A New Clothing Brand Aims to Do for Football What Rapha Did for Cycling
Football is in a strange place right now. In the past year we’ve seen the announcement and swift rejection of a European Super League, the government sanctioning and sale of Chelsea Football Club, the use of extreme force by the French police on seemingly innocent fans queuing to get into the Champions League Final, and the former heads of Fifa and Uefa in court on charges of corruption. That’s not to mention the ick of the imminent winter World Cup in Qatar. Football is bigger business than ever. As global entertainment, it is unmatched. Yet many would argue that the sport has been forever sullied by such scandals, and the many more besides. Not merely that its image has been besmirched, but that something rotten has taken root.
“We believe there’s a side to the beautiful game that has been lost,” says Nico Willson, co-founder of football-centric British apparel brand Futsol. “The beauty of just playing with the ball and how it connects people all around the world.”
Futsol’s pitch is to do for football what Rapha did for cycling — to create a platform (both digital and physical) where football-minded aesthetes can buy cool kit, come together, watch football, play football and generally revel in the sport without having to adhere to its less attractive traditions. “Futsol is for football lovers who don’t associate with the stereotypes of football culture — terrace culture, hyper-masculinity, aggressive and loutish behaviour,” explains Willson. “Our customers embrace more progressive values. They are aware of the deeper sensitivities and priorities of a changing world.”
Currently, the product range extends to just four jerseys, inspired by classics of the genre but charmingly unaffiliated to club sides or national teams. “We want to remain a non-tribal football brand,” says Willson, “for fans of the sport in general rather than specific clubs or teams. Our products steer away from club colours and badging.” You can play in the jerseys, which are made from recycled PET plastic, but they’re not as technical as proper football shirts, sitting somewhere between pitch-wear and pub-wear.
As with Rapha, the goal is to establish clubhouses that mix retail with experience, allowing Futsolistas to pop in for a beer, catch the second half and pick up some new kit — maybe even meet a legend of the game. “A place where you can watch a Champions League match with a great meal in a sophisticated setting and have your amateur once-a-week kickabout organised in a professional way,” says Willson. He likens it to a high-end gym, where people can chat in the juice bar after a spin class. Whether the concept will be embraced by mid-table diehards and the travelling faithful is yet to be seen, but weirder things are happening in football, so why not?