FOOTBALL CONNECTS DOTS: A WOMEN’S WORLD CUP STORY

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

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

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

Allyson Swaby

Chantelle Swaby

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

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

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

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

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

THE BEST LIFESTYLE X SOCCER FASHION COLLABS

We as soccer fans will take anything that draws positive and unique attention to the game, especially attention from those who may connect with fashion but need another outlet to love soccer. Collaborations between brands can open doors for new and exciting products in the fashion world, and collaborations in soccer fashion have taken the game to new heights, and perhaps, more importantly, has expanded fanbases.

Here is a list of some highlights of projects that stood out in recent years. Though I was going to rank them, that became far too difficult. So instead we can just appreciate each for its unique contribution.

LEVI’S X LIVERPOOL FC:

Levi’s recently teamed up with Liverpool FC to add subtle twists on old Levi classics. At the heart of the collection is the 511 slim fit jeans with a twist. The iconic back patch got an upgrade to Liverpool red and this is probably the most noticeable change of all the pieces. My personal favorite is the Sherpa trucker jacket with a small “You’ll Never Walk Alone” hang tag at the base of the neck collar. The entire collection screams classic minimalist – something Levi Strauss Company has built a successful brand around.


SOPHNET. x NIKE:

SOPHNET, the Japanese Streetwear brand, partnered with Nike to create FC Real Bristol. Real Bristol is one of the first imaginary soccer clubs with its own clothing line. The line, since its first drop in 1999, has grown to be quite extensive with over 1,000 items for sale on their website. FC Real Bristol was one of the first of its kind and headlined the imaginary club with “fans” being buyers of the product. Being so new and innovative, it was easy to appreciate.


SUPREME x UMBRO:

Would any collaboration conversation be complete without headmaster Supreme? Before you groan, let’s check out the Umbro and Supreme mashup from 2005. You know… prior to the small logo on a Hanes white T-shirt days. An NYC skateboard label and one of the most prominent soccer brands of all time – two powerhouses to say the least. In 2005, soccer wasn’t exactly on America’s radar but Supreme confirmed (yet again) that they can work with anyone.


YOHJI YAMAMOTO X ADIDAS FOR REAL MADRID:

Probably the most badass idea of all, Yohji Yamamoto, a fashion icon of Japanese streetwear who spearheaded adidas’ Y3 line, designed jerseys for Real Madrid. Prior to this release, there were multiple fashion designers working for soccer clubs but their products stopped at the locker room with sweat suits and club shirts; Yohji’s made it on to the pitch. The kit features a slate grey half bird-half dragon over a black silhouette. Likely the easiest kit to transition from pitch to streetwear.


VIRGIL ABLOH’S OOFF WHITE x NIKE

Rounding out the list with arguably the most prominent fashion collaboration is Virgil Abloh’s “Off White” with Nike. Simply put, taking on a major brand like Nike and recreating over 10 classic silhouettes is a beast in itself. Bring that into the soccer realm and you’ve got streetwear-meets soccer-meets the mainstream audience. Pretty bold move if you ask me. Virgil ran with it and the “Off White” theme has exploded. From foams to Airmaxes and Jordans, to the Mercurial Vapor 360, the signature quotation marks have taken over their own piece of Nike’s dynasty. A collaboration list wouldn’t be complete without it.

HERE FOR THE COMMENTS: UMBRO FOR JAMAICA

I think we can all agree that a great look for Jamaica had been a long time coming. Yes, the Jamaican bobsled team from Cool Runnings had a memorable look, but at least in the world of soccer, I believe most people would point back to the 1998 Kappa World Cup jersey as the last time the Caribbean island nation gave us a kit to talk about. This, however, is now a thing of the past as Umbro’s brand new home and away options for Jamaica left me dumbfounded when I first laid eyes on them. While I could talk about everything that’s great about these kits, as usual, I thought I should switch it up a bit and extend the dialogue we’re going to have about Jamaica’s new look by sharing some of the comments I have gathered throughout various Instagram pages.

It is obvious Umbro’s effort has received overwhelming approval. No comment can be more reflective of this support than the one below:

spencer_loop: “Usain bolt about to play”

I can’t disagree with this comment. The kits make me want to play for Jamaica and I am not even Jamaican. Additionally, I love these kits so much that I see myself outrunning the fastest man on Earth in order to get them.

Both kits are exceptional, but some people have already chosen their favorite.

guerrilla_fc: “that away kit is 🔥”

Guerrilla FC expressed a very common opinion on social media. By far, Jamaica’s away kit steals the show with its unique graphic print across the lower portion of the jersey. The home kit, however, is still a solid option as it too has some distinct features. What I love most about the home look is the taping on the sleeves which combines the Umbro diamonds with a prominent feature of the Jamaican flag. This is a perfect blend of both brand and country and you get something that is easily identifiable as both Umbro and Jamaica – something that’s pretty rare to see nowadays.

Some people though are more modest with their approval.

yungrichard:_ “kits lowkey heat 🔥🔥🔥”

@yungrichard_ writes the biggest understatement about these kits. There is nothing lowkey about them. If anything his comment should have read that these kits are highkey heat.

From this, you move on to the people who already have these kits among the best of the year.

brxxxck: “Way hotter than the Nigeria 🇳🇬 kits at the WC.”

Okay so this comment is certainly up for debate, but I do not think @brxxxck is wrong when saying this. If there is one thing that Jamaica’s kits have going for them that the Nigeria kit does not, it is that Umbro has devised truly original looks that are not inspired by previous designs.

Did I say people really love these kits?

alistairslack: “They are so peng”

Okay so this comment is one I was initially confused by but I assumed it just had to be good. One quick Google search later and I found out I was right.

Still, not everyone will be a fan.

liam_mclachlan113: Possibly one of the ugliest kits I’ve ever seen

Yes, this comment left me the most confused of all. It’s not a very popular opinion whatsoever either. I don’t agree with it, but I am sure @liam_mclachlan113 will see the error of his way eventually.

On that note, I welcome everyone that may either hate or appreciate these kits to share their own comments with us below!

THIS WEEK IN KITS

With the World Cup hangover in full effect, this week’s excitement from the world of kits may just be what the doctor ordered. With so much going on though, it might be too easy to lose track of all that was this week in kits. Luckily, KTTP is here to provide some clarity on exactly what kits we should prescribe ourselves as well as those we might survive without.

Without further ado, let the recap begin.


JUVENTUS

On top of their mega signing, Juventus held on to the headlines this week with their solid third kit option for the upcoming season. Though adidas is taking a page from Nike this year by essentially using the same template for all third kits, this template is stylish and modern enough for me to get over this fact. Add to it Juventus’ now all too common Scudetto and Coppa Italia badge, as well as Ronaldo’s number 7 and you, might easily have one the best selling jerseys to come out of this summer.


MANCHESTER UNITED

Next in the recap is Manchester United. Though not the best United kit I have ever laid eyes on, I like the fact that adidas designers are at least trying out something new in light of the fairly safe and conservative designs we’ve seen since the adidas takeover. This number pays homage to United’s railway heritage with a clever train track graphic that runs from the bottom to the top of the jersey. The overall design might not be new when it comes to the world of soccer as a whole, but that might just be where the appeal of this jersey is as it offers something new yet still familiar.


BAYERN MUNICH 

From not trying to reinvent the wheel, we move on to a team that is really going in a whole new direction. The new Bayern Munich away kit is what I like to call the mint chocolate chip look. I don’t use this description as a wholly derogatory term as I really do appreciate the color Bayern has brought on. I simply just think this kit is just far too simple and just needs a little something more to be truly icy, fresh, or whatever other word you want to use.


BLACKBURN ROVERS

Championship side Blackburn Rovers has also decided to switch up the color palette. In this case, the team does it for its home kit and the decision proves to be absolutely brilliant. The new touch of sky blue which now stands in place of the typical royal blue offering adds a greater touch of class that complements the club’s badge and retro Umbro diamond sleeves to perfection. This is one kit I call H2T good. Props to anyone who gets that reference.


HULL CITY

As we move on, the English Championship keeps my attention as Hull City is another club doing great things. In contrast to Blackburn, Hull sticks with a familiar away look with this black jersey with orange accents. Surely, it is a simple design, however, that collar and the way this color palette accentuates the club badge is enough for me to be wooed by this kit.


CHELSEA

Speaking of simple, it might not get any more simple than Chelsea’s new away jersey for this season. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing because as much as I wanted to hate Chelsea’s jersey, I find myself really loving this design. Its definitely just another template look, however, the jersey’s yellow color with hints of blue are just too damn sharp and classic to overlook.


PUMAS

Even though this was a recap rather than a countdown of this week’s kits, I can’t help but end on the highest of notes. For that reason, I end this recap with Mexico’s Pumas who are the only team to lend not one, but two solid kit options. The range demonstrated in these kits is what really wins me over. On one hand, I have the home shirt which is everything I want and expect with that giant Puma logo, and on the other is the away shirt which relegates the Puma to your typical club badge with a classic pinstripe soccer look to go with it.

Though I am not making any decisions for now on which ones to buy, some of the kits I have covered this week have certainly made a compelling argument. Share your thoughts in the comments below on which kits you think will hold up to be some of this summer’s most memorable.

A 2ND CHANCE AT LOVE WITH UMBRO’S PROJECTS COLLECTION

Umbro has been in the game a very long time. While its heyday is something I never experienced to the fullest, life luckily presents me now with what seems almost a second chance at a lost love. The new Umbro Projects collection is just exactly that as the brand brings back some of the iconic styles which will forever maintain it as an enduring presence in the soccer lifestyle world.

For this collection, Umbro has turned nowhere else but to its archives from the ’90s. Unlike most brands who would take inspiration from their design archive and just seek to reinterpret this style, Umbro has instead opted for a more faithful reproduction of design styles that are as fashionable today as when they were first introduced. Their most recognizable piece has to be their soccer shirts and crew neck tees which bring back those bold prints that made the ’90s such an unforgettable period for soccer fans everywhere. The print is unique, to say the least. From afar, it gives off the illusion of some abstract design, though on closer inspection one realizes it is simply a very creative twist on more Umbro branding.

Though the bold prints and graphics get all the attention as they should, it is the enlarged branding that transports me back in time the quickest. This collection has plenty of enlarged branding interspersed between its tees, polos, hoodies, and jackets. Each time I look at the prominent double diamond on all these items, I can’t help but remember my love for all the training gear from this era which would utilize this enlarged branding oftentimes on both the front and back of training sweatshirts, jackets, and pennies. This style is particularly special to me as growing up it was the time I spent in training where I felt more in tune with the game. I did not just want to train like my favorite players but also look like they did, as it was in simply looking like them that the experience felt that much more real to me.

These small things that I take away from this collection are what makes it so exceptional. It is a part of me and no doubt also a part of you that now crosses over from these memories onto the field to the impressions you hope to make on the streets. The entire offering should look right at home with a natural street aesthetic mixed in with a little prep style.

All pieces are for the most part statement pieces meant to be worn on their own. Think of it as an opportunity to put new soccer enthusiasts on some real game with the best part being that you don’t even have to say anything. The new Umbro Projects collection is available now at umbro.co.uk.

  Via Umbro.