by Madison Kahn
Howler is a new quarterly magazine aimed at the American soccer fan, entertaining both die-hards and newbies alike. Founders Mark Kirby and George Quraishi launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 that raised $69,000 from 1,400 backers, and with a sharp team of strong sports journalists and innovative designers, Kirby and Quaraishi have created a distinctive product. “A revelation,” Sports Illustrated called it. With the third issue hitting newsstands early next month, we took time out to speak with Quraishi about their creative take on the sport .
What makes Howler unique?
For one thing, we’re writing and creating a product for American audiences. There’s a lot of stuff in Howler for people who know soccer inside and out, and for those who are just getting into it and don’t know where to start. Part of our mission is to help contextualize American soccer within the broader world of soccer.
What’s your soccer background?
I grew up with it. My dad came over from England and played in the old North American soccer league in the '70s. I played soccer really seriously until I went to college, when I realized I wasn’t going to be a professional. Mark played goalkeeper for a bit, then lost interest until the World Cup drew him back in.
Whether they watch MLS or just European soccer, there’s something unique about coming at it from this country.
How did your experiences influence the publication?
Mark and I represent two ends of the soccer fan spectrum and, between us, we felt like we could talk to soccer fans across a pretty broad spectrum of fandom. We saw American soccer as sort of an underserved community—it’s been kind of tough to be a soccer fan for a while, but we’ve noticed a surge in interest over the last 10 years.
We noticed that our friends were coming at soccer in this really interesting way. They would say, “I want to pick a team, who should I pick?” Elsewhere in the world, you’re born into the team your dad or your uncle supports. So we decided to make a magazine for people like us—for American soccer fans. Whether they watch MLS or just European soccer, there’s something unique about coming at it from this country.
How have people received Howler?
We didn’t know what the reception would be when we started this. We sort of just put it out there and wanted to see if anyone would take to it. And they did! The reception from soccer fans has been amazing—and from people who are writers and artists and want to participate. It’s all been really gratifying. We’ve more than tripled our subscription base from that first issue. We’ve also gotten a deal with Barnes & Noble, and we’re in a handful of independent bookstores all over the country. Plus, we’re starting to make relationships with some of the bigger brands in the soccer space, like Nike.
What is the most memorable match you've seen?
Anytime you go to a World Cup, it’s so special. In 1984, I saw a bunch of World Cup games, including the final in the Rose Bowl. But about a month later I realized that I needed glasses. And pretty soon after that I realized I hadn’t actually seen the World Cup final.
What’s on deck for Issue No.3?
This year is the US Soccer Federation’s 100th anniversary. So, this issue features a huge US soccer package. We do a timeline with a bunch of stories about key pockets of time for US soccer, because their history is pretty unique—it’s not like there was a time when they were bad and then they got progressively better. There was this weird golden age for the team in the '20s when, at the first World Cup, they came in fourth in the world. A US player was the first player to score a hatrick in the World Cup. The first time England ever played in the World Cup, the US beat them—and England was the giant of soccer back then. It was a huge moment. But then soccer sort of went away for 40 years, and we didn’t qualify again for the World Cup till 1990. So we have stories celebrating the most fun and best-selling moments in US soccer history, and then we also have a lot of stuff about lesser known, odd stories that we find really interesting.
As for features, we sent Luke O’Brien to Rome for a profile of Michael Bradley, who’s a 26-year-old American center midfielder for Roma. He’s an up-and-coming player and our take is that he’s the most important player for the US team right now.
We also have a great story about this mythical West Ham United fan who was heckling his team in 1994. The coach, who at the time was Harry Redknapp, invited him to play for the time as a joke—and then the fan went on the field and scored a goal.
Is there anything different about this issue?
Actually, yes. We have a really cool, really talented new designer named Joel Speasmaker who joined our team this spring. So the magazine will look a little different than the first two issues. But don’t worry—design is something that’s very important to us, and all the stuff that we really like about Howler will still be in there.
The summer issue of Howler is available from their website, pick up a copy in their online shop for $15.
Photos courtesy of Howler Magazine