So, the World Cup is officially over for another four years… But what a tournament it was! With 32 teams and a total of 65 matches played across 12 venues, Russia proved itself a worthy host for one of the most entertaining World Cups ever. Packed full of sensational goals, the most expensive tournament to date was also one of the friendliest, bringing people together from all over the world, and allowing the underdogs (see Iceland and, of course, Croatia) to rise, with fewer than ten red cards for the first time ever.
Creativity and football are inexplicably linked. Whether its creativity from the likes of Kylian Mbappé on the pitch in the form of a stepover or cheeky heel flick; Colombian fans sneaking alcohol into the stadium in binoculars or the British nation changing the words of Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again to share their love of England manager, Gareth Southgate; it’s everywhere. However, the crossovers between the two go far beyond the aforementioned silliness. Creativity and football promote togetherness and the celebration of people from all walks of life, whether you’re a young girl in Watford or a four-time father in Lagos.
We’ve enjoyed every blow of the whistle – and peek inside the fully-kitted out VAR box – here at It’s Nice That and have a host of favourite moments that’ll keep us talking. So, as a celebration of what has been an incredible month, we got in touch a bunch of designers, illustrators and animators to prove just how creativity and football go together like Gareth Southgate and waistcoats. Over to Max Siedentopf, Siggi Egerston, Nadine Redlich, Felicity Marshall, Max Guther, Wieden+Kennedy, Builder’s Club and Eric Hu to share their favourite moments (with a few of our own thrown in there too).
This year was a huge one for Iceland, marking the first time it has ever qualified for the World Cup: no mean feat for such a small nation. For this reason, we had to reach out to Icelandic-born, Berlin-based illustrator Siggi Eggertsson to hear his favourite moment of the past month.
When presented with the brief, he turned to another first for the World Cup: the use of VAR. “I knew right away that I wanted to do something related to the new Video Assistant Referee system,” he explains. “The final game also had some good moments. The dramatic rain as soon as the award ceremony started, Putin under the umbrella while everyone else got soaked. Pussy Riot invading the field. The security guys blocking the money shot of France lifting the trophy. I love chaos and when things go a bit wrong.” His visual response pokes fun at his, turning the referee’s gesticulations for VAR into a geometric, looping animation.
Although coming to football quite “late in life”, Siggi developed a love for José Mourinho and his “trolling in the media” while living in London and has been supporting Chelsea ever since, “but my love for José has faded, for obvious reasons,” he adds.
“I see a massive link between creativity and football,” Max Siedentopf tells It’s Nice That. “The best example from this World Cup is the millions of memes that have been floating around for the past month. People from all corners of the world used football, and everything that happens around it, as inspiration to create fun and creative art pieces.”
In terms of his favourite moment, Max cast his mind back to before the tournament even began. “I was on a shoot in Italy,” he recalls, “After talking to a few locals about how they didn’t qualify for the World Cup, many of them described it as a national tragedy and explained how the whole country would rather pretend the World Cup was cancelled, and not taking place, instead of admitting that their team didn’t qualify.”
With this in mind, Max’s “favourite moment” is as characteristically witty as you’d expect. Engraved in both Italian and English, his memorial stone remembers 2018: the year the World Cup was cancelled.
“Unfortunately, I’m not a big sports fan,” German illustrator, Nadine Redlich tells us. As a result, Nadine’s response is an ode to anyone more interested in what happens off the pitch during the World Cup. “I guess that’s the reason why one of my World Cup highlights was a stray plastic bag on the soccer field during the Sweden and Germany game. Surprisingly it stayed in the game for quite a while, before it got removed. I was rooting for it to return in the second half.”
Despite this astute observation, it was the Portuguese star player, Christiano Ronaldo’s Adam’s apple which finally took the top spot. “It was in focus quite a bit while he was singing the Portuguese national anthem and I wondered how it would feel about the limelight,” she remarks.
“Any sport or game that requires you to out-think your opponent calls for a certain degree of creativity, I think,” responds London-based print designer, Felicity Marshall when questioned about the crossovers between football and creativity. “My Dad used to take me to matches when I was younger and I’ve always loosely followed it since… although to be honest I don’t know all that much about the players and politics these days, so I enjoy mostly the aspect of people coming together to watch the games.”
Consequently, Felicity’s favourite moment highlights one particularly passionate person who gave us all a laugh while watching the beautiful game this year: Argentinian legend, Diego Maradona.“Maradona’s such a big character and his antics in this World Cup were pretty hard to ignore. Every time I sat down to think about the brief my mind just kept coming back to him,” she explains. The result is a stylised illustration of “the many phases of Maradona”, showing him flipping the middle finger, getting drunk on wine and, finally, falling asleep.
“Even though Germany didn’t go through the first round I watched nearly all of the matches [of this year’s World Cup],” explains German illustrator Max Guther. “I’m not a huge football fan, but I do really enjoy watching it, especially the European games and the World Cup.” Despite enjoying the game itself, it’s the people that surround it which really captured Max’s imagination: “not only the players, the managers or the football high society but the fans, how they wail and celebrate”.
Max’s favourite moment, therefore, occurred on the day of Germany’s demise and is a personal observation made away from the bright lights and TV screens. “I was sitting outside at lunch around three hours before the last game of the German team and there was this car, full of German flags,” he recalls. “There are always cars with flags on the outside mirror, the aerial or scarfs in the back window around the big football cups but this car had almost every fan article I knew and then some. It might not sound that special but Germans don’t show their flag too often, just at the European and World Cups, so when they do it – they do it right.”
“I think there is a deep connection between sporting creativity and artistic creativity. When people talk about ‘creative’ footballers, they are the ones who can produce game-changing bits of magic mysteriously out of nowhere – which sounds to me a lot like the description of a great artist or thinker,” muses Tom Pounder of Wieden+Kennedy. A Queen’s Park Rangers season ticket holder, Tom is a huge football fan and like many other huge football fans (who support England), his “expectations were extremely low for this tournament. I certainly wasn’t expecting to do anything about England for this brief,” he explains.
W+K’s favourite moment is, therefore, a response to the surprise the nation received over the past month. “It was quite tricky, to begin with, because World Cup tournaments play out like a big long story so it’s hard to gauge the significance of an event or thing within it until it’s all done. And then England started to get on a roll! Towards the end, it felt impossible to do anything other than something about England,” Tom outlines.
Looping from top to bottom, the studio’s contribution is a continual gradient celebrating the England warm-up kit. “Russia 2018 allowed England to escape the chokehold of nostalgia and finally look forward as a footballing nation. The England warm-up shirt is the pure embodiment of this new era and it is the shirt by which this World Cup campaign will be remembered. It draws from the past but looks to the future. It represents the evolution of greatness, through heritage, not nostalgia. It is a gradient, expressing change and diversity.”
“We all really love the World Cup. It makes people come together,” Builders Club tell It’s Nice That. “Especially – you see all the different nations coming together in the pub. We loved the performance of the English team. However, we were also disappointed to realise that it wasn’t enough to reach the final.”
With this in mind, the studio toyed with the idea of documenting the interesting life in an English pub during the game and ended up with a few “sweet snaps”. In the end, however, the rise and fall of the English team proved too hard to ignore, resulting in a looping 3d illustration. “When England was losing against Croatia, we were all very frustrated. Almost angry at the English team. We smashed footballs against the lion that stands for the English team. We were throwing trainers and M&S waistcoats at the lion. We shot a smoke cannon. We were shaking in anger,” the studio recalls. Only, “Everything happened virtually in 3D space, so we could get away with it.”
This joint product is indicative of how Builders Club view the intersection of football and creativity. Both see groups of people coming together, working towards a mutual desire. “There are some parallels here with how we at Builders Club operate. Everybody has their strengths and knows each other. We’re a team of stars trying to battle the obstacles of visual communication. There’s something magical lying in collaboration and how an idea can be passed along and suddenly land a goal,” it remarks.
Design director at Nike, Eric Hu, opted for a typographic response for his favourite moment. “The Japan and Belgium game was the first time I found myself genuinely emotional over the sport. It was so heartbreaking because Japan fought so well but Belgium clearly deserved it? See, that’s another thing I haven’t felt before, being happy for the team you were rooting against and rallying behind them,” he explains.
Set on a grey background with the word “Japan” beautifully filling the space in hand-drawn, calligraphy-inspired lettering, Eric’s favourite moment celebrates the entirety of the Japanese team’s tournament. “I didn’t want to do a particular moment per se because I think, with sports, it takes every athlete a lifetime to get to any singular moment so this goes out to the entire team and their community,” he adds. In terms of the lettering, Eric wanted to render the word in the spirit of a war banner but “intentionally avoided using Kanji or Hiragana script because ultimately those are Latin characters (and writing Japan in Japanese seemed like lazy exoticism in 2018) so I opted for a Western calligraphic tradition that’s more suited for Latin characters”.
It’s safe to say the Japanese team stole everyone’s hearts this year, eventually leaving the World Cup due to a last minute goal by Belgium in the last kick of the game. Upon leaving, however, they showed the world what true sportsmanship is by leaving their changing room spotless and possibly the sweetest thank you note we’ve ever seen.