Football as a fashion statement has become part of the cultural landscape: from boot boys and casuals to WAGs and Coventry’s brown away kit. The concept of football as an art form has been the subject of broadsheet discussion. These ideas come together at goalsoul.
Founded by Sheffield lads Ricky Elderkin and Cristian Bustamante, the goalsoul label is on a mission to keep the game beautiful. The Sharrow Vale Road store is home to a full range of tee shirts, vintage hooped jerseys, polo shirts and hoodies- with an area set aside for those who want to sit down and chat or select a book from a library of football literature. Cristian took the time to explain the roots of the enterprise:
“goalsoul is not a fashion brand we've created. It's a response to not being able to go out into the market and buy the kind of things we'd want to wear; stuff that shows you love football but in a subtle, knowing way. It's an abstraction. What we see in the marketplace is style over substance; aesthetic over a story. You'll have seen loads of people who are, in my opinion, tracing a photograph in an illustrative style. What we do is have a story that then inspires a visual. Our starting point is something that is meaningful in itself and will make someone look at football in a different way if they get it. It paints a broader picture of football than what happens on a field at three o'clock on a Saturday. We’re satisfying our own interest in what sits behind money, glitz, Sky Sports, diamond earrings and Balotelli- even though all those things are fascinating in and of themselves. To get to this point, we've had to go through over a century of evolution and these are snippets that fascinate us- so we create something around these bits to help us understand better then communicate that to an interested public.”
The most striking pieces are the sixty graphic tees that portray people, clubs and events from the wide world of football in an imaginative way. From the double helix design that presents the hereditary relationship between FIFA Order of Merit clubs Sheffield FC and Real Madrid to a stylised impression of Boban confronting a riot cop- we are a distance from the run of the mill gear you see around. Most importantly, the designs look great- so good they are also available as boxed canvas prints. I bought the Corinthians Democracy tee- featuring a wheel of clenched fists and an unobtrusive quote from Socrates. It’s a fine looking shirt- with a little bit extra if you know the back story. Bustamante outlined the development process.
“As I'm a Latin American, there is a bit of a Latin feel to the stuff we do. Ricky’s been out there too so he's also been influenced by it. Likewise, we're inspired by European football. It’s not one time or one period that we draw from. Some people ask: why have you got a Mane Garrincha shirt and not a Pele shirt? For us- Garrincha is almost an embodiment of the ethos behind goalsoul. It's not often we go for the most celebrated player like Beckham or Pele. It's in the flow of genius that we find the most beauty. We don't take a judgmental point of view on whether something's noble or ignoble. The human characteristics are what define someone like Garrincha: he fathered fourteen children, he had a chequered career and drank himself to death- yet he was idolised by a nation. The fact that he died in poverty and Pele went on to make a fortune selling Viagra or whatever doesn't matter. There's tragedy but there's a real poignancy in that reality. At the moment, one of our most popular shirts is collaboration with The Blizzard (a quarterly football magazine of repute). It has the quote: 'Goals are overrated; the beauty is in the struggle.' That struck a chord and it's almost become synonymous with what we do.”
Surrounded by images of Claudio Caniggia- Son of the Wind and the tactical diagrams of Bielsa and Guardiola; I foolishly uttered the H-word and got both barrels. Cristian and Ricky are definitely and categorically not football hipsters.
“We reject the hipster tag. Hipsters are all about elitism and exclusion. We’re keenly intrigued by the history of football but not from a superficial point of view. For example, look at the regions that grew the great clubs of the world. Take Boca. Boca is where the tango was born; a place full of socio-political unease and tension. When you go to La Bombonera now and you see that bounce- that's something that has developed over one hundred years as the surrounding culture has embraced the club. Likewise with River, with Barca, with Bilbao; all these great pockets of intensity with deeply partisan support that have breathed life into these clubs and created something amazing.”
Each individual piece is a celebration of the passion, personalities and idiosyncrasies that make football worthwhile. Although the collection is an unbiased tribute to planet football- goalsoul areunashamedly proud of their home city.
“In Sheffield, you have the oldest club, the second oldest club, the oldest ground. Almost all the culture of football can be traced back to Sheffield - yet it almost seems like that ship has sailed. Originally the shop was a partnership with Sheffield FC; the oldest club in the world. We've taken the space on ourselves and continue to fly flag and hopefully get the word out that this is the birthplace of modern football. We get Brazilians and Italians coming over but it seems that in the UK, and even round here to an extent, it's an afterthought. The World Cup is based on a league structure that can be traced back to the first amateur league in Sheffield. If you rewind it, all the great names and great moments in football around the world can trace their roots back to the city. If it hadn't been for those guys who wanted to put football together as a pursuit outside of cricket season- you wouldn't have heard of Diego Maradona. Or you would- but the sport he was playing may look very different.”
Made in Sheffield still means something- especially if you’re after a quality tee shirt.
goalsoul is located at 283 Sharrow Vale Rd, Sheffield S11 8ZF. You can find their official website here.