After a little more than a year of building FC Shirts United, I’ve decided to pull the plug.

Ten tournaments, 137 blog posts, 17 predictions, and. . . honestly, nowhere near as many shirt sales as I’d hoped.

It was kind of a long shot that this endeavor would break even compared to the time I put into it, given the approximately $1/shirt profit from Spreadshirt. I do still wonder if I’d marketed more heavily or more effectively or tricked Gwyneth Paltrow into tweeting about my site or something whether it might have taken off. But at the very least, despite a lot of hours spent programming and researching soccer teams of the Far East and Google-translating Armenian websites and cursing the tons of cool logos that don’t have any higher-resolution copies anywhere on the Internet than the crappy 200×200 version on Wikipedia — deep breath — despite all that, I did manage to limit my investment, more or less, to just time spent. And that stuff was all actually a lot of fun 98% of the time, and I geeked out pretty majorly on all of it, so it wasn’t too bad of a deal in the end.

So, time to draw the curtain here. For the time being, at least, the ten winning shirts are still available for purchase. They’re all pretty cool in my honest opinion, and certain to be amazingly valuable collectors’ items someday. 😉

Cheers!
Chris

 

From my info @ fcshirtsunited.com inbox this morning (yes, really):

Dear Sir,

My name is [redacted], I’m working as (AGENT) with the Liaoning Whowin FC. We are urgently looking for a coach for our Club.

Salary $31,000 per month, contract agreement 12months. If you are interested forward your Resume for assessment and contact me directly for further negotiation.

Regard
[redacted]

Liaoning Whowin F.C.

All I need to do is learn Chinese and move to Shenyang in China’s Liaoning Province. Oh, and learn to be a football coach, I suppose. Or, I can keep working on this site; to be competitive, I just need people to start buying about 1,000 shirts per day.

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Goal, the New York Times Soccer Blog, has a nice post on the successful second half of the Xolos season: Tijuana Rising.

I had a short post a year ago, when Tijuana was first promoted to the Primera. Now they’re coming to the end of their first full season, and look to have had good success so far, both on and off the field:

The well-documented drug violence and ransom kidnappings that have ravaged Mexico in the past several years hit Tijuana — where tourism is a significant part of the economy — especially hard. At its destructive peak in 2008, there were 850 murders in the city. Main tourist drags like Avenida Revolución, for years a noisy kaleidoscope of gringo bars, strip clubs and chintzy souvenir stands, had become a desolate stretch of closed doors and increasingly aggressive vendors.

… But most noticeably, Xolos mania has swept the city. Where once the only soccer gear you could find was largely Chivas de Guadalajara, Club América or Chicharito’s Manchester United jerseys, the city is inescapably awash in the red and black of Xolo shirts, flags, hats and billboards, and Xolos stickers mark nearly every car.

“For a long time, Tijuana has been defined more by outsiders than by the people who actually live there,” said Adrian Florido, a border reporter for KPBS public radio in San Diego. “In the face of the tourism vacuum that the drug violence has brought on, it created this opportunity for Tijuanans to redefine the city for themselves. And the fact that they now have a first-rate soccer team has given people the chance to redefine the image of Tijuana for Tijuanans as a truly Mexican city, and not a second-rate American city.”

This kind of renewal after hitting rock bottom is great to read about. Robert Andrew Powell’s fascinating book This Love Is Not For Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez (see my preview here) is a view of a similar scenario, though in Juárez it has now sadly gone off track after the Indios were relegated, and then folded entirely. The parallels, down to the ironic/appropriating name choices for supporters’ groups (La Massacre in Tijuana, El Kartel in Juarez), are clear. Although Powell hinted, at a recent reading for his book, that there are rumors that some of the money behind the Xolos may not be the cleanest, I still hope the team’s success continues. It’s a good story, and their side features several up-and-coming American players. And last but not least, I love their crest.

Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente

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Time once again to take a stab at some international cup predicting. The match before us is the 2nd leg match in the Europa League semifinal between Sporting Clube de Portugal and Metalist Kharkiv of Ukraine. The match kicks off today at 3:05PM ET.

Sporting Clube de Portugal Metalist Kharkiv

The Sporting logo is simple, but solid. The lion rampant is good, and the negative space of the horizontal stripes is cool. It seems a little redundant to have both “Sporting Portugal” and “SCP” included, but maybe they felt it was too simple without one or the other. The Metalist crest, on the other hand: no. Just, no. This one is a classic of too many symbols all thrown together haphazardly. And it’s the same problem with the colors, there’s no cohesiveness. Based on their badges, I don’t see any result other than a win by Sporting, by at least 2 goals.

Note: today is the last day the Zamalek SC shirts will be available in the shop.

Update: Win some, lose some — and draw some, as Sporting and Metalist did today: 0-0. And that’s the number of points I get on the prediction scorecard.

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A new month, you know what that means: a new shirt and another new tournament.

The winner of the March tournament was Belarus’ FC Slavia-Mozyr, just edging out runner-up Caracas FC, of Venezuela. Caracas returns for a record third tournament appearance, while Slavia-Mozyr gets immortalized on high quality American Apparel t-shirts:

FC Slavia-Mozyr shirt FC Slavia-Mozyr shirt

With a new winner in the shop, the champion before last, Egypt’s Zamalek SC, will only be available for another day or two. You can buy shirts featuring the crest of February champion Valur through the end of April. Shop now, then come back and check out this month’s tournament!

Caracas returns yet again, joined by clubs from Scotland, Cambodia and South Africa. It’s a menagerie of badge creatures: an elephant (on the Scottish crest, of course!), two big cats, and some kind of winged-lion griffin kind of thing. Click the vote button and pick your favorites!

Black Leopards FC Dumbarton FC Phnom Penh Crown Caracas FC
 

Your Vote Counts
Today’s the day — if you haven’t voted in the final of this month’s tournament yet, it’s your last chance. As of this writing, FC Slavia-Mozyr has the lead, but it’s still close. So go vote!

If you’re interested in picking up one of those cool Zamalek SC shirts, don’t wait on that, either. It will only be available in the shop for a couple more days. (The Valur design will be around for another month.)

Zamalek SC shirt

Tune in tomorrow for the final results, a peek at what the new shirts look like, and of course a vote in the next tournament!

 

Fox Soccer Channel‘s recent announcement that they would start broadcasting Scottish Premier League games led me to start looking at the crests of that country’s game. They have lots of really nice, interesting badges, with plenty of eagles, lions, roses, harps, and ships. There was even a shamrock or two. But what I really noticed were the thistles.

The thistle, it turns out, is a symbol of Scotland, found on the royal coat of arms, on down. Legend has it that thistle kept an invading Norse army from sneaking up on Scottish forces, as the (apparently barefoot) Norse soldiers cried out in pain when they stepped on the prickly plant. From there, the thistle, and the Latin motto Nemo me impune lacessit (“No one attacks me with impunity”) became symbols of the Scots.

And several of their football teams.

Partick Thistle FC

Partick Thistle FC, Scottish First Division

Buckie Thistle FC

Buckie Thistle FC, Highland Football League

Strathspey Thistle FC

Strathspey Thistle FC, Highland Football League

Cowdenbeath FC

Cowdenbeath FC, Scottish Second Division

Livingston FC

Livingston FC, Scottish First Division

Annan Athletic

Annan Athletic FC, Scottish Third Division

Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC

Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC, Scottish Premier League

Scottish football has been going through a rough time lately, with serious financial troubles looming over longtime powerhouse Rangers FC. Hopefully this TV deal will help build some support for the historic, top-flight league as it works through the turmoil.

You can watch Scottish soccer this weekend: Aberdeen vs. Inverness (one of the thistle crests above) is on tape-delay on Fox Soccer Plus this afternoon at 3:00, and the Old Firm match, Rangers vs Celtic, is on Fox Soccer tomorrow morning at 8:00.

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Today’s the day the March tournament advances to the final round. We’ve seen the last of Thailand’s Osotspa Saraburi FC and Northern Ireland’s Glenavon FC, though the Irish team came very close to sneaking into the 2nd place spot.

The two that survive into the finals are Venezuela’s Caracas FC (which was battling it out with Glenavon), and FC Slavia-Mozyr of Belarus, which was the clear leader of the pack.

So it has come to these two — which one do you like better, and by how much? Take a second and push one button to help crown this month’s champion, vote now!

Entering the final stage also means that time is running out on the availability of the sharp Zamalek SC shirt. After a new winner is crowned, that one won’t be in the shop much longer, so don’t wait!

Zamalek shirt
 

Via the Design Football blog comes word of the English club Wanderer FC‘s search for a new badge: 150th Anniversary Design Competition.

Over 400 games and nearly 800 players later and Forest FC had transformed in Wanderers FC – the pre-eminent team of the Victorian era, when football became organised and regulated. The reforming and philanthropic gentlemen of the age dragged violent inter-village rabbles into a popular pastime for the upper and middle classes in the south and the working men of the north.

150 years after that first game, Wanderers, in their reformed guise, have decided to commemorate these early beginnings with the launch of a competition to design a new badge for the club.

The club plays in what amounts to the 12th level of English football, and this is their current crest:

Wanderers FC

That’s not bad at all, in my opinion; I’m a sucker for a lion rampant. And I think it would look good emblazoned plain and simple on a Spreadshirt t-shirt — and the Wanderers agree:

Wanderers FC t-shirt

This crest has been used since the club was reformed in 2009, after a lapse of more than 100 years. And though it’s not bad, they want a new one. Send them your entry, and maybe it will become part of this club’s continuing story.

Today’s the last day for group stage voting in this month’s FC Shirts tournament! Vote now, and come back tomorrow to vote in the final!

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Fantastic story from ESPN: Korea United FC – Two FC Basel teammates prove that soccer can transcend political differences:

But what no one appeared to notice… was the geo-political gravitas of this potential photo-op. It is, quite literally, a photo that is not allowed to be taken: Park Joo-Ho of South Korea, Basel’s 25-year-old starting left back, sat beside Pak Kwang-Ryong of North Korea, the team’s 19-year-old substitute forward.

For Koreans on either side of the 38th parallel — the world’s most heavily fortified border — there can be severe consequences for fraternizing with the enemy. The armistice that ended the Korean War was signed on July 27, 1953, but a peace treaty was never put in place; technically, the two countries remain at war. In the Communist North, those suspected of mere contact with South Koreans are, according to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2012, subject to lengthy terms in “horrendous detention facilities or forced labor camps with chronic food and medicine shortages, harsh working conditions, and mistreatment by guards.” Though the democratic South has far more freedoms, its far-reaching National Security Law continues to stifle any exchange with, and interest in, North Korea. In short: A South Korean and a North Korean should not be shooting the breeze on a sunny afternoon in Spain.

And yet, side-by-side they sit. Park from the South and Pak from the North. The two are not only peers, but also collaborators at work toward a common goal: To help win soccer games for FC Basel.

FC Basel

The two Koreans arrived in Basel within days of one another in June. First came the South Korean, Park, a deceptively quick left back plucked for 500,000 euros from [Júbilo Iwata, of] the J-League.

Júbilo Iwata

Five days later, Basel announced the addition of the North Korean, the imposing 6-foot-2 striker Pak, from second-division Swiss team FC Wil.

FC Wil 1900

“The case is sensitive,” Messerli says. “Not for the players, but for the stupid politicians.” Not for the coach, either, apparently. The youthful Vogel, who was in his teens when the Berlin Wall fell, isn’t afraid to get a little idealistic about his Korean players. “This sport has shown often that it breaks through borders, lines,” he says. “And if we can help them help the two countries come together, that would be gigantic.”

Despite Basel’s exit from the UEFA Champions League after their blowout 7-0 loss to Bayern yesterday, this great story is well worth your time to read in full.

photo: Sacha Grossenbacher for ESPN.com

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