Kevin Ruiz, Founder of SoccerCatalogArchive.com and connoisseur of all things soccer- from gear to brands to the catalogs themselves. I found Kevin with a quick search of Acme Soccer & Widget Works, the great discount catalog (plus comic book serial) I used to receive as a teenage soccer player. He had done the best job of reminiscing about this long-gone institution in this post.
Kevin hasn’t posted since March but graciously agreed to answer some questions for us about his proclivity for gear and his soccer lifestyle. Kevin, keep posting if you can! Read on about Kevin's obsession with catalogs, Copas, and the sport itself.
FCearth: What is your soccer background? (Did you play/coach/lifelong fan, etc)
Kevin Ruiz: I've been playing soccer my entire life. I started off the youngest I was able to play...Kindergarten, I think. I was an all-state player in high school and played some D-III soccer. I tore my ACL during the last day of try-outs my sophomore year...that pretty much put an end to my collegiate career.
After college I played in a men's league for a few years and now play weekly in a co-ed league. In addition to my days playing I've spent a decent amount of time recreationally coaching various teams. I am a lifelong fan who has supported Liverpool since I was a little kid.
It wasn't until the 1990 World Cup that I became obsessed with the sport. Italia 90 was the first time I had ever seen a soccer game on tv. Soccer games were nearly impossible to come by back then...you'd be lucky to find highlights of a match on tv...the idea of a channel that was devoted to showing soccer was unheard of. I vaguely remember Brazil playing in the opening round...I remember hearing the name "Branco"...in my head I thought he spelled it "Branco." Cliche as it sounds I remember going outside after the game, soccer ball in tow, and pretending to be Branco.
I had taped the West Germany v. Czechoslovaki match as well as the England v. Cameroon. The England/Cameroon match is still one of my favorite games of all time. I remember my sister was pulling for the English...I was hoping the indomitable lions would be able to pull off the upset.
I watched those two games over and over. I replayed Matthaus' pk countless times. I wanted to do everything the professionals did. The way they wore their socks, tied their shoes, stuck the ball...I studied everything.
We were visiting my Grandfather in New Jersey during Italia 90. I spent hours cutting out every article about the World Cup and soccer I could find from the Daily News and New York Times. I still have them to this day. There was an article about Tony Meola that I was particularly fond it...nice full action shot of him going full stretch in training...the article talked about how he was drafted by the Yankees...chose to play soccer...and would be tending goal against his father's home country, Italy.
TV...Newspaper coverage...I was on a soccer overload.
Did you just save every soccer catalog you've ever received, or how did you have access to all those images?
A friend had showed me my first soccer catalog...a mysterious, newspaper looking publication titled "Eurosport." The catalog was a distant relative of what you would see today. A handful of shoes, couple of balls, assortment of shinnies and shorts...that was about it. He gave me some subscription cards...I filled out two: one for me and one for my sister. I loved the sport so much I thought I could con Eurosport into sending us two catalogs...you can expect my disappointment when that sole catalog arrived in our mailbox addressed to "Kevin & Aileen Ruiz".
Eurosport was, is and will always be the soccer catalog.
Through Eurosport I learned about Soccer America. It wasn't long before I started to have weekly issues of Soccer America to look forward to. I still have all of my Soccer Americas.
Each year, Soccer America published a yellow page phonebook full of soccer retailers. I wrote to as many retailers as I could...requesting to be put on each of their mailing lists.
What is your favorite soccer catalog of all time?
I will always love Eurosport...the quality of both products and the catalog itself is second to none.
I have always loved the lesser known, harder to find jerseys, replicas and products. For that reason I always liked Acme. Acme always sold items that you couldn't find anywhere else...maybe they were being discontinued, maybe no one was buying them...whatever the reason they were the one place you could find a pair of lecoq sportif boots or an old Feyernoord jersey.
Soccer Madness was intriguing because here you had this catalog based out of Florida and you had the biggest names at the time: Roberto Baggio, George Weah, Ruud Gullit...all wearing soccer madness branded apparel. The catalog said it was started by a former player...still haven't figured out who it was yet.
What is your favorite piece of soccer equipment of all-time?
My favorite piece of soccer equipment would have to be the Copa Mundial. It's a classic. I still remember buying my first pair. I remember they looked different than any other soccer shoe I'd ever seen...they looked very geometric to me. I can't even begin to count how many Copas I've gone through. I've tried other boots...nothing has fit quite like the Copa. I always get excited when I see professionals wearing them today...it's rare...but every once in a while you'll catch a player wearing them.
What is your favorite club or national team uni kit of all-time?
I've always liked Argentina's strip. The horizontal white on sky blue is clean, classic and hasn't changed much throughout the years. The gold, blue, white combo that Brazil wore in the 70 world cup always stuck with me too...probably because Pele was wearing it.
What do you think soccer needs to thrive in the US?
I don't foresee soccer replacing football, basketball or baseball anytime soon in the US. Unfortunately, I don't see American soccer ever mimicking the football that's played in Europe. There are far too many factors that are out of our hands, namely geography. America's far too large of a country to expect a group of Sounders fans to make the trek to New England for a match...you'll never get the emotion and passion that you seen in other leagues.
I would love the see the MLS go to a table format. Make every game count...make every point valuable. Don't allow a team to coast all season and then turn it on if they make the playoffs.
The national team has made tremendous strides since I was a kid. I can remember watching the US team and getting so frustrated because everyone outplayed and dominated us. Today we're beating Spain, Mexico and playing with Brazil. The progress stems from a) having an established professional league that can foster young talent and b) setting up youth academies so the next Kaka doesn't wind up playing baseball or having no where to go. Growing up, you dreamt about playing for your country...but it never seemed like it could happen...you never knew anyone who actually did it. Today with the amount of youth teams and opportunities for young players...it's easier for players to make that dream a reality.
I still think soccer is a rich kid's sport. I think we need to see more inner city kids afforded the same chances as the kids whose parents pay 1K+ a season for them to play on the "premier" teams.
What are your plans with the site?
I started the site as a fun way to reminisce about the game. I love the idea of someone being able to google themselves and finding a scan of a contest they won in the TSI catalog.
Eventually I'd like to use the same format and apply it to the Soccer Americas that I've saved.