A Dublin Magazine Aims to Capture a Deeper Football Culture

Five years back, Kie Carew and his brother thought they’d set up a website dedicated to the beautiful game.

But this one had to be different from the standard sports journalism out there, less about the goals or analysis. Carew uses the phrase “football culture”, something you seem to hear a lot these days.

Now into issue three of their print edition, Póg Mo Goal offers that little bit extra for the football fan.

“We didn’t want the actual writing to be just throwaway,” says Carew, on a recent Thursday in Wigwam on Abbey Street. “The writing had to be of a good quality, so it’s just trying to keep the same standard for the design and the writing.”

Global Game 

Póg Mo Goal features up to a dozen online articles each month, many written by Kie’s brother James.

Like the website, the print edition articles are a different offering,  often rooting the game in global political and social shifts, and featuring a diverse crew of contributors.

It all comes back to those words, “football culture”. “It’s all-encompassing about the game,” says Kie. “It’s about seeing what we can add to that.”

Issue three features several illustrations from international artists, and articles ranging from the biographical to the historical.

In “The Rebel and the Blond Arrow”, Cian Manning tells the story of Real Madrid striker Alfredo Di Stefano. It’s not simply glittering praise for the legendary footballer, though.

It’s about how, in 1963, Di Stefano was kidnapped by the Armed Forces of National Liberation, a Venezuelan revolutionary group, in Caracas in 1963.

Northern Exposure” sees Canada-based football writer Devon Rowcliffe explore whether the forthcoming Canadian Premier League will succeed.

The Carew brothers were inspired by other independent football magazines – The Blizzard in England and Howler in the US – to start a print edition. Issue four is on the horizon.

So far so good, says James. “What I love is the enthusiasm of our contributors,” he says. “They love the whole idea of what we’re trying to do, particularly international artists and designers who, when they learn we are Irish, are genuinely delighted to be involved.”

One such contributor is Austrian sports journalist Nicole Selmer. Selmer’s piece, “At First We Were Only Fighters, and Only Then Footballers“, tells the story of the struggle for Algerian independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

This struggle spread to the pitch in 1958 when nine Algerian footballers abandoned their clubs in France to travel back to Algeria to spread the message of the liberation movement.

Such is the tone of Póg Mo Goal. 

Selmer is co-editor of Austrian football magazine Ballesterer. Established in 2004, she says that magazine grew out of dissatisfaction with existing sports journalism. They wanted to look at football as a part of society, deeply linked with politics and finance and culture.

But in recent times things have changed. “Sports journalism has become diversified and that’s true for the cultural, historical, socio-politics perspective also,” said Selmer, by email. “It’s a good thing. I’m not sure if that’s what readers want, but it is what we want to write about. It’s what we care about.”

The Definition of Fan

Kie Carew says that Póg Mo Goal is a labour of love. “There’s no business plan,” he says. “If we did try to do a business plan and we knew how hard it would be we just wouldn’t have done it.”

Kie says each contributor offers their words freely for the magazine, happy to oblige. They’re only just about covering costs at the moment, but the reaction from readers has kept them pumped.

Although the term football fan can still have some negative connotations, they’ve actually changed, says Kie.

“A few years ago if you said you were a football fan, you might have to qualify it,” he says. “I’m not just down the bookies every Saturday, I’m not homophobic. I’m into football but I’m also into architecture and illustration.”

The design element of the website and print edition is led by Kie, who says he takes his time with the graphics and layout of each issue.

Distributed at a few select pubs and stores in Dublin such as Indigo & Cloth in Temple Bar, the Carews print around 1,000 copies. It sells for €5.99. Kie says people in Italy, America and Canada have come calling for copies.

It’s all part of a changing game, says brother James. “There’s a major conversation going on around the world of genuine football fans being alienated from the game, through ticket prices, or over-commercialisation,” he says.

What it means to be a football fan, says James, is now driving content, content based around one important question: what is football culture?

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Cónal Thomas: Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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