were women that I played with and I grew up playing with such as Julie Ertz, Christen Press, Kelly O’ Hara and Alex Morgan,  all women who are on the full (USWNT) team that were hungry to play. When I witnessed the level of commitment that they had, I had so much respect for it, but I also knew that it was not for me to continue playing. The plan was to use the sport as a foundation and a stepping stone to build character & relationships. I left soccer in a way that respected, the sport and respected everybody that was still playing.

 So what did you study and get your degree in and how did that lead you to where you are and what you are doing today?

So when I was in school, I studied communication.  I was always interested in business but I actually started to take a communication major because we had a family friend at the time who had a very successful family company and they shared with me how the most difficult thing for them in the hiring process was finding people that really had the social skills to connect with other people. Following soccer,  I earned an internship in the spring of my senior year. IMG was a huge talent firm in sports & hospitality in San Francisco.

And while I was in school, I was asked to be in the NCAA commercial on behalf of women’s soccer. This was the first time that I was working in film and I was in my full kit, but I had hair and makeup on. I was like, what is this? What is this world? What is this about? At the time, I thought I was interested in commentating and hosting. I love film and people but wasn’t sure how I would combine the two interests.

 I will never forget, I had a meeting with Ted Griggs the now president of Comcast Sports Bay area.

He asks me, “Okay, you wake up one Sunday morning and there’s a sports section open of the newspaper and on the table next to it there’s a Vanity Fair. Which one do you pick up first?” I didn’t even have to answer. I knew and he knew. Sports weren’t really what I wanted to do. He looked at me and said, “Go to LA, you love film, you love people, you have the tools to be successful at anything you do but sports in this capacity isn’t for you. Carry it with you, it’s a part of you but not ALL of you.”  So I left and I moved to LA. I’m so grateful for that conversation. I moved to LA, to pursue entertainment and film, and I started my first job with a modeling agency shooting lifestyle and fitness shoots while working as a remote recruiter for visual artists.

How have you seen the industry change since moving to LA as well as what have you seen change in women’s soccer since you stopped playing?

I think that technology, in general, has allowed athletes, specifically female athletes to connect to an audience and allows us as an audience to see how complex, dynamic and layered the women are.

 It’s been beautiful because we would all tune in and watch the World Cup or watch the game and we knew a player for their position. But we didn’t know their position in life. We didn’t know she was a mother, girlfriend, sister, thought leader, and advocate for things that she’s passionate about in society. I feel like it has really allowed us to see the holistic transparent beauty in a human being. It’s moving when you can know anyone’s backstory. When you know a little bit more about what moves them in the world or what fear/concern they have outside of being on the field then you become invested in them even more so.  Yes, people are more connected to their individuality, but I think that also can create a community. I think that when we can collectively appreciate individuals, it strengthens the community.

Do you see elements like players loving sneakers helping the popularity of the game grow?

I think that sneakers allow people to have conversations that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise. Sneakers act as an ice breaker. They allow us to connect with someone that didn’t come from the same walk of life. When I see someone in this sneaker and now that allows me to have a conversation with her, to feel like she understands different parts of culture outside of her own, and vice versa that’s special.  I feel that seeing women able to show and express themselves through their sneakers can be something very intimate. This is something that we use as a tool to physically move through the world. And so I think it’s just something beautiful no matter if she’s the type of player that wants to keep her classic sneaker on her or she’s wearing something that’s like a collab or whatever it may be. She has one and there’s a story behind why she wears what she wears and what she’s drawn to. And it’s something that allows us to start to explore and be curious about each other.

To stay on the topic of sneakers, what’s your favorite to wear?

Anything that’s a knit material I really love. But also my view has changed a little bit. My father, in 2017, passed away from cancer and it changed the way I see the world. Now when I think about my favorite sneakers and I think about a classic sneaker like low top forces. For me, I’m really drawn to minimalism and focusing on less being more. How I can wear that sneaker in a versatile way is something that I really appreciate. I think that a lot of that has been shaped by life experience and for me.

That is so great, and I have to ask, on the fashion side of things what designer are you rocking the most lately?

I love Jerry Lorenzo and everything he does with Fear of God. When I see his shoes as I’m like,” Oh my goodness!” I am truly moved. What a beautiful way to merge high fashion with streetwear and make it in a timeless kind of look and style with earth tones and color palettes. I really respect that approach of mixing the minimalism and the contemporary. I love it.

Switching gears a little bit, I wanted to ask what are your about your thoughts on the importance of making the game of soccer more accessible to more communites that might have not expereinced the game before?

I think that any time you can bring a more diverse group of people together and that might mean diverse in perspective, culture, race, socioeconomic group, spirituality,  any time we can do that, I find advantages to us all evolving and growing as people. I went to Santa Clara University, which is a private Jesuit university. It’s an expensive university and a beautiful one. There were not many women on the team that looked like me. I remember playing in games and having, little girls come up wanting to get my autograph and what it meant for them to be able to see me on that team.

Wherever there’s a team and a potential for resources, for finances to be made through sport, it means that those people have more opportunity, not only for them being an athlete but for them as a person. So I absolutely do feel that one of the beautiful things about soccer is that it is the biggest and most global sport and you can go to any other country and see people playing, even with a beaten up ball, on dirt fields. In comparison to other sports like wakeboarding or snowboarding or something of this nature, that requires a lot of expensive tools and equipment, soccer is accessible. I do think that is what’s so beautiful about this sport and so many people of different backgrounds are connected to it.

The more diversity that we can get to the sport, the better. It’s also important because the conversations that happen amongst teammates and in the locker room trickle into our lives. There were times that I would have a teammate that grew up in an area where she wasn’t used to being around women that came from my culture but she and I, we loved each other. We were in the fields fighting for each other. We had an appreciation for each other and that trickled into our friendships and to our families and it seeps into the world. There’s this beautiful flowing, essentially like a union that happens through the sport that can be continued into how we treat each other in the world.

Last questionnow that you have been away from the sport as a player for a bit—how do you see soccer having a role in your life going forward?

I personal train women that work in the creative space and want to use my background in storytelling and film to create space for us together. I am focused on MG METHOD which will be a lifestyle brand and extension of my private clientele. I’m not physically playing soccer anymore,  but missed most of all the sisterhood and being able to encourage somebody through adversity and triumph. I enjoy that. Working with the private client whether it be in training or media allows me to do that with women and still remain a teammate and supporter. I’m a system for them to have success in their life.

I also am still very much involved in acting and film. I’ll always find ways to do that. I  have been creating original content most recently and know in my heart I will continue to act. For the last couple of months, we have been training for a feature film directed by R.L. Scott, where we have action choreography. My trainer for this movie, Chyna McCoy was the body double for Morpheus in the Matrix. The interesting thing is that this has been really fascinating to also be able to use my body in new ways. I was a former Division One athlete. I can do this. I have so much respect for how movement, with regard to film and choreography,  is VERY different. I feel like a child in the sense that I am completely starting over and it’s been very new, but I am also looking forward to the potential of doing any sort of action in a movie.

FEMALE IS FOOTBALL: CARA WALLS

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Hailing from Wauwatosa, WI, Cara Walls has repped her state at just about every level within the sport. From winning national championships at the U-18 level with her club team to representing the University of Madison, Wisconsin at the collegiate level Cara has done her state proud. We recently caught up with Cara to learn a bit more about her career, what it was like to play with players like Christen Press and about her new undertaking studying architecture and urban planning.

Follow Cara: @ckaydub

Photos: @ts_xiv

Can you tell us a bit about where you’re from and your early days with the sport?

I’m from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and I started playing soccer at an early stage. I played for FC Milwaukee, which was the only team in the area that could compete with some of the bigger clubs in the Midwest as well as teams from around the country. My final year of youth soccer we won the U-18 national championship which was really cool.

So you win the U-18 national championship and then get to play college soccer and continue repping your state. What was your collegiate experience like?

I loved the university, the people, just the culture that they created…like competing and being competitive, being a leader. I was able to be captain my junior and senior years. I won some individual awards like the offensive player of the year. It was really a blessing that soccer offered me the opportunity to go to school at Madison and to have an unforgettable experience there.

Post-college, you end up getting drafted and playing for the Chicago Red Stars. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

It was an amazing experience and one that, once again, soccer provided for me. That was beautiful for me. I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked to though. I think I started two games my first year and five games my second year (and scored two goals). My second year was an improvement but I’m playing with some of the best players in the world at this time. I’m playing behind Christen Press and with some of the greatest players in the world. So although I wasn’t starting as much as I would have liked it was a great experience for me. 

In the middle of my third season there I got released and ended up signing with Saarbrucken in Germany. I loved it there. It was another example of soccer providing me with an amazing opportunity. This time to travel to a new country, meet new people and to just really grow as a person. I played a season there, traveled around Europe quite a lot and had a great time. After that season I wanted to see myself doing different things. I didn’t see myself on the road and traveling for the next five years. So I decided to go to grad school and invest in another career. That’s where I found myself now.

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

Soccer has taken you on a number of journeys and now you are on a new one. What’s this career path you are undertaking?

I’m studying architecture and urban planning and I have an emphasis on landscape architecture, sustainable building with an interest in futuristic design and creating community spaces. So that’s the program I’m currently in. And I’m still involved with soccer – I’m an assistant coach for the women’s team.

Architecture is giving me an opportunity to try and find solutions for problems that we have created and to really try and find solutions through sustainability.

Let’s transition for a minute here. We’ve talked about your soccer career. Your love of design and sustainability. What about any interest you have from a cultural standpoint? Is music, or sneakers or fashion anything you have particular interests in?

I love music. It’s like the heartbeat of everything for me so I’m always keeping an eye for new music.  I’m definitely a hip hop and R&B person. I like fashion and sneakers although I’m not a hardcore sneakerhead. I do like cleats though. I like collecting cleats.  I have a thing for old Predators. I probably have five or six pairs of adidas Copas that I’m always wearing. I like the classic adidas three stripe sweatpants. 

I’m a fan of Diadora and some of the old school stuff from the ’90s as well. 

You mentioned your love of music, give us three artists you are into right now.

I would go with Lil Baby. I also like Drake, 2 Chainz, Chance the Rapper, Lauryn Hill. I’m a 2Pac fans as well. We have the same birthday.

You and 2Pac having the same birthday is a fun fact. What’s your favorite Pac song?

God bless the dead. I really like that one. 

So back to soccer, did you watch the Women’s World Cup?

Of course. I went to school with Rose Lavelle. She’s a bit younger than me but we played in college. We played together in my junior and senior years. My senior year we just kind of took over and ended up winning the Big 10. She’s awesome. And it’s been so fun to see her putting on for Wisconsin. She just looks majestic on the ball. She’s insane. 

We’ve seen the women’s side of the sport really grow and the attention around it heightened in recent years. What are your thoughts on that?

I think it’s definitely changed for us for the better. I think social media and the kind of visibility around the sport is important. Seeing an Instagram account for the NWSL, seeing posters and campaigns from Nike. The visibility is important because I don’t think it was there in the previous years and I think it is having an impact. Like the Nike campaigns, the Nike commercials are really powerful and something that had just been missing. It really hasn’t been there like the last 10 years. So I think the advertising and branding itself is really important. Getting the message across that we have a really powerful team. 

We have a certain privilege of actually training these women. And getting them the resources they need to have a really competitive team and that’s, that’s a beautiful thing that not all countries have. So I think being able to support that and kind of showing the progression of women through soccer is really powerful. And I think that’s what’s happening right now. And I think it’s because of the growth of the NWSL. 

There’s really talented women all over the world, but a lot of times they don’t have the resources or the support from the country. So I think it’s really good for the United States and the developed world that were supporting the women’s team. And we have a really powerful women’s team. I think it’s a really good image for younger women that this is an option for them. You know, you can now grow up dreaming of being a professional women’s soccer player because that’s something, even as a really talented young player, I didn’t have that vision because I didn’t really know what existed. I think that’s great. And I think it’s all part of the US moving forward and us progressing as a country of supporting what we have going on with the women’s side of things.

Last questionnow that you have been away from the sport as a player for a bit and are back in school for architecture—how do you see soccer having a role in your life going forward?

I had played soccer for 24 years and it was the dominant thing in my life. So I was really excited to try and do other things in other fields. But I already miss playing soccer and I’ve had a couple of opportunities to play again at a high level. One of which was in a summer league in Iceland. So I want to continue to try and play at some level. 

I’m currently an assistant coach at the college I am attending and I do private sessions as well. I feel like I have a lot to offer and things to pass on to young players and I really enjoy that. So through coaching and being able to spread the knowledge, I’ve learned through the game and then, maybe, getting back and playing in a summer league in Iceland or somewhere closer to home would be great.

SNEAKERS W/ IVES: LUIS ROBLES

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When Luis Robles was a kid living in Germany as a military brat, his father made him a deal. The Robles family was getting ready to move back to the United States, which wasn’t going to be an easy transition for the children in the family, but Luis’s father promised his son two things to help ease the grief of the move. He promised him a pony, and a pair of Air Jordans.

“I was more interested in the pony. I never got the pony, but I got the Jordan 4s. From then on that started my obsession with Nike.”

Robles never did get the pony, but what he wound up getting along with a pair of Jordan Bred 4s was the planting of a seed that would eventually bloom into his love affair with sneakers, and with Nikes in particular.

More than 20 years later, Robles is a standout goalkeeper for the New York Red Bulls, and he is also a full-blown sneakerhead who can always be counted on to be sporting a fresh pair of kicks at Red Bull Arena. He counts the Jordan 1 Retro Travis Scotts, Wotherspoon Air Max, and Off-White Grim Reapers among the top pairs in his collection, a collection that never stops growing.

Robles’s fascination with sneakers blossomed as he established himself as a top young goalkeeper in the American soccer youth ranks.

“One of the coolest moments for me was when I was 14, about to be a freshman in high school, and I get this big box and that was my invite to the U-14 national team selection program. For me, the national team was the highest level, but more importantly the national team wears Nike.”

As fate would have it, Robles went on to play college soccer at the University of Portland, which put him near Nike’s global headquarters, where he eventually secured an internship that helped him build his first real collection of sneakers.

“We lived in a row house and I had this huge walk-in closet, and people would just walk by and check out the collection. I didn’t have the exclusives, but it was still a pretty good collection.”

Robles enjoyed his time interning at Nike, a stint that included being mentored briefly by current Jordan Brand vice president Howard White, and if he hadn’t taken the path that eventually led him to a long and distinguished pro career as a goalkeeper, he could have wound up a long-time Nike employee.

Robles left Nike to pursue his soccer-playing dream in Germany, but not before signing an endorsement deal with Nike that he has maintained to this day. The deal came with an open invitation to work for Nike if his playing career didn’t work out.

Robles playing career has worked out impressively. After a slow start in Europe that led him back to the United States, Robles eventually settled with the Red Bulls and has been their starting goalkeeper since 2012, setting records and earning accolades as one of the best goalkeepers in MLS.

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The 35-year-old is married with three young children now, but fatherhood hasn’t slowed down his shoe collecting, which has continued to thrive since he set up shop in the New York area.

“What’s transpired since my time in New York, since there’s more of a sneaker culture here on the forefront of what’s going on style-wise, I’ve started to collect more and more.”

Though being a Nike athlete does help him secure some sneakers, Robles often finds himself doing many of the things your average sneakerhead does to secure a prized pair, whether it’s tapping into connections, or even trying his luck on the SNKRS App.

“The really cool shoe right now is the React Elements. I’ll wear those for a couple of months and then I just give them to friends. Whichever of my friends wear a size 11 benefit because they can come in any time and walk away with shoes that are gently worn.

“The ones that I keep are the Jordan 1s, because those are the ones I like the most. Air Max 1s are ones I like the most. Off-Whites I have like three, but for me the go-to’s, and if you ever see me on TV doing an interview, I’m wearing Jordan 1s because those are just my favorite. They’re such a great style shoe.”

Robles considers the Royal Jordan 1 his favorite pair of sneakers, but when it comes to the Grail he would consider his dream pair, Robles points to the original Off-White Jordan 1. Robles has a few pair of Off Whites, but the red and black Jordan 1s, easily the most coveted pair in the Off White collection, has continued to elude him.

“This is why the Off-Whites are such a big deal, because they’re not easy to get, even for me. Easily fabricated, but not easy to get. I’ve been very fortunate that I have a few. They just look amazing, and they’re the shoes you get the most compliments on.”

Robles isn’t the only one getting sneaker compliments these days. You can also find his father wearing Jordans these days, including a pair of Concords Luis gave his father that generated a fair amount of praise at Red Bull Arena when the two were spotted at a recent match. More than 20 years after receiving that first pair of Jordans from his father, and the love affair of sneakers that came with it, Robles has been able to return the favor.

FEMALE IS FOOTBALL: SABRINA COLS

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

Follow Sabrina: @sabrina_cols

Photos: @bybrando

Tell us a little about yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

How hard was it to watch?

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

What part did style in football play into your life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did your football journey start?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does style mean in terms of empowerment/femininity ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe your work personality?

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

Brands you like right now?

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

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

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

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.

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.

 

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 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.

WORLD SOCCER SHOP x KTTP PRESENTS | KIT STORIES: BEN CHI

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Kits Stories is a series in which we tell the uniques stories of individuals through the kits that have made an impact on their lives. This first installment of Kit Sotires features Ben Chi, the Manager of Brand and Community for LAFC, founder of the dope soccer lifestyle brand FC Dorsum and member of the KTTP family. Ben helped KTTP get off the ground and was integral in the vision of KTTP coming to life. Through the story of his kits we got to know more about where his passion for kits started and how he turned his passion for the beautiful game into a career.

BROTHERHOOD OF THE FEET: SANDY BODECKER

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There is perhaps no one man greater at understanding the passion and intricacies of both soccer and skateboarding culture and their impact on the masses than Sandy Bodecker. When we started this feature, Bodecker was alive. You can imagine our shock when we learned–in the middle of writing this piece–that the legend passed away on October 2nd, 2018 from a battle against throat cancer. Not only does this affect the tone of the piece, inevitably turning it into a homage to his legacy, but more importantly it affects the world of both soccer and skateboarding as a whole.

For those unfamiliar with the Nike veteran, Bodecker was the architect responsible for instigating both the Nike Football and Nike Skateboarding divisions. Through his own passion and deep-rooted understanding of just how important these two sports are within their respective worlds, Bodecker put it best, “if Nike was going to truly be a global sports brand then we had to be great at soccer…It was sort of a cultural imperative.” Knowing his impact on both these worlds, because let’s be honest, Nike dominates when it comes to sports–yes even skateboarding ripe with vital-to-the-culture DIY brands–it becomes our duty to share our interview with the man conducted only weeks prior to his passing.

Going through his answers, it becomes blatantly apparent that Bodecker was the perfect vessel for channeling the importance of spreading both soccer and skateboarding culture to an audience the size of Nike’s. While it is safe to say that both sports ran strong the world over prior to Nike’s involvement, it is equally as notable just how much the brand has influenced and educated the general public since. And while this intro now seems to sound a little like its sponsored by Nike, I’m only emphasizing the scale of Nike’s influence on the two sports to help emphasize just how important Sandy Bodecker was as the man behind the scenes.

But before we delve into what made Bodecker so integral to soccer and skateboarding, it’s worth looking at how he got there. Bodecker’s last position at Nike was its VP of Special Projects, his first was footwear test coordinator when he joined the then running orientated brand back in 1982. Since then, Bodecker has held titles such as VP of Sports Culture, VP of Design, VP of Action Sports and more. Having moved internally throughout the company, Bodecker was able to fully understand, perhaps more than most, what Nike’s ethos stood for. While it’s easier to bring that ethos to the masses, the challenge is bringing what the masses has to say back to the brand. Bodecker was an expert at this. “Sandy aimed to visit a series of local skateshops to listen, learn and hopefully get a chance to inspire the skate industry with a newly reinvented Nike SB Dunk,” Nike states in an article on Nike News last year.

This is what made Bodecker so important to not just Nike, but to the people who followed and appreciated what Nike offered. You’ll be hard pressed to find a true SB Dunk head who doesn’t at least recognize his name. “With its focus on artistic individuality, creative collaboration, and epic limited edition product drops, Nike SB ruled and defined the sneaker game for close to a decade. None of it would have been possible without Sandy’s genuine passion and appreciation for both skateboarding and what would later become known as sneaker culture,” writes Woody from Sneaker Freaker mag in his own homage article.

And then there’s Nike Football, a now world-leading sponsor for the sport with many of its top players under its roster, and a major part of what soccer is within America, with Nike being the sponsor for half of the MLS in its inception. Soccer has been a part of Bodeckers life since even before his formative years, having “played soccer since I was old enough to walk,” he tells us. Bodecker saw just how important soccer was to the world, and if Nike wanted to be the biggest sports brand in the world, it had to get involved with soccer. Bodecker made that happen, and we thank him everyday for it. But not only is he passionate about soccer and skateboarding and having the rare ability to professionally connect the dots within their culture, he’s also a comedable human being. When asked what he would like to see more of in soccer culture, his answer couldn’t have been more dignified, “it would be to become a loud voice of positive social change, whether that’s to fight racism, poverty, classism, environmental challenges.”

With the below interview being perhaps one of his last, we urge you to read through what Sandy Bodecker has to say about the current state of soccer and skateboarding, his thoughts on where both worlds are heading towards, how his time at Nike really looked like, and much more. In addition to our exclusive interview, we also had the privilege of documenting Sandy’s own archive of footwear which you can enjoy below. Sandy, here’s to you, and may you Rest in Power.


Having been with Nike for so many years, you must have seen a lot of development within the brand outside of just running. Talking specifically about soccer, how would you word Nike’s approach towards the beautiful game? What is its ethos behind soccer?
I think the first word I would choose is “committed”… in the same way that we have been committed to running and the entire running community, we do the same with soccer. It starts with being connected to and fully understanding the game at all levels, and continually exploring innovative ways to enable players and teams as the game continues to evolve. Having personally experienced the game on every continent with the exception of Antarctica, you see and feel the passion the world has for the game and we use that passion to help fuel our innovation.

You’ve been integral in pushing soccer culture within Nike. Why was/is this important to you?
I’ve played soccer since I was old enough to walk. My father was Danish and I had as much a European upbringing as American, and being from the east coast (NYC/New England) I played from middle school on in both organized as well as pick-up games. Being aware of the importance of this as the biggest global team sport, if Nike was going to truly be a global sports brand then we had to be great at soccer… It was sort of a cultural imperative.

What do you look to for inspiration when it comes to soccer at Nike?
The inspiration comes from the athletes, the teams, the coaches and of course the fans. They all provide many nuanced layers of inspiration for Nike and me personally. We value their insights to the game and how we can help them perform at the highest level and to meet or exceed their individual or collective potential.

Can you highlight some of the main challenges you’ve found within soccer culture from a global standpoint?
I don’t really view the cultural differences as challenges but more as opportunities to deepen and broaden our understanding and connection to the game. The rich and diverse cultural views and approaches are what make it the “Beautiful Game.”

Being a soccer-orientated media platform, we see a lot of marriage between soccer and other forms of creativity, be it art, music, other sports, etc. What’s been the most obvious marriage for you and why?
I think social media has provided a platform and given a shared voice to athletes and fans. Due to the global nature of the game and the size of the global fan base soccer stars have a bigger social media base than any other sport. This combined with much higher level of outside interests by many of the biggest players and the money they’re making, make it a natural melting pot of the different cultures of art, music, design, entertainment…it’s analogous to basketball in the US but on a global scale. If I had to pick one for soccer, I would pick music as that is the true universal language that has no boarders.

Seeing as we’re enjoying the World Cup right now, is there a country that you’re rooting for? (while we’re passed this period now, we decided to leave this in to keep the interview in its original form)
Well, with the US out, I’m “doubling up.” One side of me is barracking for Denmark (obvious reason) and the other side is for Australia, my adopted home. Not much chance here but I value loyalty.

While the future is hard to predict, where do you see the sport of soccer going in the far future in terms of product innovation?
Soccer like any sport has a unique set of demands and in general players want to do more with less, you couple that with how the game itself continues to evolve and future environmental factors, there are lots of areas to explore from an innovation standpoint. As technology and material science improve, these will also provide new paths to explore and apply.

What would you like to see more of within soccer culture?
If I had one thing I would personally love soccer culture do more of, it would be to become a loud voice of positive social change, whether that’s to fight racism, poverty, classism, environmental challenges…basically to rally globally and collectively to enable positive change.

What’s your personal favorite soccer shoe?
Ahhh this will show my age but I’m partial to the original Ronaldo Mercurial

Given your involvement and influence on Nike SB, what were your thoughts on the Skateboarding division before you got involved, and where did you want to take it to – and why?
There were certainly some parallels that I considered when I accepted the Nike SB challenge. The main ones were, in both cases we were outsiders looking in and neither the skate or the soccer community were asking or looking for us to join in. It was really the opposite to that. The second, what we needed to do to gain a foothold was not going to happen overnight and we needed to be willing to commit 100% over an extended period of time before we could judge if we were going to be successful or not. With SB we wanted to be considered over time as a real and committed part of the core skate community but do it in a way the was unapologetically Nike. Essentially we wanted and needed to earn the respect, not buy it, as many expected us to do.

There are a lot of connection between soccer and skateboarding in terms of their cultures, such as borrowing designs when it comes to fashion and shoes. Being involved in both, how would you describe the connection in your own words?
There are definitely parallels from a cultural perspective and you see that where ever you travel to. I think the connection to the art community is a little stronger in skate due to board and T-shirt graphics playing such an important role and probably is pretty equal when it comes to music. But it does depend on where you are in the world. As an example, if you go to Brasil the top 2 sports for boys are skate and soccer and the girls are catching up… the creative community in general is deeply immersed with both so there it’s pretty equal. While is the US, skate is definitively ahead on the creative connectivity due how the sports have developed. From a footwear perspective both sports have their sort “ah ha” moments that sort of launched them into the collab mode. For soccer it was the 98 World Cup and the original Ronaldo Mercurial in silver/blue/yellow. Prior to that it’s was primarily black/White and that opened the flood gates to where we’ve evolved to today. For skate it was the SB Dunk collab’s we did with our original skaters Gino, Reece, Richie and Danny, along with early work on the AF1 that helped launch what is now the sneaker collector culture. Today you see those connections evolve with collab’s like the Neymar/Jordan collab on and off pitch.

What are some of your favorite soccer silhouette’s that you’ve pulled inspiration from specifically for Nike SB?
The two that stand out are the early Tiempo indoor and the first Mercurial Flyknit Hi both were leveraged into skate shoes that core skaters would use every day. The Tiempo SB has had 3 different iterations over the years.

Where do you see the connection between soccer and skateboarding going in the future?
I think as the popularity of soccer grows in the US and skateboarding grows outside the US, you’ll see more and more connectivity both sports rely on and are built around what you can do with your feet, are very democratic in nature and physical size doesn’t become an inhibitor to achievement at the highest level. Also in many parts of the world where access and cost become factors, there is a broader level of access for more kids so again back to the democratic nature of both sports. With skateboarding becoming an Olympic sport and the continued excitement around big tournaments like the World Cup or Champions League the future is bright and exciting for both.

SANDY BODECKER’S FOOTWEAR ARCHIVE