~ Posted by Pip Wroe, January 14th 2013
It was the flames, the skull and the dripping blood that caught my attention. I was in the football section of Foyles bookshop on the Charing Cross Road when I saw an American magazine on the top shelf called Howler. It was "about soccer". On closer inspection, the front cover looked even wilder: against a background of burning Mayan temples, a man covered in war paint was wielding a mace and impaling Mexican players on spikes. The man was Jürgen Klinsmann, the former German star and now coach of the USA's men's soccer team. Just as surprising was the price: £12.50 here in Britain or $15 in America.
I flicked through the 100-plus pages: there was a nostalgic look at the great European theatres of football (Anfield, Old Trafford and San Siro); a fear-and-loathing style account following Juárez's hardcore supporters on an away trip to Monterrey; a philosophical piece on football’s imitation of art based around Aristotle’s dramatic theory in the "Poetics"; and a double-page illustration set inside the instantly recognisable Afro of the Columbian footballer Carlos Valderrama.
Turning back to the front, I found the letter from the editors, which explained that they had asked writers and artists what it was about football that "caused them to think, caused them to wonder". Then the editors had given these writers and artists somewhere "to explore those things through compelling art and storytelling.” The letter also revealed that this first issue has been funded by 1,400 people on Kickstarter, who clearly believe there is a gap in the market which Howler can fill. (This funding explains the pleasingly small number of adverts).
In the mainstream media, football coverage is dominated by managers' platitudes, dull interviews with press-groomed players and never-ending transfer gossip. In-depth discussion of the game, its history and tactics is woefully under-represented. But that's only half of Howler's appeal. Its use of original design represents a complete departure from every other football magazine I know. This one has let a bunch of artists loose on the subject. Based on this first issue, it is distinct enough to succeed.
Pip Wroe is intern at Intelligent Life and plays left wing for Bristow City (2nd Division, Hackney and Leyton League)