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Issue Two

Each issue of XI is a collaboration. The editors select their ideal “side,” including eleven samplings on a single topic. Like the team huddled for the ritual pre-match photograph, each issue features eleven elements, working in concert to speak to a theme unique to soccer in North America.

  • XI Issue Two

    Issue Two: Americans Abroad

    North Americans sometimes leave this continent in search of new experiences in world soccer, while sometimes the game just finds them: wherever in the world they are. XI issue two delves into the stories of Americans playing, reporting, watching and administering soccer overseas. Eleven different stories – including first-hand perspectives, interviews, illustrations and photography – explore Americans abroad in places as close as Tijuana and as far flung as Taiwan, Switzerland, Brazil, Germany and Russia.

    Release Date: January 2013

    Justin Bryant

    Issue Two contributor Justin Bryant (right) overseas in the 1980s

    Click below to view a short preview of XI issue two – just one of the eleven pieces included.


    What was it like being a Celtic-supporting Catholic American turning out for Rangers in the 1970s? Tom McCabe tells the story of Hugh O’Neill, the Kearny, New Jersey native whose controversial career in Scotland landed him in the middle of a violent sectarian landscape in gritty Glasgow.


    For Chris Gaffney, playing ball in Taiwan during the 1990s was not only difficult in terms of finding a game on an island nearly bereft of soccer, but a cultural challenge to overcome in a myriad of ways on his unusual route to being named the 1997 Taiwanese Footballer of the Year.


    His heart rate wouldn’t drop below 145 beats per minute, but that didn’t stop Preston Zimmerman from pursuing his dream to play professional soccer in Europe at the age of only 17. Brian Blickenstaff talks to Preston in Wiesbaden, Germany, where six years on he continues to strive to make it while seeing beyond life inside the lines.


    “One thing I hadn’t prepared for was all the yelling.” Caught in the Dark Ages of American professional soccer between the demise of the NASL in 1984 and the launch of MLS in 1996,  goalkeeper Justin Bryant crossed the Atlantic and ended up at non-League Boreham Wood FC in a peripatetic experience that also took him from Brentford in London to Dunfermline in Scotland. He tells us how he withstood the yelling and became a better goalkeeper and person for the experience – despite his haircuts and suspect clothing choices.


    “Brincadeira: a game where fierceness doesn’t belong, where you pull out moves I’d been too practical to bother learning. ” What’s it like being an American female player in Brazil, unable to speak a word of Portuguese? Gwendolyn Oxenham tells us how she fitted in playing for Santos in a summer that took her far from her soccer-playing comfort zone, and long before her later Pelada adventures.


    Three men who were pioneers for their respective North American countries overseas are illustrated by Stanley Chow – their countenances captured and their achievements laid out in a rich, multi-page spread. You’ll just have to wait and see who.


    Americans abroad in the world of soccer aren’t all players. Eliot Elisofon was a documentary photojournalist, a LIFE contributor unashamed to be considered “the world’s greatest photographer.” Following World War Two, he became fascinated by Africa. Elisofon made his first visit there in 1947, and began portraying the rich diversity of the continent in a manner that counterposed itself to contemporary understandings of Africa. He donated his entire collection to the Smithsonian Institution at the end of his life in 1973. From that collection, XI has culled a remarkable series of photos by Elisofon of soccer as part of life across the African continent.


    Americans have been involved in the world of soccer for longer than many realize. Tom Dunmore documents the first attempts by Americans to play abroad in the first decade of the twentieth century, followed by a nascent connection established to the global game in the 1910s – amidst World War One – and tours overseas that allowed American soccer to compare itself to the growing standards of world soccer in the 1920s.


    Yura Movsisyan was born to an ethnic Armenian family in Azerbaijan shortly in a period of great tumult. Violence between various ethnic groups in the then-disintegrating Soviet republic forced Yura and his family to California, where he developed into a professional player. His travels since have taken him to a region of Russia which, like his birthplace, has a strong ethnic Armenian community. This feature, written by Asher Kohn and illustrated by Dan Leydon outlines the fascinating life course of this American abroad.

    Asher Kohn
    Dan Leydon


    Mary Harvey is an American soccer pioneer. The starting goalkeeper on the United States’ Women’s National Team’s 1991 World Cup-winning team, Harvey found few opportunities to play for club teams at home and so traveled to Europe, where she plied her trade for several years. She ultimately parlayed this experience into a unique career abroad, hired by FIFA in 2003 to become its first female Director of Development. Harvey talks to Bob Kellett about her experiences as a groundbreaking American player and administrator overseas.


    Abroad can also be remarkably close to home. On the southwest border of the United States, the Xolos of Tijuana have managed to build support by attracting fans from Mexico as well as from the United States. In this photo essay shot by  Xavier Hernandez and written by David Keyes, we see fans crossing the border to watch the Xolos play live. These are a unique breed of “Americans abroad”: fans whose hometown team is on the other side of an international border.

    David Keyes

    Xavier Hernandez

    Tom McCabe teaches history at Rutgers University-Newark. His award-winning 2010 book, Miracle on High Street, details the rise, fall, and resurrection of an American prep school. McCabe is currently working on another book on the history of soccer in a trio of New Jersey towns. He lives in the Garden State, and still plays soccer. It usually takes his body three days to recover.
    Chris Gaffney is a Visiting Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Universidade Federal Fluminense in Brazil.  His book, Temples of the Earthbound Gods, examined the history and culture of soccer stadiums in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. His current research (found at Hunting White Elephants) examines the urban and social changes underway in Rio and Brazil as they prepare to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
    Brian Blickenstaff is a writer and cultural geographer based in Heidelberg, Germany. A California native, he has written about soccer for ESPN and, among other publications.
    Justin Bryant is the author of the novel ‘Season Of Ash’ (ENC Press, 2004) and has had fiction and essays published in various literary journals and anthologies. He is a columnist for Goalkeeper Magazine and pens the blog The Goalkeepers Union. He played soccer at Radford University and in the ASL and USISL in addition to his time abroad.
    Gwendolyn Oxenham received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Notre Dame, where she was awarded the Nicholas Sparks post-graduate fellowship. A Duke University soccer alum, she played professionally for Santos FC in Brazil in 2005. She teaches English and plays in pickup games in Southern California. She is the author of Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty-five Countries, and the Search for Pickup Soccer and one of the producers of the documentary Pelada.
    Tom Dunmore is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Soccer and edited The Very Best of Pitch Invasion, a collection of 39 essays by soccer writers around the world. Tom runs the soccer website Pitch Invasion and is the former Chairman of Section 8 Chicago, the Chicago Fire’s Independent Supporters’ Association. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. He is an editor of XI.
    Asher Kohn is a student and writer originally from the Midwest. His academic research focuses on law and culture in the Caucasus and Central Asia. His writing on soccer and other topics has appeared on the Run of Play as well as other sites. He is the managing editor of The Tuqay, an online home for the interesting stories one used to have to go to a teahouse to hear.
    Stanley Chow is an illustrator from Manchester, England. He is particularly well known for his caricatures of celebrity and footballing icons. Over the last 15 years he has been a fashion illustrator for teen girls magazines, storyboarded for shampoo ads, illustrated children’s books and ‘adult’ books and produced editorial illustrations for most of the national broadsheet newspapers in the UK and US. Stanley’s illustrations are now featured regularly in the New Yorker magazine. He has also worked on numerous book covers, record sleeves, ad campaigns and has earned a Grammy nomination, all while simultaneously running a thriving print shop.
    Bob Kellett is the former managing editor of and co-founder of He lives in Portland, Oregon and co-hosts Five Minutes to Kickoff, a weekly podcast about the Portland Timbers and their fan culture.
    Xavier Hernandez is a photojournalist currently based in San Diego. A native of America’s Finest City, he has over the past several years shot photographs at a variety professional sporting events around the world. As a former collegiate soccer player himself at Cal State Fullerton, Xavier is eager to share his passion for the game through his photography.
    David Keyes is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on the growth of youth soccer in the United States and the integration of young Latino players into elite levels of the game. He was previously the editor of the website Culture of Soccer and is currently an editor of XI.
    Dan Leydon is an illustrator from Sligo on the west coast of Ireland. He works mostly around sporting themes and has provided all the artwork for Barca: The Making of the greatest team in the World by Graham Hunter. Dan is always looking for new ideas and is constantly trying to evolve his style.