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CONTENTS 45. GROUP G England, Belgium, Tunisia, and Panama

6. SINCE ‘96 Twenty-two years and counting...

48. GROUP H Colombia, Japan, Poland, and Senegal

12. WHAT DOES THE WORLD CUP MEAN TO YOU? Ashley Cole, Giovani dos Santos, Landon Donovan, and Zlatan 50. THE UNDOING PROJECT talk about the greatest tournament in the world LA Galaxy South Bay coach Kevin Holmes on how you unteach a ‘soccer’ mentality 14. FIXTURES All the games for this World Cup: who, where, and when 54. A PLACE CALLED HOME The youth center making a difference in South Central 16. GROUP GUIDE 18. GROUP A Russia, Egytpt, Saudi Arabia, and Uruguay

58. STREET SOCCER USA Using soccer for social change in Watts and beyond

21. GROUP B Iran, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco

24. KEVIN LOPES IS A BALLER The French street soccer star on an emerging subculture


24. GROUP C France, Australia, Denmark, and Peru

SUB-EDITOR Dave Blackhurst

28. GROUP D Nigeria, Croatia, Iceland, and Argentina

30. VBFC The guys making Venice Beach into LA’s futsal hotbed 37. GROUP E Brazil, Croatia, Switzerland, and Serbia

41. CAITLYN SCHREPFER: AMERICA’S #1 Talking skill and will with the country’s best freestyler 40. GROUP F South Korea, Mexico, Germany, and Sweden

44. PJ HARRISON Behind the grassroots deconstruction of modern soccer with the City of Angels’ co-founder

PHOTOGRAPHY Jonathan Turton EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Mike Gonzalez ART DIRECTOR Roy McCarthy CREATIVE DIRECTOR Alex Mertekis Special Thanks To… James Wright, Nick Lewis and Martino Simcik Arese at Copa90, PJ Harrison, Dillon and Tim at VBFC, and Zack Goldman. Front cover: Jonathan Turton / Shutterstock Photography by Jonathan Turton or Los Angeles Galaxy unless stated. All Creative Commons licensed photography has been marked as such. All team badges reprinted here under terms of fair use.


L.A. 4

LA is a soccer town. Countries from all over, represented right here. 224 different languages spoken. The biggest sport in the world. A sport that’s bigger than stadiums, bigger than teams, bigger than players. As a culture, soccer encompasses high and low. Teams and loners. Rich and poor. A ball: that’s all you need. And there are more entry points into the game than ever before. Soccer is being deconstructed every day—and LA is at the forefront. With the World Cup coming up, even without USMNT involvement, inspiration, and innovation will continue alongside fans supporting their countries (or second countries) with a passion. Soccer is bigger than mere geography, but LA is a soccer town. There’s no denying it now.

Photo: salewskia, CC BY-SA 4.0



SINCE ’96:


“Soccer’s not a game you can buy with advertising,” said Ozzy Gomez, an immigrant from Argentina and club president of the Galaxians, the club’s first official fan club. “People will go because they feel it in their heart.” That was in 1996, our first season, and it’s an ethos that has carried through ever since. Through good times and bad, highs and lows, tradition is something that goes a long way in sport, even more so in this game. For many in this city, soccer is fútbol. It is more than just a game for high school, a recreational game politely played on manicured fields in front of hypedup moms and dads on sunny bleachers, fútbol is about history. It’s a culture in-and-of-itself. It had been a way of life way before 1994, when the American people got to experience the game on a world stage for the first time. The World Cup Final in the Galaxy’s first spiritual home, Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, Brazil v Italy—does it get more World Cup than that? The sun beating down upon the best players on the planet, culminating in one of the sport’s all-time most heartbreaking climaxes… Roberto Baggio, the Italian icon, his side’s most outstanding player, blazing the deciding penalty kick over the bar, losing the final, before sinking to his knees. Admittedly not a great day for Baggio, whose glittering career has inevitably been reduced to a single miss by some, but for Angelenos, soccer—and fútbol—was set. Almost two years later, in Major League Soccer’s inaugural season, we were there. One of the original ten teams. The 1996 season that almost ended in glory, the Galaxy falling at the final hurdle against D.C. United in October’s MLS Cup final. But you know what? That’s how you make a good narrative: in Hollywood, a straight shot to the top won’t be getting any asses on seats. You need a little adversity to make your path to glory that little bit sweeter… That’s our story, anyway, and we’re sticking to it.



That original team was packed full of legends: heavyweight Ecuadorian striker Eduardo “El Tanque” Hurtado, Salvadoran pass-master Mauricio Cienfue gos, the diminutive playmaker who made almost two hundred appearances for the team, and legendary Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos, the number nine who was number one between the sticks, noted for his flamboyant style of shot-sto pping and his eye-catching shirts (often designed by Campos himself). But probabl y none typify what Galaxy means quite as much as a boy born in Detroit, raised in Southern California, who spent eleven years at the heart of the team... Cobi Jones’ impact on the Galaxy goes beyond numbers, beyond stats. He was the club’s first goal scorer in its first-ever game, and brought levels of Americ an participation in soccer to new heights on his way to becoming the all-time leader in caps for the USMNT and earning a spot in the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Jones was a top-quality player before the country even had an organiz ed professional league. Cobi came first: everyone else travelled in his wake. In the years since 1996, we’ve seen rivals come and go. Pretenders and supposed heirs to the throne gone by the wayside, while we have prevaile d. Twenty-two years later, we’re still the team everyone wants to beat, the marker against which all other sides are judged. Repping 4 million in Los Angeles , 40 million in California, and many more around the world, repping soccer at every level, repping the attitude this town is known for, and the fans from countless countries and cultures that make it go round. That’s not easy. But you know what else ain’t easy? Five MLS Cups, four Supporters’ Shields , and, in 2000, a CONCACAF Champions League—one of only two Americ an teams to win the trophy. Team that with some of the biggest signings MLS has ever seen, three of the country’s most renown supporters’ groups in the LA Riot Squad, the Angel City Brigade, the Galaxians, and, of course, Landon Donovan, the man generally regarded as the greatest American men’s soccer player of all time. That’s a whole lot to be proud of.



THE WORL CUP (You may have heard of it)

Photo: Offside Sports Photography

LD 11

ASHLEY COLE England—2002, 2006, and 2010 World Cup

“The World Cup means everything, as a player. When you’re a young kid, you dream of playing in a World Cup, and to be lucky enough to play in a couple of them? You are there with the greats. It’s a dream.”


GIOVANI DOS SANTOS Mexico—2010 and 2014 World Cup

“I will always remember 1998. Mexico had a good tournament, had a very good team. I was young but it was special. To play in the World Cup myself... I feel so proud to have represented my country on that stage. And this summer, Mexico will be great. We have approached this tournament in a very positive way.”

LANDON DONOVAN USMNT—2002, 2006, and 2010 World Cup

What does the World Cup mean to you as a player?

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC Sweden—2002 and 2006 World Cup

“The World Cup is nothing without me” - Zlatan, 2013 What’s it like playing in a World Cup? It’s amazing. To play for your country, being the captain at the time, it’s a big moment, a moment of huge proudness. There is not a bigger moment as a player.

How will Sweden do this year? I think they will win. They are the favourites. They have a really great collective in the squad, and they have something big going on...

For most players, the World Cup is the apex. It’s the dream that every player has. It’s what every player wants. As a young player, I don’t think I really understood what the World Cup meant, but as it became more visible to me… I remember practicing in the street, thinking about how each move would help me in the World Cup one day. I got to realise that dream and it exceeded every one of my expectations.

Where will you be watching?


This is the first time in my life that I can watch the World Cup without having to worry about training or playing games or being part of a professional team. I’m going to enjoy it to the max. There’ll be games I watch at home, but I’ll be heading down to watch some in bars in San Diego to watch with the fans. I’m looking forward to that experience. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do: enjoy a World Cup as just a true soccer fan.



Thursday 14 June

Wednesday 20 June

5 AM Portugal v Morocco (Group B) - Moscow (Luzhniki) 8 AM -Don v-on Uruguay v Saudi Arabia (Group A) - Rosto Iran v Spain (Group B) - Kazan - 11 AM Thursday 21 June

Denmark v Australia (Group C) - Samara - 5 AM France v Peru (Group C) - Ekaterinburg - 8 AM AM Argentina v Croatia (Group D) - Nizhny Novgorod - 11 Friday 22 June

Rica (Group E) - St Petersburg - 5 AM Russia v Saudi Arabia (Group A) - Moscow (Luzhniki) - 8 AM Brazil v Costa Nigeria v Iceland (Group D) - Volgograd - 8 AM Friday 15 June Serbia v Switzerland (Group E) - Kaliningrad - 11 AM Egypt v Uruguay (Group A) - Ekaterinburg - 5 AM Saturday 23 June Morocco v Iran (Group B) - St Petersburg - 8 AM AM Belgium v Tunisia (Group G) - Moscow (Spartak) - 5 Portugal v Spain (Group B) - Sochi - 11 AM AM 8 -Don v-on Rosto South Korea v Mexico (Group F) Saturday 16 June Germany v Sweden (Group F) - Sochi - 11 AM France v Australia (Group C) - Kazan - 3 AM Sunday 24 June Argentina v Iceland (Group D) - Moscow (Spartak) - 6 AM AM England v Panama (Group G) - Nizhny Novgorod - 5 Peru v Denmark (Group C) - Saransk - 9 AM Japan v Senegal (Group H) - Ekaterinburg - 8 AM Croatia v Nigeria (Group D) - Kaliningrad - 12 AM Poland v Colombia (Group H) - Kazan - 11 AM Sunday 17 June

Costa Rica v Serbia (Group E) - Samara - 5 AM Germany v Mexico (Group F) - Moscow (Luzhniki) - 8 AM Brazil v Switzerland (Group E) - Rostov-on-Don - 11 AM Monday 18 June

Sweden v South Korea (Group F) - Nizhny Novgorod - 5 AM Belgium v Panama (Group G) - Sochi - 8 AM Tunisia v England (Group G) - Volgograd - 11 AM Tuesday 19 June

Colombia v Japan (Group H) - Saransk - 5 AM Poland v Senegal (Group H) - Moscow (Spartak) - 8 AM Russia v Egypt (Group A) - St Petersburg - 11 AM

Monday 25 June

Uruguay v Russia (Group A) - Samara - 7 AM Saudi Arabia v Egypt (Group A) - Volgograd - 7 AM Spain v Morocco (Group B) - Kaliningrad - 11 AM Iran v Portugal (Group B) - Saransk - 11 AM Tuesday 26 June

AM Denmark v France (Group C) - Moscow (Luzhniki) - 7 AM Australia v Peru (Group C) - Sochi - 7 Nigeria v Argentina (Group D) - St Petersburg - 11 AM Iceland v Croatia (Group D) - Rostov-on-Don - 11 AM

Wednesday 27 June

South Korea v Germany (Group F) - Kazan - 7 AM QUART ER-FIN ALS Mexico v Sweden (Group F) - Ekaterinburg - 7 AM Serbia v Brazil (Group E) - Moscow (Spartak) - 11 AM Friday 6 July Switzerland v Costa Rica (Group E) - Nizhny Novgorod - 11 AM Winner match 49 v Winner match 50 - Nizhny Novgorod - 7 AM (Match 57) Thursday 28 June Winner match 53 v Winner match 54 - Kazan Japan v Poland (Group H) - Volgograd - 7 AM - 11 AM (Match 58) Senegal v Colombia (Group H) - Samara - 7 AM England v Belgium (Group G) - Kaliningrad - 11 AM Saturday 7 July Panama v Tunisia (Group G) - Saransk - 11 AM Winner match 55 v Winner match 56 - Samara - 7 AM (Match 60) Winner match 51 v Winner match 52 - Sochi ROUN D O F 1 6 - 11 AM (Match 59) Saturday 30 June

Group C winner v Group D runner-up - Kazan - 7 AM SEMI- FINAL S - (Match 50) Group A winner v Group B runner-up - Sochi - 11 AM (Match 49) Tuesday 10 July Winner match 57 v Winner match 58 - St Petersburg Sunday 1 July 11 AM (Match 61) Group B winner v Group A runner-up - Moscow (Luzhniki) - 7 AM (Match 51) Group D winner v Group C runner-up - Nizhny Novgorod - 11 AM (Match 52) Monday 2 July

Group E winner v Group F runner-up - Samara - 7 AM (Match 53) Group G winner v Group H runner-up - Rostov-on-Don - 11 AM (Match 54) Tuesday 3 July

Group F winner v Group E runner-up - St Petersburg - 7 AM (Match 55) Group H winner v Group G runner-up - Moscow (Spartak) - 11 AM (Match 56)


Wednesday 11 July

Winner match 59 v Winner match 60 - Moscow (Luzhniki) - 11 AM (Match 62)


Semi-final loser v Semi-final loser - St Petersburg - 7 AM

FINA L Sunday 15 July

Semi-final winner v Semi-final winner - Moscow (Luzhniki) - 8 AM


Photo: Offside Sports Photography


Traktir Restaurant and Royal Gourmet Deli



Photo: Дмитрий Садовников, CC BY-SA 3.0


851 Santa Monica Blvd


The hosts will have their work cut out for them. A poor run of form has seen expectations dip and a squad defined by its mixture of ageing legs and lack of experience means that the fabled home team bias will have to be working overtime to make this one happen. Still, they have a few tidy players—CSKA’s fancied Aleksander Golovin and powerful striker Fyodor Smolov among them—and the pride of a particularly prideful nation behind them. Maybe in this relatively simple group Russia could squeak out a few surprises...

We pull off Santa Monica Boulevard and poke our head into the delicatessen portion of the building, next to the restaurant. Lead past rows of shelves and food behind the plastic counter—smoked meats, sauerkraut, vodka, pickled vegetables, white wine, caviar, cured fish, dried fish, dumplings, assorted Russian snacks, and, of course, borscht—we meet the owner, grumpy but gregarious Mr. Praisma, in his office filled with papers and assorted pop culture memorabilia and paraphernalia. On the walls: a framed cover of Interview magazine starring Cybill Shepherd, a picture of a possibly drunk Bill Clinton, and several years of calendars starring former boxer Vitali Klitschko, a visitor to Traktir just a few weeks before our visit. “In the 1970s, I came to America with just five dollars and my wife,” says Praisma. “That’s all I had. A year later I had my own business, Herb’s Meathouse in South Myrtle Ave. I didn’t speak any English but I spoke money, I spoke business. I took out a ten-year loan for my own place and paid it back in one year. Forty years later, I’m still here but with a new restaurant. Schwarzenegger’s chef would be here all day every Friday buying to buy his groceries. People come from all over to buy just from us.” Praisma leads us from his office to the restaurant, orders us coffees and slices of Napoleon cake—a delicious Russian variant of mille feuille made of layered pastry and sweet cream. He switches on the television, which is playing a UEFA Champions League match. “So, do you like soccer?” we ask. “Don’t you know who you’re speaking to?” he says. “Six decades ago, I played soccer for Ukraine! Soccer is the sport. It’s the best. It’s the only sport.”

Cairo Cowboy 46 Windward Ave

If you’re after a cartoonishly Egyptian-themed food truck masquerading as a dive bar set just a javelin throw away from Venice Beach, where you can order decent fries to the sounds of—for whatever reason—a whole lot of ska-punk then, buddy, you are in luck.

EGYPT The hopes of a nation rest on one man. A man who… might be still injured. That man is Mo Salah. The wide forward’s career took a little while to get going, but this season, everything clicked: an African Footballer of the Year award, several best player awards in the Premier League, and the love and adoration of the city of Liverpool. Salah’s success has seen him named “the Egyptian King” by the enraptured fans of his new club, who have been known to sing his name long into the night to the tune ‘Sit Down’ by Britpop band James. Hurting his shoulder in the UEFA Champions League final could hamper his impact, but expect to hear ‘Sit Down’ a lot this summer if Cúper can get his side flying in unison with their standout star.

19 Photo: Offside Sports Photography


Photo: Hussain Isa Alderazi, CC By 2.0

Photo: Jimmy Baikovicius, CC BY-SA 2.0







You might remember Saeed AlOwairan’s mazy run and tumbling finish against Belgium in 1994, and the flapping hands and beaming smile that came after, but look: there’s no getting around it. Saudi Arabia are one of the weakest teams in this World Cup. On paper, anyway. But soccer is not a game won on paper and with a squad full of experience (captain Hawsawi and vice-captain Al-Jassim have over 250 international appearances between them) alongside certified goal scorer Mohammad Al-Sahlawi anything could happen. Besides winning it, we mean. That won’t happen.

At the start of World Cup history, Uruguay were one of the Big Guys: Italian steel, South American flair, so many mustaches it looked like a Queen convention. But then something changed… A good five decades of nearmediocrity later, they’re resurgent, albeit with a squad that looks a little lopsided at times. A strike force that boasts Barça’s Luis Suárez and PSG’s Edinson Cavani will always be a danger, and finishing second in the South American qualifying group for the tournament is not cakewalk, but Tabárez may have his work cut out providing them a suitable base to build from in the midfield and defence. Photo: Ailura, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT


IRAN MANAGER: CARLOS QUEIROZ KEY PLAYER: ASHKAN DEJAGAH (NOTTINGHAM FOREST) BEST WC RESULT: GROUP STAGE (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014) This one we threw to Kaveh, an architect and massive soccer fan, originally from Iran, who we spoke to outside a cafe in Pasadena where he now lives. He knows way more about this than all of us put together. “My father played soccer at club level in Tehran. At the time, in Iran, however, there wasn’t really any professional sport. You’d go and play a match and then go and drive your taxi. He was a semi-pro footballer and also a tennis player. He loved sport, but football for Iranians is like in the rest of the world: it’s an obsession. When we qualified, against Australia in 1998, for the first time in twenty years, we were all singing and dancing in the streets. Tehran did not go to sleep that night. It was insane, man. It was something like we’d never seen before. People there do not party in the city; they party at their houses because there are rules. But that day, it was clear the regime was just gonna let it happen. Let all the rules pause for a day. There was too much energy. Everyone was too happy. We were driving through the city after the game, and the streets were gridlocked, and we climbed out of the car, parked it right there in the road, and just went on partying. “Soccer is the sport. We all played on concrete in the sun, that’s just how it was. An older person in our building would go and meld some metal together to make a small goal—about the size of a hockey goal—and put it in the street for us to play with and then at night, and when we were done, we’d drag it back in until the next day. The whole country is still the same way. You can see that in the way we play: there are a lot of very, very good technical players in Iran, but a lot more has been added to our team by this coach, Carlos Queiroz. “The Portuguese manager has been there seven years—a long time in any sport—and he’s super popular in Iran: he’s a pro, he doesn’t let anyone boss him around, and that’s how the country works. He fought back and won the support of important people. Queiroz brought discipline to our technical, talented team—players who learned their skills playing in dirt or on concrete. Football is a very emotional sport for us, but Queiroz settled that down: emotion is important, but if you have too much in a team, you end up with a lot of tension, and that can have a lot of drawbacks. We don’t have that anymore. We still have a very young team—better than in the last World Cup—and I hope they’ll get some very good experience in Russia because, in four years, many of them are going to be playing in the next one. “Certain parts of the city—especially Westwood and West LA—are very Iranian neighborhoods, what they call ‘Tehrangeles’. When it comes to the World Cup, everything, cafes and restaurants and bookstores and music stores will be covered in flags and shirts and posters: when it comes to Iranian teams in sports, the people become very proud. Even if it was the World Cup of volleyball, and I’ve never played volleyball in my life, we’d be there, packing the venue to the rafters. But football is football. That’s the difference. Nothing comes close to that level of support.”


Photo: Raimond Spekking , used under CC BY-SA 4.0



Photo: Offside Sports Photography




Portugal’s Euro-winning side in 2016 was not a vintage year and still, thanks to an arsenal of top tier talent, they got the job done. A few jewels of that side remain with exciting additions like André Silva and João Cancelo, while Cristiano Ronaldo, perhaps world soccer’s greatest dramatist, will be looking to land the only trophy that’s ever evaded him in what will likely be his last World Cup. Don’t bet against it. The 33-year-old is built like Iron Man and has a singular talent for dragging teams to gold.


With a 6–1 demolishing of Argentina in the spring friendlies, Spain not-soquietly reminded the sporting world who the papá grande is around these parts. The talismanic Andrés Iniesta—a man we all thought would never age— has finally transitioned, like Zidane in 2006, into a full galloping specter of delight on the field and will seek to snatch a second trophy in his final tournament alongside a team, if not quite as mouth-wateringly good as the Golden Years of 2008 through 2012 then somewhere pretty damn close.

Photo: Mustapha Ennaimi, CC BY 2.0

Photo: Кирилл Венедиктов , CC BY-SA 3.0



Back in the big leagues after twenty years away, Morocco’s qualification was built off a strong defense with French manager Renard’s side not conceding a single goal. That’s an impressive feat whichever way you’re slicing it, but they’re unlucky to be the weakest team in the tournament’s Group of Death. With Juventus’ Mehdi Benatia at the heart of defence they’ll be difficult to beat, but it’s a lack of goals that may let them down with star striker Ayoub El Kaabi untested at the highest level and Mbark Boussoufa talented but in the twilight of his career.









nt e w

e. r d i e s y pla West r cce LA’s o s eet lps to r t h s he A c n t re n i F the town w Ho tiny a m o fr

“I saw basketball, baseball, football, bodybuilding. I walked and walked up towards Santa Monica, and finally saw one Frenchman, wearing a Marseille jersey. I was like “Man, are you from France?” and he replied “What a dumb question. How many Americans do you see in a French jersey? If you want, come and play soccer with us. Come and play.” So I started to play, 7-a-side pickup soccer on grass. Small goals. Real simple. And the more I started playing, the more I started noticing more and more people showing up. Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash showed up; World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero showed up, and I was just like “What the hell is happening?” Los Angeles just has a crazy mix of people.

C P U O R G Photo: Кирилл Венедиктов, CC BY-SA 3.0

“Nearly ten years ago, I moved to LA. I’m originally from Paris—and not the fancy side of Paris, a place called Trappes—but my family moved to a tiny town called Annecy in the French Alps. I started playing soccer there and ended up playing in the third division in the French leagues, but I tore my ACL. My dad got remarried to a woman from Venice Beach, so, instead of sitting in the dark with my injured knee, I moved to LA with them in 2009. I was staying at her mom’s place, literally just a few blocks from the boardwalk. Every morning I’d wake up, walk down to the beach, and have my breakfast here. I would walk up and down the boardwalk and the first thing I noticed: Where are the soccer courts?

“From there, I got more and more involved in soccer over here. I was with LA Galaxy II for almost a year, helping me get back in shape, and I then traveled the world with soccer. I was coaching in Thailand, coaching on the west coast of Africa, where my father is from. And then, when I returned to LA, I became involved in street soccer, something we all play in Europe, like what VBFC do and what I do at my team, Baller. Then I did my coaching diplomas and started a soccer program in Norwalk, East LA. I called it Classic ZZ, after my hero Zinedine Zidane. Coolness personified. The best. And I quickly realized that kids from low income backgrounds wanted soccer but sometimes couldn’t afford to play. So I found a sponsor, and now, two years later, the program is full of dedicated, passionate kids who love the game. “From this initiative, I’ve been approached by other clubs all over the city, but I made sure that, when I eventually agreed to work with one, they had to open up a club for my East LA kids so they could experience what soccer was like at a proper club. We took them from the areas they grew up in and gave them a chance to play in South Bay, allowing these kids to play against children from a whole other social class. That is the beauty of this game. In the mindset of some, soccer is just a recreational sport, but we want to win. It’s a very European attitude to the game—it’s the way I learned to play in France, like how Zidane learned to play, hard and fast and skillful in the streets of Marseille—but it’s helping to create a new kind of American soccer culture here. There are so many people around the city, people from many different cultures, and since soccer is the biggest sport in the world, there are so many influences that can inspire these kids. That is what makes soccer so important—and it is growing.


This French team might just be their best since the side that won the whole lot twenty years ago. The parallels are there for all to see: fast, strong, skillful, packed with just the right blend of experience and raw talent. But Didier Deschamps will have his work cut out for him making this selection of players tick like a Cartier. France’s chances have been marred by infighting and a lack of consistency, but if they can get even half their players firing on full cylinders, they’ll be one helluva team to beat: in Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, and Ousmane Dembélé, they have three of the most expensive players of all time...



Photo: Camw, CC BY-SA 3.0


After the departure of coach Ange Postecoglou, Australia were left in a tailspin, and a lot will be resting on former Netherlands manager Bert van Marwijk to not let this kangaroo leap off the cliff. Diminutive icon Tim Cahill— the Aussie’s leading World Cup scorer and the man who sent them into the tournament with his winner against Syria—can no longer be relied on to supply the goods but stranger things have happened, and classy Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy’s stock has never been higher after a season of impressive performances in the Premier League. Who he’ll be passing to could a bit of a problem, mind, with goals (or lack thereof) a serious concern.

Photo: Public Domain


DENMARK MANAGER: ÅGE HAREIDE KEY PLAYER: CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (SPURS) BEST WC RESULT: QUARTER-FINAL (1998) Through to the World Cup through the playoffs versus Ireland (sorry, Ireland— we miss you) thanks to the everexcellent Christian Eriksen, the Group’s second strongest team have had a barren few generations since the heady days of the late eighties and early nineties. Like many teams, goals don’t seem to be very forthcoming, but Hareide has a young side full of solid players who will be looking to upset the teams around them with their solid defense.



Cup Qualifying for their first World lf itse since 1982 was a feat in and of but Peru—currently rated as just al outside of the top 10 best nation r eve teams in the world on FIFA’s not are tenuous national team table— c leti ath to be taken lightly. A young, kit side with an oddly satisfying stripe; design (Home—white with red sting bur Away—red with white stripe) since lost with energy and who havent the er November 2016, they still ent n World Cup as a largely unknow in get quantity who’ll be looking to nt me the faces of complacent tourna mainstays. Photo: Chris 0023, CC BY-SA 2.0

D P U O R G Nkechi African Cafe

2717 W Manchester Blvd

Inglewood. A baking hot day. Those wobbling lines emanating off the asphalt. Into the cool of Nkechi’s with Nkechi waiting for us. She is stood in the middle of the restaurant with clanging noises coming from the kitchen behind her. “What do you want?” she says.


Don’t tell Nkechi we said this (Nkechi, if you’re reading this, we’re sorry) but, even with some of the most talented squads African football has ever seen, Nigeria have never really shown their true potential in the World Cup. But with one of the sickest team jerseys we’ve ever witnessed and a team full of pace and skill (not to mention players who are used to regular play in the big leagues; an aspect that cannot be overstated when the pressure’s on) they might just be a (long overdue) run of form. Stuff your face full of fufu if they make it through to the final.

We get jollof rice with a big chunk of tilapia, a fish we overhear someone saying is a “fake fish” designed “in a lab” to be “extra delicious”. Nonsense, of course, but you can see where he’s coming from: the meat falls off the bone, mixing in with the tangy jollof. Someone switches the mounted TV to a sports channel. Nkechi brings over suya, skewered beef marinated in spices and barbecued to fiery perfection and traditional to Northern Nigeria. They don’t last long at our table, polished off in just a few bites. “We have soccer on all the time,” says Nkechi, turning to the screen. “There are a lot of people with Nigerian heritage around here. Eighty percent of our clientele are Nigerian, but whenever someone else comes here and tries our food? Yeah, they like it. During the World Cup, everyone comes to watch.” We try some fufu for the first time: pounded yam, sticky and white, to be torn off into a little ball with your right hand and dipped into an accompaniment, here it’s ogbono, a spicy cow foot soup. It is great. “You like, huh?” We like. “Tastes good. Don’t chew it, though. Just dip and then swallow it. No chewing. I have no idea why American people always chew it. I keep telling them not to.” Okay, sorry. The spice rises up, warm and peppery. We’re handed a bottle of water, ice-cold. It is well received. “LA? I love LA,” says Nkechi, stealing a piece of fufu for herself. “I love the weather. I love it all.”



In 1994, Croatia were the 124th best team in the world. That’s not very good. By 1998, they were third. That is very good. A fiery, attacking side bolstered by Davor Šuker, at the time, one of the best strikers in the game. Since then, Croatia’s game has been defined by its technically gifted midfielders and disappointing performances in big games. But with world-class playmakers Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić behind pretty good strikers Andrej Kramarić, Mario Mandžukić, and Nikola Kalinić they could be liable for a surprise or two this summer…


First timers! Go Iceland. They won the hearts of neutrals at the Euro Championships in 2016 with their plucky courage in handing England their asses (and, mostly, with their strapping fans’ synchronized “HOOOO!” Viking chants on the terraces) and will likely be the underdog favorite in Russia, too. Their lack of squad depth may be an issue, but for a country with a population of 300,000, can you blame them?

Photo: Chensiyuan, CC BY-SA 4.0



Photo: Fanny Schertzer, CC BY-SA 3.0


Are you aware of the work of Leo Messi? A deft touch personified; the barreling run, the supreme balance, the wand of a left foot, the brain of Euclidean excellence, the humanizing ginger beard. He’s a genius. Literally a genius. He’s the best soccer player of all time, and there’s only one title that’s evaded him… He came so close in 2014 only to be beaten by a solitary, squirming goal by the Germans in the final, and will be absolutely desperate to get there again. Add Paulo Dybala, Sergio Agüero, and Gonzalo Higuaín, and there’s plenty of firepower on show in front of an often shaky defense. Sampaoli might just be their best hope, looking to settle a notoriously anxious squad with regimented tactics and zero horseplay.

The Empanada Factory 2513 S Robertson Blvd

You like empanadas. A perfectly grip-shaped bread stuffed with filling: what’s not to like? The Empanada Factory, as you’d imagine, are great at them and situated in a low-key little spot ran by Marcelo, an Argentine soccer fan, who loves nothing better than to be pessimistic about his country’s chances and fill you full of awesome food.

TIM WALSH I started playing at as any kid does when juice boxes and post games snacks were all the motivation. By the time I was 10 years old, European soccer highlights were being broadcast to American TV and, as a youth, I was playing nonstop and jumping fences to watch as many live MLS games as I could. When I was 16 I had the chance to go to South America which really opened my eyes to how beautiful and dense the world of soccer was globally. After college I played the game around the world, and when I came back to America, I ended up in Venice and never left. Soccer culture runs deep in this town and it’s probably the biggest soccer market in the country but, when I arrived in Venice, it really seemed like there weren’t too many people playing. You’d see old English guys having games on the grass every now and then, or random people with a ball juggling during a day at the beach. Sometimes Dillon and I would take a ball out on the sand and people would flock as if the ball was a magnet. Soon enough, you could see this town had so many footballers hidden in the shadows.


VBFC is a community football organization based in Venice Beach, built for the people and its players. They’ve been hosting very competitive, fast paced, high quality pick-up soccer matches on concrete at the handball courts on the Boardwalk for a year now. 4 v. 4. First goal wins. Sun, sea, sand, soccer. Anyone who turns up can play, fostering a community of like-minded people who can play the game they love for absolutely free.

As we always have in our lives, we worked with some local youth players and coaching and decided to start building a club focused on the neighborhood and the youth players who wanted to improve or use soccer as a tool to live a better life. We have a few youth programs that make up our “academy” and the pickup games at the Boardwalk came out of necessity: the first time I saw the Estadio (the Venice Rec Center aka “Estadio de Dogtown”), it was love at first sight. At first people would respond: “You’re playing games where?!” Most people just saw handball courts, we saw one of the best places to play the game in the country. It is the best thing we could’ve done to allow talent to grow from within our neighborhood.

DILLON CHAPMAN Between Tim and I, we have a really unique collection of experiences that we brought to the table to start VBFC. I had lived and breathed soccer from an early age, and was fortunate enough to spend five years soaking up football in England and across Europe. Having seen the way the culture revolves around the game over there, I brought a lot of this experience back with me. Playing with small local clubs and seeing supporter and community culture around those clubs has given me a lot of inspiration. While in England, I gained very special experience being a part of the formation of the UK-based charity Football Beyond Borders—where I traveled to West Africa, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan and was able to see the role football played in the lives of people from very different places. Seeing how football is taught, played and the way it affects the culture in these countries had a really strong impression on me. Having been involved in US youth soccer, and coaching in club soccer since I was 16, I have taken a lot of lessons from the way things are currently done to envision how it can be done better to push the game forward. The response to the pick-up games in Venice was super positive almost from the jump. Venice is a community that is very responsive to creativity and has a reputation for pioneering emerging sports cultures like bodybuilding, surfing, and skateboarding and we think soccer is becoming a part of that story now. The things we have been running for local kids in the community have gotten really positive responses from families who have been in Venice for generations, so we have a lot of respect for that. We’ve set up our club to allow players to enjoy the game first and foremost, not for us to get wins as coaches. The pick-up game has grown a ton, and people from all over LA continue to show up weekly to get a run out on the Estadio courts.


JESUS AGE: 22 BORN: TIJUANA, MEXICO INSTAGRAM: TRONCOSO0927 “I just moved to LA this year so I’ve been looking everywhere where I can play soccer. Now I play for two different teams in two different leagues as well as coming to Venice Beach every Sunday. It’s a great place because everyone is welcome and people from all over the world play here.”



“I’m a Venice native, so I’ve been in and all around LA my whole life. “Soccer in LA in general has always been a hotbed for the best American players. The problem that I’ve personally experienced growing up as a soccer player in LA (and the US in general) is that there were very few opportunities for low-income/middle class kids to play with a quality team that actually develops players. For the majority of my soccer career, my dad would get out of a nine hour shift, come straight to pick me up from school, and drive me an hour and half to practice in the Valley with the only team he could afford to pay for. I have friends that couldn’t afford to pay for any club team at all, but that’s all different here. You can just come and play.”



“We heard about it down here from a guy in school. It’s a great way to meet people and knowing that you can just walk past these games one day and start playing is really cool. It’s fun and the standard is really high.”

IBRAHIM AGE: 19 FROM: LEICESTER, ENGLAND INSTAGRAM: IBRAHIMIVV “Soccer in LA is just such a mix of people. It feels like a real community. The culture is growing. We’ve been all over America and there’s nowhere else that does soccer like what VBFC are doing.”



36 MICHAEL AGE: 22 FROM: FORT LAUDERALE, FL INSTAGRAM: MICHAELROSA08 “I started playing here a few months ago and it’s beautiful. I like the authentic feel, as far as the vibe goes. It’s relaxed and that’s something that’s sometimes missing in soccer culture. Sometimes it can be rigid and contained but here? You pop up, show up, and you play.”






“I’ve been in LA for two years, the US for nine. I love where I’m from in Brazil, so proud of my hometown, but I love LA because it’s so diverse, I feel at home here with the unstructured nature of the soccer, too: you come to play, meeting other people that feel the same way as you do, and just have fun. “For a long time I’ve been researching why kids drop out of soccer at a certain age in this country. Burnout can be a huge issue because practice can be very rigid, and everyone has to follow a certain style, and there can be little opportunity to enjoy yourself and just enjoy playing soccer. The need for creativity is a big thing and a relaxed environment for sport is much more fun.”

MANAGER: TITE KEY PLAYER: NEYMAR (PSG) BEST WC RESULT: CHAMPIONS (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) On our way from LAX, we met Enrique—a cab driver from Brazil who spent twenty years in Miami before moving to LA—who said that this trophy “is Brazil’s to lose” and it’s probably safer to simply avoid arguing with a man that animated. Especially if he’s at the wheel of your car. You can see his point, however: Brazil have the pedigree and the talent, with talent all over the pitch, in-form players, and quality in every single position. But are the ghosts of that 7­—1 pasting at the hands of Germany in the 2014 semi-final exorcised? And will creative fulcrum Neymar— PSG’s will-o’-the-wisp attacker and the most expensive player of all time—be fully fit after a lengthy injury spell? Only time will tell… ...but there is no telling Enrique.

Unlucky to miss out on the semi-finals, last World Cup, after losing on penalties to Holland in the final eight, Costa Rica come into 2018 as one of its the most underrated teams. In Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas they have proven class and in Bryan Ruiz, just recently passing the 100-cap mark, they have experience, as well as proving hard to beat in qualification and showing their potency to dish out the odd beating with a 4—0 hammering of USMNT (but we don’t wanna talk about that…)


Café Brasil

11736 Washington Blvd A lively, brightly colored space, with actual Brazilians supporting their beloved national team on the TV screens very loudly. You can also get some of the best authentic Brazilian food in the city here, with Churrascaria grilled meats, stews, and enough fresh juice to make you vibrate with vitality.

Photo: Victor Araiza, CC BY 2.0


Photo: jbcurio, CC BY 2.0


In only their second tournament as an independent nation, Serbia’s crunch match with Switzerland on the second matchday will likely be make-orbreak for their chances of reaching the knockout rounds for the first time. Their backline—flanked by the experience of Branislav Ivanović and captain Aleksandar Kolarov (and his terrifying left foot)— may be their strongest asset, but further forward Southampton’s Dušan Tadić and Torino’s Adem Ljajić will provide spark behind the mercurial Aleksandar Mitrović. The Fulham striker was on fire this past season, and his country have only lost once in qualifying, and may prove to be an outside bet in the group if their attack can click.

SWITZERLAND MANAGER: VLADIMIR PETKOVIC KEY PLAYER: XHERDAN SHAQIRI (STOKE CITY) BEST WC RESULT: QUARTER-FINALS (1934, 1954) The cruel victims of Ángel di María’s 118th-minute winner for Argentina at the last World Cup, Switzerland’s world ranking at sixth may be a little generous, flattering to deceive at recent tournaments. In 2006, they became the only team to be knocked out of a World Cup without conceding a single goal, by virtue of a shootout defeat to Ukraine. This time, compact attacker Xherdan Shaqiri (essentially a sentient mini-fridge with superb balance who can pull a goal from thin air) can cause problems for any on the break, and Ricardo Rodríguez’s left foot will have a few goalkeepers trembling on set pieces. They’ll likely get through Group E, but with Germany awaiting in the second round, matching their quarter-final best is a huge task.

Photo: Offside Sports Photography


Photo: Ludovic Péron, CC BY-SA 3.0





40 SOUTH KOREA MANAGER: SHIN TAE-YONG KEY PLAYER: SON HEUNG-MIN (SPURS) BEST WC RESULT: FOURTH PLACE (2002) It’s easy to forget that South Korea were just a game from the final in 2002, the co-hosts denied only by a narrow defeat to Germany. You will get exceptionally long odds on the same happening in Russia—particularly if the refereeing decisions in Korea’s games are less, ahem, ‘fortunate’ this time— but they are by no means without a prayer in Group F. They will be hoping Son Heung-Min’s fantastic season for Tottenham Hotspur translates into onto the World Cup stage if they are to progress.

CAITLYN SCHREPFER AMERICA’S #1 “I’ve played soccer my whole life. I started as a goalkeeper when I was five. As you’d assume, my foot skills were okay, but I couldn’t juggle. When I was playing in high school and got injured, and I learned how to juggle just because that was all I could do for those four months. I went from being able to do twenty juggles when I got injured to, just a few months later… Well, I think I stopped counting at around three thousand. “I’ve been freestyling for about four and a half years now. It’s been two years since I went full time. I was just a 17-year-old kid who was good at juggling and got paid a little to do it. The more I did it, the more shows I’d get, the more interest people had because I was a girl doing this in a very male-oriented sport. When I started, I was one girl on a team of about ten guys. They were all super supportive but it was obvious that I had an influence that none of the guys could have because you’d get the girls in the audience watching, and they were much more interested in seeing me do it than a bunch of guys. Seeing that representation is so important for kids.


“This all started as just a bit of fun, but now I do it full time and last year earned the rank of the number one female freestyler in the country. My freestyles are quite dance-based (which is funny because I am a terrible dancer) but I used to be a gymnast so that influences what I do. My style is pretty fluid, acrobatic. I go with my intuition when building routines, picking things that flow well together and just going from there.

“I love LA for soccer. I never really figured that out until after I stopped playing for my college team and started looking for places to play pick up. I just realised there were so many opportunities to play futsal, full-field, five-a-side with all cultures, all ethnicities, in all sorts of backdrops: places that are full of graffiti, beautiful traditional soccer fields, and so much in between.”

Photos: Jonathan Turton

“When I perform, I don’t feel any pressure. I practice every day for several hours a day and it’s become second nature. It’s actually almost more meditative for me, I’d say: freestyle is something you have to focus on entirely to do well and when you are doing that, none of the other worries from your day to day life seem to matter. It’s a way to escape from it all.


5812 S Santa Fe Ave Opening in 2016, with varied clientele and a great atmosphere, Angie Martinez’s bar Novacane has become a popular haunt for locals. Black, white, Latino, LGBT, men, women, they all flock to the spot, with its female-only staff policy, outstanding micheladas (replete with delicious tamarind sticks), and plenty of televisions around the space, the bar is often packed. “We get a lot of women in here,” says Angie. “It’s a nice inclusive place. It’s the hood, but it’s a safe, chill vibe.” Aiming to mix Downtown feel with local prices, the bar’s menu mixes classic Mexican dishes with traditional mixed-drink staples. “We get a lot of regulars,” she adds, mixing us a new drink called Addiction. “They always ask me which team I’m supporting but, truth is, I don’t even really like sports. I just put it on ‘cos people like it. I always tell them I support whichever team they’re watching.” She laughs, handing us our cocktail. “I must support like fifty teams by now…”

MEXICO MANAGER: JUAN CARLOS OSORIO KEY PLAYER: JONATHAN DOS SANTOS (LA GALAXY) BEST WC RESULT: QUARTER-FINALS (1970, 1986) Mexico arrive in Russia on a run of six straight appearances in the knockout rounds—although on none of those occasions were they able to get past the round of 16. Legendary midfielder and captain Andrés Guardado may well make his last international appearance at this year’s tournament, along with 39-year-old Rafael Márquez, who appears in his fifth World Cup. Supported by Galaxy stars the dos Santos brothers, Giovani and Jonathan, and with Javier Hernández and Carlos Vela leading the line, there’s plenty of firepower to worry all of Mexico’s Group F rivals.

Photo: Offside Sports Photography



MANAGER: JOACHIM LÖW KEY PLAYER: TONI KROOS (REAL MADRID) BEST WC RESULT: CHAMPIONS (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014) Here they are. Die Mannschaft. The Team. The World Cup holders. Perennial favorites for silverware, world number one, and masters of the penalty kick. Germany have made it to, at least, the semi-finals at the last four World Cups and, in their current form, it would be a major shock to not see them there again. There’s outstanding quality all over the field for Joachim Löw to call upon: from Bayern Munich’s Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels at the back and Real’s irresistibly classy Toni Kroos linking them to Leroy Sané, Mesut Özil, and Thomas Müller further forward. Even if Manuel Neuer—regarded by many as the best ‘keeper in the world—doesn’t make it after his lengthy injury absence, they’ll have Barça’s impressive Marc-André ter Stegen to call on… A potential quarter-final clash with old rivals England is one to look out for, too.

BiergartenLA 206 N Western Ave

A German pub in the heart of Koreatown? With Korean-German fusion food and loads of beer and a bunch of screens on which to watch the soccer? Uh… yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.



The biggest story surrounding Sweden’ s appearance in Russia is a player who will not even make the squad—the Galaxy’s very own Zlatan Ibrahimović. The record goal scorer retir ed from international duty in 2016 and hints of a spectacular comeback for these fina ls were quashed just before the tournament. Shame. Without him, Sweden will rely on RB Leipzig winger Emil Forsberg and Manchester United center back Victor Lindelöf to lead them on, as they look to make up for the disappointm ent of missing out on the last two World Cup s.


12400 Washington Blvd A tight little bar with a gold-leaf sign, rock classics on the speakers, and more superb Scandi alcohol on the shelves than you can shake a bleary finger at. Packed for Sweden matches, the food menu is full of Swedish (and Turkish) delights and the outspoken owner, Magnus, is probably the most handsome man we’ve ever met. “You go tell Zlatan,” he says, “that the king of Sweden is right here.” We’ll leave that one to you, dude.

Photo: Илья Хохлов, CC BY-SA 3.0


HARRISON PJ HARRISON PJ THE CITY OF ANGE LS’ FOUN DER AND CREATIVE DIREC TOR AT ENGL ISH TEAM PLYM OUTH ARGY LE TALK S TO US ABOU T TAKIN G SOCC ER BACK TO THE GRAS SROO TS... idea “This being an immigrant nation, Los Angeles encapsulates that pot of immigrants coming together in one place. That idea of a melting game is evident everywhere you look in this city. You have the world’s ; you bringing people together, one of the beautiful things about football guy, African guy, Spanish guy, French tes—a teamma at can look around t that. lots of people with Latino heritage here as well—who represen

“What America has always had is participation in this game. These futsal, days, you can’t get a field, but there are so many options: playing streets, the in playing or league, Sunday to nt or playing the equivale or getting into one-on-one. Because you do have this mixed heritage be of people here, you get different expressions of the game. There’ll club classic or Kevin, like ers football street or Caitlyn like rs freestyle the game football players, so there’s a more diverse range of versions of are going on than there are back home in England, where your options just five-a-side or 11 v 11 on grass. a “A few years ago, my friend and partner Joe Sumner and I started we’d grassroots club of our own, City of Angels. There were things thought observed about the US that we didn’t rate and some things we much and better much is kids for g coachin of level The . fantastic were play a to kids enables weather the And . England in more technical than can put the more technical type of game because they’re not on mud and things ball on the floor and move it. But then at the same time, we saw us. for jarring bit a were that background “I come from low-income housing in North West England, a poraries like where you play on the streets all night, and you see contem see them a Steven Gerrard or a Wayne Rooney rising up from that. You , being a athletes elite being ds transcen that ing someth go and become a way that’s symbol of hope for other kids from a similar background. In only barrier what football’s about. It’s that great social vehicle where the streets. to entry is a squashed can of cola we used to play with on the a ball, or and hoop a get to got haven’t You game. whole That can be the for me, a hockey stick and ten other guys. It’s the most accessible thing

Photos: Jonathan Turton


soccer “LA’s definitely a diverse city, and what’s interesting about and rating collabo unds backgro t differen from now is about people und ensuring something that brings joy against the political backgro for a few of the moment. There’s been a focus on immigration here coming of years now, and sport is a positive example of what people together can do.

the greatest social vehicle. If you’re a great footballer, no matter how poor you are, people will find you. “Something that we wanted to create, a kind of hybrid approach of taking that sense of socialism, the idea that this is an affordable, democratic game for everyone, and then combining that with the high level of technical coaching and the other benefits the Americans have. We’ve created a program in the Valley, bringing in Galaxy legend Cobi Jones, who was incredible. Having a guy that’s got top-tier coaching experience like that and putting him in a technical position with football, we know that we can provide something that’s as good as anywhere. It also helps because some people are suspicious that if you’re not paying, it’s not going to be as good. For us, we’ve got the all-time caps and goals leader of the US. We did a collaboration with Man United over the summer, and that really helped, too. That gave us a lot of goodwill in the community. They saw we were bringing in a lot of highquality stuff. “Right now, we’re at moment where there are still gatekeepers to football—scouts, managers, whatever—but now, there are outsiders coming to football, too, having a career, sometimes better than some pros are gonna have. You get these outsiders— whether it’s freestylers, free kick guys, guys like VBFC, where an Instagram account says ‘Right, we’re playing a game here on Sunday’ and this community of people come out to play and watch. Or us at City of Angels, who are saying “Well, we’re just two lads who want to start our own club”. In England, you couldn’t do that. It’s just impossible. For us to be able to do that is great because we’re kind of outsiders. Soccer in the US is going through a bit of a revolution in the way that music and film and other art forms have before. There are teams who are playing games on YouTube, and their viewing figures are stronger than many pro clubs—that’s really heartening because you think you can take a little bit out of this and a little from that and do your own thing. Now, if I were a kid growing up I’d think ‘Right, let’s start my own football club’ or ‘I’ll become a freestyler’. “I see a lot of this stuff happening in LA, to the extent that it almost feels like it originated here, this particular deconstruction of what soccer means because, in this town, people just do their own thing.”


ENGLAND MANAGER: GARETH SOUTHGATE KEY PLAYER: RAHEEM STERLING (MAN CITY) BEST WC RESULT: CHAMPIONS (1966) The Three Lions have not won a knockout game at a major tournament for twelve years now, since the days of David Beckham and 2006’s ‘Golden Generation’. Although no England fan can ever be too confident given recent tournament results against the likes of Iceland, Costa Rica, and Algeria (and the general, deep-seated pessimism that rests in every Englishman’s bones), not making it out of a group including Tunisia and Panama would represent a major shock. Gareth Southgate’s side are solid all round but short on major star power, although City’s Raheem Sterling—fresh off his first league winning season—may see this as his opportunity to cross into the realms of world-class.

Ye Olde King’s Head 116 Santa Monica Blvd The best English pub in California. There. We said it. Someone had to. Loads of screens (so many screens) and great draft beer and pleasingly no-nonsense bar staff and a genuinely fantastic Full English breakfast make it a firm favorite with football* fans. (*Remember to leave ‘soccer’ at the door)


Photo: Public Domain






MANAGER: NABIL MAÂLOUL KEY PLAYER: AYMEN MATHLOUTHI (AL-BATIN) BEST WC RESULT: GROUP STAGE (1978, 1998, 2002, 2006) The first African side to ever win a match at a World Cup in 1978, Tunisia are back on the biggest stage for the first time since 2006. Tunisia’s preparations were rocked by the loss of key man Youssef Msakni to injury, and taking up the gauntlet in his absence is enigmatic Rennes winger Wahbi Khazri, resurrecting his career in France after a tricky spell in England. Third place in the group is probably the best they can hope for, but warm-up wins against Iran and Costa Rica should give fans hope that they can snatch at least a draw from their more illustrious opponents in Group G, Belgium and England.

Sadly best known as the team that beat the USMNT to Russia, Panama’s first appearance at a World Cup is a landmark moment for the country. Captain Román Torres, whose last-minute winner against Costa Rica sent his country to the finals, leads Panama into a tough group, but with six players on more than 100 international caps in their squad, including veteran striker Luis Tejada up top (the country’s all-time leading goal scorer), experience runs through the team.

Little Bear 1855 Industrial St A killer cafe in the Arts District with plenty of Belgian (and Belgian-style) imported beers on tap. The place is absolutely jumping whenever Belgium have a game on, with the bright, spacious place packed to absolute capacity, the fans chanting “BEER! BEER! BEER! BEER!” as they go (we made up that last part, but you can never tell what will happen in the throes of World Cup Fever...)



MANAGER: ROBERTO MARTÍNEZ KEY PLAYER:​KEVIN DE BRUYNE (MAN CITY) BEST WC RESULT:​FOURTH PLACE (1986) Blessed with an astonishing generation of Premier League talent, the Red Devils will be keen to ensure they make the most of their world-class window to win. Supporting Man United’s Romelu Lukaku is the handy pair of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne, arguably the two most talented players in their division, while a defense including Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld, and Jan Vertonghen should be among the best in the tournament, even before you add in man mountain ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois. Favorites to top their group, this team are the archetypal underdogs-who-are-actually-overdogs, and there’s no reason why they can’t go the whole way.

Photo: Offside Sports Photography


La Fonda Antioqueña 5125 Melrose Ave

LA’s best Colombian joint is run by a guy named German. German’s been here thirty years, crafting La Fonda Antioqueña into the quintessential representation of Antioquia in this city. “The people feel the culture in the food,” says German, beaming at our table. “We put the same spices and flavors as back at home. We have the restaurant decorated with Colombian ornaments, too, and many Colombian customers in the area have never visited their homeland—or even eaten many Colombian dishes in a while—so when they come into the restaurant the feel sentimental and start to tear up.”

COLOM BIA MANAGER: JOSÉ PÉKERMAN KEY PLAYER: JAMES RODRÍGUEZ BEST WC RESULT: QUARTER-FINALS (2014) Dragged kicking and screaming to the quarter-finals almost single-handedly by James Rodríguez (and the occasional thunderous volley) in 2014, this time around veteran goal-getter Radamel Falcao is available, too. Add in Juan Cuadrado, Carlos Bacca, and Davinson Sánchez, and there’s no reason this team can’t surprise some of the bigger names. March’s 3–2 win in France after going 2–0 down shows they can defeat anyone on their day.


“Colombians have developed some good talent that play in European leagues,” says German, “and here at the restaurant, we follow our players on television. And this World Cup? We will be full. The restaurant always fills during the games as we televise them all and, as a matter of fact, from my knowledge Colombia has a couple of 4am games, and we’ve been having phone calls for weeks from customers asking if we would be open during those early hours...” Photo:, CC BY 3.0 BR


We can’t blame them. The menu is rich with choice and flavor. We went for a piled-high plate of bandeja paisa, a north Colombian favourite. Steak with beans, rice, plantain, fried egg, avocado, and chicharrón colombiano—a beautifully crispy slab of fried pork belly. On one plate. Moving after this, you ain’t. Luckily they show plenty of soccer so this summer you won’t have to. With German and his patrons all mad for the game, scarfs adorn the ceilings, shirts along the walls, and games on the television.


Legendary Japa neseAmerican oneman band Arthur Nakane is a Little Tokyo mainstay, playing hits and taking requests. Talk to him abou t The Beatles: he’s go t some stories...

A sixth straight World Cups for the Japanese, who rest their—admittedly slim—hopes of making the knockouts on midfield pair Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, alongside 50-goal hero Shinji Okazaki of Leicester City. Defenders Yuto Nagatomo, Maya Yoshida, and Hiroki Sakai add experience, both at the international and major European league level. A genuine contender to challenge Nigeria for the best jersey of the tournament, too.



POLAND MANAGER: ADAM NAWALKA KEY PLAYER: ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (BAYERN MUNICH) BEST WC RESULT: THIRD PLACE (1974, 1982) In Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik, Poland boast one of the most fearsome striking duos at the World Cup. Jakub Błaszczykowski is the heartbeat of the side, and although keeper Wojciech Szczęsny had his shaky moments with Arsenal, his maturation in Italy has seen Juventus line him up as Gianluigi Buffon’s successor. Ranked fifth in the world as recently as last year, Poland will be slight favorites to top Group H, but a second-round date with Belgium or England could make for a genuinely fascinating contest.

MANAGER: ALIOU CISSÉ KEY PLAYER: SADIO MANÉ (LIVERPOOL) BEST WC RESULT: QUARTER-FINALS (2002) The majority of Senegal’s hopes hang on Liverpool’s Sadio Mané. The wing er is joined on the flanks by Keita Baldé, another jet-heeled goal threat who play s for Monaco in France. Drawn into one of the most competitive groups in the tournament, Senegal will fancy their chances of progressing if they can get a result against Colombia or Poland. Time to channel the spirit of Papa Bouba Diop—a man affectionate ly nicknamed ‘The Wardrobe’—and replicate the shock opening game win against France in 2002.


Photos: Jonathan Turton


“I’m the head coach of LA Galaxy South Bay, coaching Boys U10 and U11 and Girls U17 and, from the time I started, I told them that I wasn’t going to teach them soccer; we were going in to be playing football. There’s a difference. There’s a difference move people way the ball, the on attitude, the way people move off the ball, the way you kick, the way you act, the way you talk… “One thing this city has over pretty much all of the others is its diversity of people. I’m from Jamaica, and on our coaching staff, there are only a few Americans: everyone else is from somewhere else. The experiences of different countries and cultures are really valuable. Football is not just a recreational in game; when I train my teams, they train to win. The education but nt, importa all is the sport, the community and camaraderie the in football, as in life, you need to work hard and do things in mes Someti ful. success be and goals your achieve to right way that means going back and re-teaching kids how to kick a ball, how to move, and how to think about football, helping them to unlearn bad habits that were a holdover from a previous generation’s interpretation of the game. “Part of what this new soccer culture is about is the re-education of the parents. Just because you want your kid to play in a youth team, doesn’t mean they deserve the spot over someone else. It’s a system of support and dedication, understanding the flaws of our players and enhancing their strengths, teaching them to play their positions, to spread out and express themselves, to not be afraid to do things the ‘wrong’ way to achieve what you need to. “It’s a process, a long-term project, but the difference is already huge. Clubs like ours—along with others—are doing everything to ensure these kids have a proper development of love and passion for the beautiful game. They’re getting an introduction to what football is like outside of the US, making them better players and better people. “It’s a whole new ball game.”









“A Place Called Home was established in 1993 as a reaction to the LA Riots in 1992. Started by Deborah Constant, she came here wanting to make a difference. Kids were literally killing each other, and there are stories about Deborah standing between two rival gangs pointing guns around her, and she’s right in the middle defusing that conflict. She’s a legend. She worked with the teenagers in an after-school program, and it became one of those things where they were like: I like coming here Deborah, but I also have a younger brother and a younger sister, and I can’t leave them at home by themselves—can they come, too? Soon the teens started bringing their younger siblings, and it just blew up. This all started in a basement in a church not too far from here, they outgrew that and moved into a bigger basement, and then they quickly outgrew that, too.

Photos: Jonathan Turton


“We’ve been in this spot since about 2000, and it’s just grown and grown, evolving into so many different programs. They include health and wellbeing—encompassing athletics, gardening, nutrition, and mental health with our counseling department. We focus a lot on the arts, too—fine arts, computers, music, dance, culinary art. We do education on all levels from elementary to high school as well as university level. We have social enterprise classes now where children learn about business and entrepreneurship because everyone has a great idea, but where do you go from there?


“Soccer is the most popular sport that we have in this community. Our demographic is mostly Latino families, so it’s in their veins, it’s in their blood, almost like they’re born with a soccer ball next to them in their mother’s belly, which is amazing. Now we have a sports league where all the fixtures are scheduled, and the parents can get involved— for the many of them who come from Latin America, it’s a nostalgia thing, too, keeping them part of the culture. “For a long time, this neighborhood has been known for its many challenges, particularly crime. One of the places gang members congregate is at the parks, so in a way, we’re taking these spaces back amicably, even inviting those folks to be a part of what we’re doing—and their kids can be part of it, too. Those are not real barriers to us. We have a lot of our youth whose families are gang members. These kids, they might be the first generation that breaks out of that cycle... “If we have a family that gets evicted from their home for whatever reason, we partner with shelters to provide for them until they get back on their feet. We’ll have a holiday where we provide toys, a food pantry, or Thanksgiving dinner for the families with kids on the waiting list just so they can engage with us. We have 700 kids on that list because our retention rate is so high. They come here and stay coming. We also do the South Central Sports Program, chartering twenty other non-profits and schools that cannot participate in sports because their school district is so small and they do not have the funding or the means. We invite them to our league so their students can also have that exposure in sports. We focus on four seasons—soccer, American football, basketball, and volleyball. We provide all of that free of charge, through our sponsorships, through a foundation that has granted us money for the past five years—and Herbalife and LA Galaxy are a big part of that. That help goes a long way: soccer is one of the least expensive sports to be involved with because what do you need? A ball.”


STREET USA USA USA USA USA SOCCER USA Mikayla Campbell of Street Soccer USA talks about dedication to soccer for social change in Watts and beyond…


“I’m from the San Fernando Valley and having attitude is picking up, though, here in LA, but we played soccer since about the age of five, I’ve still have a long way to go. developed a unique understanding of soccer within the Los Angeles landscape. I feel like I “When I first started at Street Soccer USA, I was played every sport growing up but it was soccer under the impression that Watts was a largely that stuck. I don’t think I ever asked to be a African-American community. Now I see that goalkeeper, and I guess I never complained, but 98% of our program is Latino youth and perhaps I got good at it, so I stayed there. I played in high a couple of black youth. In a sense, this was school at Bishop Alemany in Mission Hills, and reflective of my experience playing soccer growing then at Loyola Marymount University. I played up as my teams were never populated with more for two years there, then studied abroad, going to than one or two black youth, and so in my Spain, Cuba, and also participating in a domestic experience, I faced a lot of scrutiny as a black girl exchange at Spelman College in Atlanta. During playing soccer. my time in Cuba, I enjoyed the spontaneity of participating in pickup games with the local “What I’ve seen is a deficit of black youth in youth. Maybe that sparked something in me. soccer, and although I’m sure there are a variety Looking back, that seems to have foreshadowed of reasons as to why, maybe it’s because we’re what my relationship to soccer would be in the scrutinized or discouraged from playing. I think next year. it’s very interesting because, elsewhere, soccer is huge in other black countries across the globe. A “Here in America, the upset at the men’s team large part of our work requires us to be culturally not qualifying for the World Cup is symbolic sensitive, understanding that soccer is a highly of how we treat soccer—especially youth soccer. influential component of Latino culture. Soccer Sometimes, we over-complicate the sport. We has so much potential to grow youth on and off talk about safe spaces to play, best practices in the field. I attribute so much of the woman that I coaching, and forget the desire of youth to play am today and so much of my success to what I’ve and have fun, to simply learn by playing. We don’t learned on the field. Now I can navigate so many see many kids walking down the street kicking a diverse spaces because of the conversations that ball here, as often as we might see it abroad. That I’ve had, and the leadership skills that I’ve grown

Photos: Jonathan Turton



The Street Soccer USA Cup—Los Angeles will be held August 18th at LA Live, presented by the LA Galaxy Foundation. Proceeds from the Cup Series fund Street Soccer USA’s soccer for social change programs, as well as the installation of permanent fields for underserved kids to play at throughout the year.

questioning, rather than us guiding them to the answers. That’s what football is all about, really: this isn’t a game with timeouts. You have to problem solve in real time, with all the speed bumps that come with that, the stresses and strains, with tired bodies and minds...

into and acquired. Leadership has never been an issue for me, and maybe that’s because I was a goalkeeper, often a very loud, communicative position. Perhaps it doesn’t apply to every person that plays soccer, but I believe I’ve become more confident, and that’s really what the work we do here seeks to achieve. The Los Angeles Unified School District reports that 17,000 of its students are homeless at any given time, and so our nocost community soccer programs help to promote skills on and off the field, keeping kids engaged and supported throughout middle school, high school, and then, eventually, college. We want to create self-determining problem-solvers. We want help kids develop self-efficacy and have the tools they need to succeed despite their neighborhoods and so many external influences placing limitations on their potential. “At the core of our operation is the concept of relationships. A summation of what I’ve learned or how I’ve developed as an individual through soccer has been dealing with adversity, working with a team, and maintaining positive relationships with members of said team. I now carry that into my work life—the ability to overcome challenges and deal with adversity. We have the kids figure out how to solve their own challenges through their own effective

“This program was a little challenging for me at first, as I wanted to hit the ground running. I wanted to have so much impact straight away and do all these things. The kids were probably a little bit like: “Who’s this lady who wants us to play all these new games?” I needed to step back and have a relationship with everybody. But now, the response from the kids is really positive. I’ve started to form relationships with the parents as well, and they’re beginning to catch on to the work we’ve done. We did a USC clinic in April which was a great exposure outing, and an opportunity for the kids to see what is available to them outside of Watts. That was also a huge opportunity for the parents to see all we’re doing and how we do what we do. There’s so much more behind it. It’s not just soccer.”

Street Soccer USA is funded by the LA84 Foundation and City Council President Herb J. Wesson.


The Mundial x LA Galaxy Guide to the World Cup in LA  

The MUNDIAL x LA Galaxy Guide to the World Cup in LA is a comprehensive guide that features places to watch, experiences and consume the 201...

The Mundial x LA Galaxy Guide to the World Cup in LA  

The MUNDIAL x LA Galaxy Guide to the World Cup in LA is a comprehensive guide that features places to watch, experiences and consume the 201...