A Ball of Bags: Relaunching fcearth
After a youth of playing, coaching and supporting soccer in the US, something happened about 6 years ago. I took it to a new level and I became obsessed.
Not in the Nick Hornby Fever Pitch, crazy for one jersey sense (although that later happened for me with these guys).
Obsessed with what more I had to learn about the reach and meaning and impact of the world's favorite sport.
I've told the story before, about balls made of bags. The first part was about a young US Soccer youth pool player who was adopted by a US family, following a youth spent in Zambia playing football with a ball made from stuffing plastic bags together to form a sphere. The second was when I told my coworker - a brilliant tech analyst of Brazilian and Japanese descent - about the first. He told me that he had also grown up - in Brazil - playing football with balls made of wadded up plastic bags.
I realized the power that soccer has- because of it's global reach and near-universal obsession- to unite people, educate them, inspire them. I realized how much more I had to learn, and started reading every book, watching every documentary, following every soccer project. There are many, and one thing we hope to do in the coming weeks is to shine a light back on all the incredible #soccermakers out there- people creating writing, photography, film, commentary, magazines, community building, fundraising, gear and more- about and through the beautiful game.
Thanks to a a bunch of factors - from a sneakily, steady, strong national team to generous coverage by ESPN to, let's hope, it's organic obsess-ability - our national interest in the sport has never been as high as it will be this next month. Much has changed since fcearth first attempted to capture soccer as a sporting reflection of global culture and passion, during our quiet launch in 2008. Gobs of of great books, blogs, pundits and programs have emerged to offer colorful, comprehensive, data-driven, or anecdotal accounts of the game, at all levels, beyond the final score.
The US Men's National Team is a timely reminder of the cross-cultural change of soccer in this country alone. Our head coach is a German. One former head coach - a Serbian who has taken four other countries (Mexico, Costa Rica, Nigeria, China) to the World Cup - is an ambassador to Qatar's program to host the 2022 World Cup. Another former US coach lead Egypt nearly to a World Cup berth while also participating in organized demonstrations for peace, and is now coaching in Norway. And yet another coaches a club who shares a sentimental home field with the national squad, proudly defending his longtime star, unceremoniously cut from the current incarnation of an American roster that includes as many men born in Germany as in California. Not to mention, of course, the rich cross-cultural stories of the 7 dual nationals on our national squad, as well as the global travels of the other 17 dudes.
Yet in many ways, nothing has changed at all. Soccer still transcends languages, borders and cultures more totally than almost any human activity - at least any that inspires tears of anguish, swells of national/club/neighborhood pride.
Since millions of American youth- on top of hundreds of millions internationally- play and consume the sport, it continues to offer an unbelievable reflection on the confluence of world cultures. Nowhere else - from the pitches of working class London or Rio or Brooklyn neighborhoods to the splashy and controversial temporary stadia of World Cup venues, do classes and languages and cultures and lifestyles clash not only to camp and train together, but to compete in the same jersey, whether for the short run of a tournament or the duration of youth.
We hope to help fuel the conversation and share the stories about the culture of this sport- from roster snubs to jersey exchanges to dual nationalities to anti-flopping; from economics to linguistics to physical education (or a frightening, apparent lack thereof, when it comes to soccer in schools.)
Soccer has the power, obviously, to devastate- far beyond a 1-0 loss. But it also has the power to unite people, connect them, bridge their differences forever.
In the coming weeks and months, fcearth will help to visually tell the story of how. We are a soccer gear and apparel brand with no gear or apparel (yet!), and we missed our goal of opening a pop up store / culture center on the streets of Rio or Manuas in 2014. That may have to wait until Russia in 2018.
But in the meantime, it's time to help share soccer through curating content, storytelling and our own projects.
Here's to an incredible summer for the sport. Play soccer. Change the world.