Saturday, February 21, 2009

Soccer 360 magazine: A review

I've been meaning to do this for a while. Really, I have. Ever since fellow blogger, real-life journo, and Soccer 360 contributor Colin Smith alerted me to the mag's existence, either in a post on his blog, or in a comment to mine. It's so long ago that I can't remember.

The problem (there are very few) with the magazine is that you can only get it at the big book outlets with a large newsstand. Here in Winnipeg those are all located in malls, which I tend to avoid. If they don't have it at the grocery store, I probably won't get it.

But I was cleaning some things this morning and discovered an unworn Christmas gift (shirt, too large) that needed to be exchanged before the store's (The Gap) statute of limitations on returns kicked in. That precipitated a trip to a suburban shopping centre, and with time to spare before the next bus, a trip to Chapters.

Becks, cover boy for issue #19

When it comes to Canadian-based football/soccer publications, I really have no standard to measure against. The few magazines that have been in existence have typically been regional and short-lived. Soccer 360 looks to be taking a national approach, and hopefully will be around for the long haul.

Since I'm inventing my own criteria, Canadian content ranks as pretty important. I don't measure Canadian content like the CRTC; if I did, the mag would rank as fully Canadian since, as far as I can tell, all the authors are Canucks. Instead, I'm counting pages of Canadian articles.

The tally:
  • An interview with Canadian and Middlesbrough U18 Derek Bassi (1 page)
  • An interview with Brazil legend Careca during a coaching clinic in Canada (1 page)
  • An interview with Ali Gerba (1 page)
  • An interview with Dragon's Den dragon and Derby owner Brett Wilson (1 page)
  • 2 pages on CCL, focussing on Montreal's run, and a 1-page Ben Knight smackdown on the Impact's failed MLS bid
  • A 1-page Marvell Wynne interview and 3 pages of TFC year-in-review
In addition, there's 8 pages of general MLS stuff, and a Beckham article from a North American perspective. This might not seem like a lot in a magazine that runs nearly 90 pages, but domestic content is also given a prominent spot at the front of the mag.

A lot of the world soccer content is pretty strong as well. Instead of merely running down the big leagues, which is a bit pointless in a magazine that comes out every few months, there are good articles on match-fixing (Declan Hill book review), football and the financial downturn, and the emergence of the Russian league. The latter two articles are excellent, and are written by Jerrad Peters, who also scribes a weekly soccer column in my local rag.

Returning to the Canadian content, and specifically the Ali Gerba interview. Colin Smith asked about his feelings on the failed WCQ campaign. Said Gerba:
I'm very disappointed. Personally it's one of the biggest disappointments in my career because as a young kid you grow up with a dream that you will go to the World Cup. I don't know that any soccer player grows up and says I don't want to go to the World Cup and we had a chance to go and unfortunately we cannot do it and we're out. We were really motivated and I think we had one of the best squads to go as far as we can.

I'm not going to point any fingers because we know exactly what's the problem. And it's not because of the players. The players have something to do with it, but the organization, the whole organization, has to ask questions and we have to find out exactly what went wrong. I just want to see change. It's not only the players that have to be motivated to go (to the World Cup) and to try to do good in qualification, the whole staff has to come together and (find) solutions as soon as possible. We can't just wait for things to go bad and then ask 'Why? Why? Why?' Right now, any action would be good action. It would send a message that the national team is not something to be played with. It's not a toy that people can come and enjoy for a little bit and then that's it. It's something serious. People need to take it serious.
I'm surprised that I haven't read this anywhere else, sooner, if only because Gerba clearly lashes out at the CSA, and any such statement is usually trumpeted by the anti-CSA crowd at the Voyageurs forums. The first bolded statement is seemingly contradictory: he absolves and implicates the players in the space of two sentences. The last bolded bit is a criticism that could and should apply equally to the players and the organization. (The italics are there merely to highlight where our man Ali should have used an adverb and not an adjective. Gotta be pedantic, sometimes).

The fact that nobody at the Voyageurs picked up on this is probably a sign that there just aren't enough people reading this magazine yet.

Soccer 360 provides good value for money. At nearly 100 glossy full size pages, it clearly is expensive to produce, and I doubt the circulation numbers provide for much of an economy of scale. The domestic content itself is nearly worth the $9.95 sticker price (actually, I'm not sure why the bookstore affixed a sticker, since the price is clearly indicated on the cover) and the Canadian perspective on world soccer is also valuable.

If you've been reading this magazine longer than I have (apparently there have been 19 issues to date), let me know what you think about it.

Edit: After spending a little more time with the articles, the one accusation that I'd level at the magazine is a lack of careful editing. But then again, I'm a blogger who doesn't proofread his articles. On the other hand, you're not paying to read this.

And to prove that I don't hold up my nose at those who let their eyes linger across the pond, let me draw your attention to a couple of big wins in the 1. Bundesliga this weekend:
  • Rob Friend and Paul Stalteri get their first win together for Borussia Moenchengladbach, a 3-2 home decision over Hannover. Friend set up the decisive goal by Germany legend Oliver Neuville.
  • Kevin McKenna plays 90 minutes in central defense as his 1. FC Koeln upset Bayern in Munich, 2-1.
And, my own personal vice, the Dutch Eredivisie, became a little more interesting last week with AZ leaving a few points on the table by letting PSV back into a draw after leading 2-0. The boys from Alkmaar look to be back to winning ways this week, although leaving it to the 2nd half against Almelo is hardly inspiring.

Also, on this Hockey Day in Canada, the Canadian Soccer Assocation website seems to have undergone an extreme makeover. I like it, especially the goal compilation video (compressing all the good times into a few minutes makes it easier to forget the far more numerous and long-lasting painful memories). Though, like most makeovers, this one seems mostly to be at the surface level, as a lot of the articles and content seems still to have the same format as previously.

If you watch the video, about halfway through, you'll see the Hastings golden goal against Mexico, and a few highlights from the final against Colombia at the 2000 Gold Cup. That was 9 years ago this weekend. 9 years! There hasn't been much to cheer about in that time.


Sam said...

I read Soccer 360 and got a year subscription for xmas in 07, so got every copy in 08. I still read it but don't buy every issue. It's a quality magazine, the best one on Canadian football out there without a doubt.

Joe Soccer Fan said...

I've been receiving Soccer360 for over a year now and I love it. Like you mentioned, there really is no competition in the Canadian soccer magazine scene, so any imperfections are easy to overlook.

Although there are plenty of online sites that provide similar articles, when you need a magazine to take with you on the road, this is a really good option.

Colin Smith said...

Heeeey ... Thanks for the props/respect/love and honest criticism of the magazine. Also, thanks for buying a copy!

The one thing I'll tell you is that like all these Canadian-based soccer blogs that have blown up recently, all the people involved in the magazine are doing it for the love of soccer and their interests in the game both locally and internationally. Everyone there works really hard and nobody's getting rich...

It's still quite young and improvements are coming (copy editing is a must).

There is some great stuff coming in the next issue and I think the publication will keep improving.

Robyn said...

I only discovered it last month, but I certainly liked the issue I bought: it had great content from all the big leagues, and certainly from what I've seen, great coverage on the Canadian front as well. Editing needs to improve vastly, though. I caught a couple mistakes in the first article alone...