XI isn’t being created by a bunch of friends who sat around having a pint together and eventually came up with a good idea when the sixth round of beers arrived (though I’ve had many projects start that way before…). In fact, the four behind XI – myself, John Turnbull, David Keyes and Liam Murtaugh – have never even had an in-person meeting. I live in Chicago; John lives in Atlanta (700 miles from here); David lives in San Diego (2,000 miles); and Liam, though originally from Chicago, now lives in London (4,000 miles).
We communicate mainly via Skype; David and I had the first of many meetings around six months ago, when the idea of creating a new soccer publication began to germinate. The details – the name, the themes, the funding ideas – have sprung up on sometimes crackly Skype calls, including one with David calling from a research trip in Mexico, birds squawking endlessly in the background.
It has worked as a collaboration so far because we all share a remarkably similar vision for what this magazine should provide to thoughtful soccer enthusiasts in North America. We all want to see the diverse strands that form the culture of soccer in such unique ways here explored in-depth.
John, though he’d be far too modest to say it, pioneered doing that in the internet age with the Global Game, established in 2004. It was the blog (and later book) that inspired both David and I to begin our own. John explored the history of American soccer (“Were Paterson FC the first stateside club?“), soccer’s place in the American civil right’s movement, New Jersey’s immigrant soccer past, and “the spread of women’s soccer into new territories in America’s fragmented demographic“. Quite simply, John consistently told stories that we would never otherwise have heard about soccer on this continent and beyond; a sociology of the sport.
An anthropologist by trade, David Keyes has similarly looked to unearth the roots of America’s diverse soccer culture – or as he importantly put it in one essay, America’s soccer cultures. David examined how MLS attempted to reach hispanic communities (with difficulty, he explains in an interesting interview from 2008 with the Columbus Crew’s Director of Hispanic Development), and his road trip across the US the same year saw David encounter MLS’ only Japanese player; Mexican immigration and soccer in Garden City, Kansas; Peter Vermes; Frank Borghi; uh, myself; Roy Messer and Guillermo Barros Schelotto. David hit the road and told stories through the people that make the sport what it is.
Liam does not have a blog, though he contributed a couple of very fine pieces on branding in soccer to my own site, Pitch Invasion (“A Brand History of the European Championship” and “From Pastime to Industry: How Nineties Design Made the Sport“). As the XI Art Director, Liam’s understanding of how soccer identity is forged is of the utmost importance. His technical skills will be the lynchpin to the publication’s ability to vary by theme; there will be no stock template, but a flexible form that will enhance each issue’s unique content. Liam can pull off something big, but also sweats every detail, as I know from many years of collaboration with him for Section 8 Chicago.
Working with this team is why I have high hopes for the originality of the topics, the quality of the writing, and the look and feel of the publication. If XI can secure its funding with the support of the soccer community, I hope that we will find many more contributors who can make each issue special.