Cafe Culture

To celebrate the launch of our new Futsol v. Norman's collection, we invited three exciting voices in football for a bacon sandwich

Words by Snake Denton

In 2023, our true feelings about the beautiful game often get lost in social media debate and tribalism.

So, to introduce our Futsol v. Norman’s collaboration, we invited three bright lights from different corners of the football space –journalist Snake Denton, entrepreneur Victoire Cogevina Reynal, and creative director Ayesha Brown – to a North London cafe for a heart-to-heart over a brew.

What followed was a warm, free-flowing conversation that covered everything from five-a-side and blokecore to coming out and mental health.

Oh, and the small matter of the upcoming World Cup. We invited the journalist amongst them to steer proceedings.

Snake: Let’s kick it off with introductions. I’m a journalist with bylines in The Face Magazine and the publication formerly known as VICE. I’ve also worked with COPA 90 and Mundial Magazine, and use whatever excuse I can to steer my work in the direction of a touchline. I’m a capable left-footed defender for the Victoria Park Vixens. And a massive Chelsea fan.

Victoire: Sorry in advance.

Snake: It’s been a long season...

Victoire: My career in football started as an agent representing Latin American players in the MLS. I then founded Gloria, an online community for football fans around the world, which was acquired by OneFootball in late 2022. Today, after over a decade in the sport my focus is 100% on growing women’s football. I’ll be launching my 3rd company in football soon, so watch this space!

In my spare time I also work with the United Nations as an ambassador for gender equality in football, as well as serving on the board of Women in Sports Tech.

Ayesha: Wow.

Snake: Some CV.

Ayesha: I’m a Leicester fan – before you ask, yeah, I’m devastated about this season. I’m also the creative director of Offside Outlet, which is a football fashion brand that takes boots and jerseys and turns them into upcycled pieces.

Snake: Ayesha, why do you think there’s suddenly a massive overlap between the arts and football?

Ayesha: I think it comes back to 90s revivalism. There’s a massive association with that time period and football jerseys. Those classic shirts that the best players of yesteryear wore have cultural capital. Now artists are finding fun and interesting ways of using them in their work.

Snake: So it’s something to do with the Y2K trend?

Ayesha: I think so, yeah. In the 90s, figures like Liam Gallagher epitomised the image of the football lad, and helped the game become cool and aspirational in popular culture. You can see the effects of that from brands like Art of Football, all the way to your average punter wearing a vintage football shirt to a music festival. And you’ve even got high-end designers like Martine Rose getting involved.

Snake: Is football fashion in danger of being reduced to a trend? Like, what do you think of ‘blokecore’?

Ayesha: (laughs). Blokecore is a funny one because I think it’s just a way of putting a name on something that’s been happening for ages. Like, young people have been reinterpreting  casual style and wearing old football shirts and Sambas for years. Now we’ve just got a way of defining it.

Snake: Personally, I think it’s the name that rubs people up the wrong way. If they’d called it ‘casualcore’ or even ‘ladcore’ it wouldn’t produce such a visceral reaction. An American TikToker came up with the term, which is why it sounds a bit clumsy and shite. I think he was being ironic.

Victoire: Football fashion isn’t going anywhere. There’s too much money in it. Even Kim Kardashian is wearing football shirts!

Snake: Growing up, football felt anti-fashion. Maybe it still is. Like, your average punter doesn’t care about Prada Predators. But maybe the face of the average punter is slowly changing?

Ayesha: Fans have changed. Like I say, terrace culture is much more accessible than it once was. And now there’s an interplay between football and fashion. Kids want to wear a streetwear or luxury fashion brand because they see their favourite pro wearing it. And then you’ve got pros from other sports and celebrities wearing football jerseys. It’s a knock on effect.

Victoire: I think the growth of the women’s game is helping change things too. Men’s football is hundreds of years old, so it makes sense that the customs and traditions surrounding the game are more rigid. With the women’s game there’s an opportunity to do things differently. Like, why can’t I order a cocktail at a football match!? What about all the fans who don’t want to drink beer!?

Snake: Speaking of gender – and I’ll shut up for a bit – how has your gender and sexuality affected your relationship with the game?

Ayesha: I grew up in Leicester. There weren’t many girls football teams, so I spent a lot of time playing with boys. It was equal parts rewarding and frustrating. Like, there was an automatic belief that you couldn’t play, or people would laugh with surprise when you did something better than the boys. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve found my community in the game.

Victoire: For me, I’ve tried not to let my career as a woman in football change the way I am. Like, whenever I walk into a board room it’s full of men. So I make myself extra feminine because I’m not helping anyone by turning myself into one of the boys.

Ayesha: Just to add – as a gay person, seeing the amount of people who are out in women’s sport is amazing. That representation is so valuable for young people in this country. It’s a shame that thing's aren’t as tolerant in the men’s game. Groups like Stonewall are doing great work to try to change this, but it still feels like there’s a way to go to changing mindsets and attitudes in the men’s game.

Snake: It’s a shame because football can be such a positive force for change. Speaking anecdotally: for me, playing is the highlight of my week. I come home to my flatmate after playing 8-aside and I’m bouncing off the walls. It does so much for my mood and my mental health.

Ayesha: I think we’ve lost sight of what football is about: community.

Snake: Yeah! That combination of exercise, community, and a couple of beers afterwards – has anyone come up with a better dopamine hit than that?! I hate to think that certain groups of people don’t feel like that’s for them.

Ayesha: The thing is there are loads of ways in. You don’t have to play at the elite level. You can grab whatever you can, grab a ball. And just play. Or, it’s okay to just watch the sport or just like the fashion. There’s nothing wrong with being a purely casual fan. Find your tribe.

Snake: Talking of elite level - looking ahead to the upcoming Women’s World Cup this summer – is this a watershed moment for the game?

Victoire: Every time you fill a stadium with 90,000 fans watching women it’s a historic moment. Now little girls and boys will only know women’s football with packed stadiums. That’s powerful. And It’s the first time we have a full Women’s World Cup format with 32 teams. This year we’ll get to see loads of teams who never make it to the men’s tournament, like the Philippines–

Ayesha: Haiti! Jamaica! I’m so excited to see Jamaica. My Dad’s Jamaican. I’m also super interested to see a World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere. That doesn’t happen very often.

Snake: Will your dad be watching the tournament?

Ayesha: 100%. And just off your last point, I think the watershed moment in England was the Women’s Euros last summer. But the conversation going into this World Cup is so different from the last tournament. People actually know the players!

Victoire: Yeah, I went to the last Women’s World Cup in France, and the Roland Garros was on at the same time and I swear to God for every one World Cup sign there were like a million Roland Garros signs. You would have no idea that the World Cup was even happening!

Snake: Believe me, this year, no one’s watching the fucking tennis…