They shoot! They Score! Young East London designers Adam Towle and James Roper are Champions of football magazine makers – even if they call it soccer
Soccer. An alien word to my Irish ear, not a word that would pass my lips, unless I made my socks a heterosexual couple – Sockhim and Sockher.
On the bright side, the word ‘soccer’ is a little exotic, international, modernist. I associate it with sophisticated European teams from the 1960s, teams with technique, glamorous tactics with ‘sweepers’ and graphically sharp kit like Ajax’s panel of red, or non-British colour combos like the black-and-blue stripes of Internationale.
On the dark side ‘soccer’ is a word European fans fear stands for the Americanisation of the game whose sports lend themselves to the story arcs of TV time – multiple ad-breaks, dividing the game up into quarters – and shiver at the innovations of programme makers to add ‘more excitement’, like bigger goals. Or miniaturising players. I just made that last bit up.
Which is why there is something wholly surprising about the hippest, phattest and yes, fattest ‘soccer’ magazine at 246 pages being produced by two young designers in East London. They don’t play soccer in East London, they play football.
Imagine an All-Stars football team you’d pick of the best players, they’d all be skillful attackers – Ronaldo at centre-half. You don’t know if they’d win any matches but they’d be great to look at. That’s the Green Soccer Journal – attractive design, attractive photography, attractive layouts. Produced and Designed by Adam Towle and James Roper, the biannual Green Soccer Journal is pretty much unlike any football magazine you could imagine.
It certainly bears the traces of being a project of designers, the attention to visual detail has got fellow designers drooling in a way football fans drool over Lionel Messi or a half-time pie. Take the cover for example, a portrait by Sean and Seng, of Chelsea and England star Ashley Cole on a grey green background, nice visual tension between Cole on the right of the cover and discreet ‘coverlines’ on the left. What’s kind of amazing is that what looks like a cover is actually, to use football terminology, a one-man-‘wall’ blocking what’s behind – an illustration, the edges of which creep out to frame the portrait. What’s more, the illo is not something the designers have cooked up themselves between discussions about the sweeper system. It’s by the supercool French-born, London-based Jean Jullien. And it’s a cracking image which they show inside, whose message of course alludes to the stuff in the heads of footballers that’s concealed beneath the surface! Neat.
Reportage, Fashion, Environmental, Still Life. The designers do work for Burberry, so have a handle on luxury communications, which doesn’t mean bling. On the contrary, it means flattering the intelligence/taste of your audience, playing with the formula: such as the different paper stock throughout the magazine: or the mashing of Fashion spreads with ordinary people as models; or the inventive match reportage at 20 pages of photography on last year’s Bayern Munich vs Arsenal clash – now that is a luxury.
There’s not many ads, Missoni, Adidas and Arc Teryx on the back page. It’s why its £16.
Photographer Ronald Dick’s Mascot Fashion. Clean, simple, strikingly bonkers.
Anything from Stefan Ruiz’s 34 page photo-essay, One Nation, worth the price of the mag on its own. An original photographic take on St George’s Park, the English Football Association’s state-of-the-art training centre, mixing brightly-lit documentary portraiture with environmental imagery and found objects.
Social photography has resurrected and reinvented the Still Life – food, flowers, kittens. But it takes 10,000 hours of practice to see this spread in your head.
And from the same review of the season a reminder that football is no longer international – it is urban and global.