GQ meets Howler: Review of ‘Associated,’ the new soccer magazine

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Soccer in America has forever been the domain of those who enjoy combining philosophy and sport.  Until the recent growth of MLS, soccer fans tended to gather in their corners of the internet and often try to create enclaves of sophistication; it was not enough to cheer for the sport as an American football or basketball fan would, but soccer fans needed to assign the game a philosophical meaning.  Not all sites were like this but many times the magazines and e-zines written by fans for fans tried to emulate The Economist more than ESPN Magazine.

What soccer fans often missed was the style of the game.  Style and American sport seemed cosigned to basketball whereas in Europe style was an important part of soccer.  As soccer fandom has matured in this country however the sport is being treated just like any other and getting the media coverage it deserves.  Thus we have Associated, a new magazine that claims to represent “the style of the game”.

Here I should note that I am far from a fashion expert; my favorite suits are black because that color matches everything and nothing gives me more terror in the morning than matching a striped suit to the appropriate shirt and tie combo.  As for casual wear, well, I’m more than happy in Nike hoops shorts and a jersey, so I am not the target audience for this publication.  That said, I appreciate fashion photography and its ability to capture the beauty of humanity, and this magazine does exactly that.

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Associated was created by Scotsman and fashion magazine pro Allan Kennedy.  Currently more of a newspaper format than glossy, the publication looks at the New York soccer scene with the eye of a fashionista that happens to love the game.  The result is something unique, intriguing, but also lacking.

Because of his location and the location of the industry, the magazine in its entirety is based in New York.  Whild I don’t necessarily mind this, I did feel like I was standing in line outside the exclusive club when reading some of the articles.  For example, in the article “Grand & Chrystie”, photographer James Ryang creates a montage of various amateur and semi-pro soccer players in New York, decked out in jerseys or their kits.  This was a cool article, showing the diversity of background, profession, and experience just in the city.  However, as a non-New Yorker, I have no idea what Blatte United or Bowery FC are other than New York teams.  While I do not need an essay on the history of each, a few sentences to say what the teams are would have been illuminating.  They also could have chosen people who rooted for teams other than the top five most popular worldwide, but that’s a larger gripe with the American soccer fan.

The articles in the magazine that did not rely on photographs were lacking.  Their list of the 20 best soccer players to play in the U.S. seemed aimed at people whose knowledge of the game would not lead them to reading this magazine, plus they chose some absolute howlers for the list.  The article “Soccertown USA” by the editor himself was a mere eight paragraphs and, while an in-depth essay was not needed, more details linking the paragraphs would have made a better story.

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Truly the best part of the magazine is the pictures, and the epitome of what this magazine does well is the article “The New America”.  The spread is simply teenage soccer players and models who are wearing fashionable sporting apparel with teenage quotes inserted.  Things like “I wish we had cheerleaders” with the picture of a fit young athlete draws the beauty of the game and the people who play it while the few words attached reminds the reader that the subject is simply a teenage guy.  Am I being overly descriptive and philosophical with how I an reviewing this piece? Yes, but it is hard to explain why this magazine works – when it does – using words.

Associated is not the kind of magazine I’d rush out to buy or subscribe to, but it certainly has a place in the word of soccer literature.  It is yet another step to the fuller assimilation of the sport into the American culture, a publication where we go beyond 4-3-3 v. 3-5-2 and appreciate the beauty of the game through its beauty is a welcome addition to the newsstand.

The spring issue of Associated will soon be available for purchase. To be added to the magazine’s mailing list for details on where and how you can buy the publication, please visit associatednyc.com.

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