Interview with GSJ (2015)
Soho Warriors: A creative collective with an aesthetically-driven vision of the Beautiful Game
Interview by The Green Soccer Journal (our good friend Josh Wilson)
Meet the Soho Warriors: a football team named after a part of London’s West End, that plays its games in the east of the capital, and was founded by two brothers from Hertfordshire. Oh, and they’re also, kind of, a creative agency as well.
Confused? Don’t be. Because, as Chris Dent and Matt Goder-Dent explain, they’re all about keeping things simple. The Soho Warriors, in their footballing incarnation, are an amateur team comprising artists, illustrators, designers, filmmakers and photographers, who meet every Friday night to play the game they love. But for the past five years since the club’s inception, its members have also used football, and their unique take on the culture that surrounds it, as an outlet for their own creative collaborations off the pitch.
“Matt and I were sharing a studio,” Chris, a freelance illustrator and the Warrior’s giant goalkeeper, explains as he reflects on the team’s beginnings, “and I think both of us had become a little bit disillusioned with football. We’d seen this team in New York, Chinatown Soccer Club, and they were doing things off the pitch. They were working on projects together, and it really connected to us, because we were creative, and we were playing football, but it wasn’t together. So we thought, Why can’t we try and do this over here?”
The pair began firing out emails to friends and acquaintances who they believed would share their vision of a club built on passion, cooperation, friendship and creativity. And, slowly but surely, word started to spread. Not that it was all plain sailing, however: “Even when I came out of uni [in the late 2000s] and went to work in a few studios, it still wasn’t cool to talk about football,” Matt, a gallery manager, remembers. “[People] were almost scared to admit that they liked football,” adds Chris.
But despite the apparent taboos, there were an equal number of responses that mirrored the brothers’ own guiding sentiments, and the group gradually grew to double figures, with each new addition bringing their own unique outlook and set of skills. “When we first e-mailed people,” Chris says, “we were faced with people who had fallen out of love with the game and didn’t know how to get back into it, and the Soho Warriors gave them a channel to go back into playing again and enjoying it. I think that’s because of the people in the team, and connecting to [football] in a different way.”
It quickly became a reciprocal relationship, and the team, brought together by a shared love of football, were able to support one another in their work away from the pitch. “Being an illustrator is quite a lonely profession and around five years ago, I thought that would be my life forever, where I’m on my own all day… Then the Soho Warriors brought in twenty-five new friends; having them means I can take time out to work on projects with them. So it’s definitely given my life a balance that it maybe didn’t have before.”
The team’s togetherness, and their pool of undeniable creative talent, soon caught the eye of adidas, who saw, in the Warriors, a diverse collective that mirrored their own approach to the game. On the day we meet, Chris and Matt are fresh from hosting the UK leg of Fanatic; a six-a-side tournament, held in London, that included teams from across the creative industries and, of course, the Warriors themselves. They’re tired, they say, but immensely proud of what they achieved: “In its simplest form, we’ve made a football team, and now we get the chance to work with people like adidas,” Matt says, a little disbelievingly.
The success of the tournament has given them the confidence they need to push on and continue their work as a more formal creative agency, that will stand alone from the Soho Warriors Football Club. That, and a belief that their vision of the game is becoming the norm. “It seems like the general fan is a lot more aware of design and aesthetics, and I think that kind of crosses over to what we’re trying to do,” explains Chris.
The future looks bright for the boys from Broxbourne. Yet, despite all the attention and the accolades, Matt answers without hesitation when he’s asked to name the best thing about the Soho Warriors. “The people. Going on a Friday and having a group of twenty people where you feel close to every single person. You feel as if you’re part of something you’ve built together, and that’s a really nice feeling.”