FOOTBALL IS FEMALE | THE WOMEN OF WORLD CUP 2018

If you’re familiar with what we do at Kicks to the Pitch, you’ll know of our feature series titled Chicks in Kits, a channel where we highlight female enthusiasts of the beautiful game, from ex-pro soccer players to creatives to fitness trainers, all of which share the same passion for the sport. As of today, we’ve decided to get with the times and rename the series to Football is Female in a bid to open our platform up to a more gender-balanced approach. Kicking off the revised series is a look at some of the stand out female fans that have trekked the globe to support our favorite global sporting event: the World Cup.

Taken while we were out there in Russia covering the games for our own purposes, we’ve managed to grab the emotion, intensity, highs, lows, and everything in-between from some of the many faces captured within the crowds. Stay tuned for more from our #footballisfemale series to come.


EXPLORING THE MOST CAPTIVATING CREST ORIGIN STORIES

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

SOUTH KOREA FOR THE WIN: A SPECIAL STREET STYLE EDITION

Today marked a monumental win for South Korea within the world of soccer, as they beat Germany in today’s match for the World Cup 2018 with a two-nil win! Out here in Los Angeles, a city with the country’s largest Korean population, let me just say, the high energy, pride, and spirit felt throughout simply cannot be put into words. For those of you who are – or were – rooting for Germany, the Korea win comes as an immense blow given that the country is now out of the World Cup…

While we as a media outlet strive to stay as unbiased as we can, we can’t help but share in the joy our Korean brothers and sisters are feeling right now. In a bid to continue Korean pride, we’ve got a special Street Style fashion editorial that highlights Nike Soccer’s official Korea collection, modeled in Downtown Los Angeles by our very own writer Raymond An who is currently out there in Russia doing his own bit of Korea-support – if you haven’t heard about his #followtheflag initiative yet, click here to find out all about it. Donning South Korea’s official Nike 2018 away kit in white, as well as their travel top in black, the editorial also brings out a retro World Cup piece in blue complete with the Korean flag emblem, as well as an official Korea Football Association cap, all styled in street-ready looks. Check out the special South Korea street style editorial throughout.

THE KFA TAKES A STYLED APPROACH TO THE WORLD CUP 2018

Although the on pitch play of the Korean National Football team has been lackluster at best, the team came correct off pitch for this years World Cup in Russia. Partnering up with design firm H9PITCH STUDIO, the KFA created a special collection of items that appeal to the world that lives outside of the game. From limited edition patches, skate decks, rings, air fresheners, bluetooth speakers, and bracelets the collection has something for everyone. Not until recent has repping your national team crest been looked at as stylish, but with the younger generation of fans emerging, the clubs and countries must keep up with the popular sense of style. The best part of this entire collection is the federation did it all private label. Avoiding the headache and red tape of the “big brand” the KFA was able to lean on a design group directly connected to the streets of Korea, in turn creating a collection that sends a message to the streets.

The inspiration behind the product stems from an ever growing need for “cool” in the soccer space. With so many small pop up brands entering the market, it seems only fitting that the big clubs and countries start to grasp the new wave of soccer. No longer is soccer tiro pants with the track jacket, or the mom in the mini van, as the key teams begin to take notice of the off pitch style, the growth of the sport will accelerate beyond anything can imagine. Tapping into the movement of the urban community will allow so many more people to be aware of how beautiful the game genuinely is. A gate way to the gam through the world of style.

When it comes to being first, Korea was not the first ones to do this, back in 2014 the USMNT teamed up with the likes of legendary artist Futura, Kayo skate, and Nike to create a players only collection and PSG created a full collection of product for its US Tours in both LA 2016 and Miami 2017,  but what Korea did do was break the mold for a federation and open this open to the masses. Allowing the fans of the national team to rep the country with pride and style is one thing, but when the fans of other countries are supporting, you know you have done something correct.

In my opinion, the collection is well rounded, creative and a step in the right direction. Hopefully sooner then later the powers that be inside the clubs and federations will take note. Until then you get one option. You can pick up the full KFA collection now at H9Pitch.

Peep the full collection below.

 

THE KTTP WORLD CUP WEEK 1 RETROSPECTIVE

Before I start my World Cup week 1 retrospective, I want to thank US Soccer, adidas Football, Fan Duel, and World Soccer Shop for giving KTTP the opportunity to tell its unique perspective on this year’s World Cup in Moscow. The effort of our family at US Soccer is what really kicked this entire opportunity off, and I would be foolish to not give credit to a group of people who took the risk of allowing such a hyper-focused outlet to represent the USA out here in Russia.

Arriving in the country, it was a bit surreal. From media propaganda to the political agendas surrounding the US and Russia relations, my thoughts on the trip to Russia was always one of skepticism. If it wasn’t for soccer, my want to go to Russian was a 0 from a 1-to-100 scale. Jumping on the flight outta LAX, the fact I was heading back to my third World Cup hadn’t hit me yet. Again, the anxiety of Russia was more on my mind than soccer. How would I get around? Was the apartment going to be as pictured? I got my visa, but would it be a struggle to get into the country itself? So many things had run through my head that soccer was the last thing on my mind.

That being said, flying 15 hours with two layovers was possibly the only thing negative I have to say about the trip up to this point. Upon landing in Moscow, the fact that I was here for arguably the biggest sporting event in the world finally hit me. World Cup 2018 had finally arrived. After almost 4 years of KTTP, the World Cup was not just about going to see matches, it was about sharing this beautiful game to the people who will be the future of the sport – through the eyes of culture. Where the casual fan meets the hardcore. A place where Sneakerheads, The Hip Hop community, Artist, and Designers can join in the conversation of the world’s game.

The first week of the World Cup has been no less than amazing off- and for sure on-pitch. Starting out with the Portugal versus Spain match in Sochi, Rich and I had the opportunity to view the game from two very different perspectives. I’m not going to bore you with the details as I am pretty sure you witnessed the greatness that is CR7, but to feel the power and the passion of the fans at that match was on a whole new level. The rivalry that is Portugal versus Spain never seems to disappoint, and on the night of June 15th 2018, it felt like two heavyweight boxers trading haymakers, each one landing at a precise moment but never falling. Diego Costa was a killer that night, along with Nacho and his Golaso, but leave it to Ronaldo to shine, and that he did.

After the trip to Sochi, we worked our way back to HQ in Moscow and prepared for a few days of back-to-back matches. Starting with the Germany versus Mexico match on June 16th. Before I go on, I must say this was the loudest I have ever heard a stadium before. The noise of the crowd was literally deafening. The Mexico fans completely outmatched Germany’s, and the game results seemed to mirror that same situation. Watching Mexico score the lone goal on arguably the best team in the world was a sight to be seen. I don’t know what team besides Mexico that has a fan base willing to pay $15 to $20 USD for a beer and then within seconds throw it up in the air for the love of the country. It’s absolutely mad!!! So when the ball crossed the goal line, the German fans in Moscow where introduced to the special tradition. It showered beer for a good 30 seconds in the area I was sitting in, and the power of the Mexico fanbase never seemed to die. After being a witness to CR7 and his late-game masterpiece, and following that with a massive win by Mexico, I couldn’t help but look forward to what was coming.

On Monday the 18th we had a day off – sorta – where I took advantage of the Nike Football space located in Gorky Park. The new Nike space opened up a day before I arrived with a large crowd and special guest, Ronaldo Lima. The space was a well-designed sports facility with a dedicated half-basketball court, a small sided caged soccer space, and an indoor activation center. Nike spared no expense during the World Cup and created a design studio inside dubbed the NIKE BOX MSK. The studio was on another level. From jerseys, numbers, patches and more, the workshop is set up for pure creativity. Custom cut and sew stations facilitate almost anything you can create made out of a Nike kit top. Working with our Nike help, I secured a spot to produce a special 1-of-1 KTTP kit top. Given the time frame of 2 hours, plenty can be accomplished, and if you are in Moscow and have the time, I highly recommend this experience.

Leading into Tuesday the 19th, I was anticipating getting to check out Spartak stadium, where Poland would face of with Senegal. I had made my way to the stadium earlier in the week to try and get a media ticket to the Argentina versus Iceland match, and was able to get into the tunnel to witness Messi have his PK saved. What a disappointment for Messi, but that’s another topic for another day. Not knowing what I know now, and since I didn’t get to check out the full stadium beforehand, I was more excited to get check out the architectural feat over watching the match, but as you all know, the match turned out to be just as special as the first couple that I had highlighted. As we all are fans of the sport, underdogs always seem to capture the world’s attention. Senegal, with names that most casual fans are not familiar with, faced off against Poland featuring captain and world-class striker Robert Lewandowski. Packed to the max, Spartak stadium was solid in red. Poland came out to represent and they made it known. Not quite at the level of what Mexico had going, Poland still had the stadium super live for the full 90 mins. The Senegal support was few and far between, but I did notice the fans from Senegal were turned up in the little masses that came to support. The match was epic and at the final whistle, the stadium was filled with a special feeling that this World Cup had something amazing happening. This match marked the first African nation win at this year’s World Cup, and as Senegal looks to continue forward, I would suggest keeping an eye on them. Cinderella runs are always amazing to witness.

All this leads me to Wednesday the 20th, attending the Portugal versus Morocco match at Luzhniki Stadium. Portugal is my team this World Cup. If the US had made it then things would be different, but for my entire life, Portugal has been a very close second to the US. Getting to watch them play twice in a 7-day time span was something else for me personally. My father’s side of the family comes from the Azores off the mainland of Portugal, and as much as I want to claim my roots, I just don’t know much about them. Being able to follow a team from a country where my ancestors come from allows me to feel a bit closer to my heritage. It also helps that Cristiano is on a record-breaking pace this World Cup. To that note, CR7 did not disappoint. Putting his 4th goal in with a crazy diving header, the stadium erupted. Packed with what was announced at 78,000 people in attendance, it felt as though the Morocco support outnumbered the Portuguese. Donning the same national colors for both teams, it was hard to tell which support group represented who until a crazy foul had happened or a missed foul occurred. The game, in all honesty, was very ugly and boring, to say the least. After the wild header, Portugal played very uninspiredly, and all they looked to do was pass to Cristiano – no creative play whatsoever. Move to the other side of the ball and you have a team with no striker that had countless opportunities but just couldn’t find that finishing touch. This all played out into an ugly match, but Portugal walked away with 3 points so I was happy.

Capping off a crazy ass week was the opportunity to work with World Soccer Shop for the duration of the World Cup. As “Content Creators,” KTTP has been able to gain field access and stadium access unlike most. I have been able to access areas and see things that a normal fan will never be able to see. It brings out a different feeling being able to be on the inside of the game at the pinnacle of the sporting world’s biggest global event.  Standing in the mixed media zone after the Portugal versus Spain match, I got to watch De Gea a foot away from me, talk about how he made massive mistakes. Pique was within 3 feet of me explaining his thoughts on the draw, Ronaldo briskly walked past my space with a little nod. As much as I can try to explain this in words, nothing can compare to my reality this last week. If anything that I have said sparks your interest, make sure to stay tuned to the website as we will be updating a daily journal for the second half of our trip, follow our IG @kickstothepitch as well, and shoot over to IG handle @wrldsoccershop to get a behind-the-scenes look, as well as our journey through the 2018 World Cup Russia.

#FOLLOWTHEFLAG: SUPPORTING OUR KOREAN BROS DURING WC

Death, tax evasion and national team flags being used as capes and makeshift blouses – these are the constants of global soccer. And yet for all the creatively draped flags worldwide, we still haven’t seen anything quite like this.

Friend & Fam of KTTP Raymond An took a sewing machine and over $3000 US dollar’s worth of officially-licensed World Cup kit paraphernalia and pieced together the most loving reinterpretation of the South Korean flag, AKA “Taegukgi,” in recent history.

“I needed a Korean flag to take to Russia. I just moved to LA from the DMV and left my flag back at my home… Jerseys are always on my mind, and I wanted to create a flag, rather than buying one, to be a bit different than the rest.”

Stitched together from 31 of the 32 participating nations of the World Cup (He’s still looking for a Denmark kit) the fabric and crest of each national team is sewn into a portion of the larger tapestry of the red, white blue and black of the Republic of Korea.

His purpose for the creation of the flag is two-fold. The first is to conduct a genuine cultural exchange with the global soccer community and enhance Korea’s standing in it.

“I wanted to do whatever I can to raise more awareness for friends of mine as well as the general public around the world that Korea is well represented in the World Cup by its fans.”

While the second does not mince words when it comes to challenging Korean football fans to a more holistic and active approach to supporting than just tuning in for the World Cup.

“The hope here is to turn heads into our direction with this unique flag and convert these heads into actual fans for years to come… Korean football culture has a long way to go and I would bluntly say that our football culture sucks. Our culture is based on results and there aren’t as many passionate fans as other nations. Hopefully, this flag will inspire fellow Koreans out there to see it more as a way of life.”

The passion for global soccer takes on even greater meaning when Ray talks in his native language of kit design. With his credits at Guerrilla FC, Ray’s rendition of the Taegukgi is a living homage to the kits that boast design as unique as its representative footballing culture; each patch a purposeful effort to display those who deserve the shine more prominently, “Jerseys with distinctive patterns on their shirts like the ones in Belgium, Argentina, Germany and especially Nigeria to be shown visibly on the flag.”

A flag is our most visceral symbol. They are created to immediately evoke a people, a government, and its culture. It is a reminder — even amidst some of the negative ideals and notions conjured by FIFA and the World Cup — that many can become one.

In the spirit of global soccer culture, a phrase from across the pond seems apt. You’ve covered yourself in glory, Raynaldinho. We’ll be sure to leave our capes at home.

Keep up with Ray with #FollowtheFlag. And if you’ve got a Denmark jersey, please reach out to the man directly – he brought his sewing machine to Russia.

SCOUTING REPORT: THE STORY OF ADIDAS: OG SAMBA LUZHNIKI

Pusha T’s latest diss track aimed at Drake, “The Story of Adidon,” seems to be the only talk in social media right now, and I’m loving everything about it. But how are we not also talking as much as we should about the newly released adidas OG Samba Luzhniki Stadium edition? When these were first released to the public last week, the hype was definitely there, but not as much as it should’ve. Well, I wanted to go back to this release and shed more of the spotlight that it deserves. So without further ado, I present to you “The Story of Adidas” featuring the OG Samba Luzhniki.

Overall Design: Instant classic. I love a lot of things about this release. It immediately gives you that nostalgic old classic adidas vibe, of course with its design of the 3-stripes, but also with its colorway of an ivory white and scarlet red. The colorway is certainly inspired by the Luzhniki stadium, the main football arena from Moscow for the World Cup. The exact same colors used in this piece are used for the seats in the stadium. I am also a fan of the stitched-on typeface saying “Luzhniki” on the side of the shoe on one side, and the other side in Cyrillic letters to stamp this as a special edition release for this year’s World Cup.

Score: 4/5

Functionality: If you didn’t wear Sambas to play indoor soccer when you were growing up, did you even really play? I used to wear them for everything – not just soccer. I was probably the only kid in the gym to always wear them to play basketball even. Can you wear these Sambas to play soccer, however? Of course you can, but would you really want to? Compared to what’s out on the market nowadays, personally, I wouldn’t pick these Sambas with the expectation that they would be the best in performance. They’re probably not the most comfortable shoes out there, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to stunt a bit.

Score: 4/5

Uniqueness: Understanding the love the Russian people have for adidas gear is important to appreciate this special release. The adidas tracksuits were popularized during the 1980 summer Olympics held in Moscow during the Soviet Union times. Back in 1980 adidas sponsored the Soviet Union team as their official team apparel sponsors even though the trademark adidas 3-stripes were not shown due to political reasons. In a nutshell, once the Olympics were over, many athletes failed to find real jobs and ended up doing different types of “jobs” on the streets. The classic adidas tracksuit was then often associated with troubled youth, or even those that are high above in the underground ladder. The head-to-toe adidas look was so popular with that crowd that there were several black markets dealing the apparel, as well a separate term for groups like the hooligans that are often seen wearing the tracksuits called the “Gopniks.” With the popularity of adidas in Russia and the connection of the World Cup also being held in Russia, everything about this release comes together naturally.

Score: 4/5

Details: adidas could have simply left this piece to ride the classic Samba look and change a bit of the colors here and there and call it a special release. But they’ve also captured many small details all around the shoe that makes this a one-of-a-kind in the Samba family. First, the aforementioned typeface of Luzhniki (and in Cyrillic) on each side of the shoe is a good touch. The red stars, often associated in flags, emblems, and the history of Russia/USSR, are also placed on the back heels. The inside of the shoe also has a red star with word markings of “3-stripes” and several different Cyrillic fonts making this overall release an instant classic and undeniably a special edition.

Score: 4/5

You can now purchase the adidas Samba Luzhniki from adidas.

Photo credits: asphaltgold

FLOWERS & FOOTBALL – A MATCH MADE IN ARTISTIC HEAVEN

To commemorate adidas Football’s release of the international away kits in March, Kicks to the Pitch mixed foreign with familiar.

As the Los Angeles flower market is a staple to locals, fashionable kits are a statement in soccer. To honor the tradition of each, the jerseys were paired with flowers to highlight the unique colors and designs featured from each country. Arguably the best designs in the entire drop are featured below, including Argentina, Colombia, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Russia and Spain. The colors are vibrant and bold, fresh and unexpected from adidas, with eye-catching designs that complement the traditional three stripes from the brand. The subtle details and patterns on each jersey blossomed into something beautiful with each as unique and tasteful as the last. The integrity of the kits remains the same – the country’s crest on one side and adidas’ distinguished logo on the other. The jerseys will make their appearance at the World Cup this year, which kicks off June 14th in Russia.

Check out the photos by Emily Acosta below: