You wait ages for a decent Spanish football magazine to come along, and then three come along at once...
"Se Vende", "Liquidacion", "Se Aquila" (For Sale, Closing Down, For Let), three signs far too common on any Spanish high street in recent times. Businesses closing, massive job losses, record unemployment figures of 5.6 million and the new government struggling to get to grips with an economy spiralling out of control. Recession has hit Spain hard. In the newspaper-magazine sector, dailies such as Publico, La Voz de Asturias and ADN have gone to the wall over the past year.
Even in the football magazine market, Don Balon, the only alternative to the daily mass-market sports press closed its doors after 36 years last September. Hardly the climate for one, let alone three brand new Spanish publications to launch into the football magazine market.
The average football fan in Spain has traditionally been spoilt for choice, 4 national daily sports papers, two Madrid based (AS & Marca) and two based in the Catalan capital (El Mundo Deportivo & Sport). This is generally good news if you´re appetite for football news is an average daily 25 pages dedicated to Real Madrid or Barcelona (depending on your choice of publication) and are interested in Cristiano Ronaldos new hairstyle or what brand of boot Messi will be wearing next season. Whilst all these publications are adequate in providing the reader with transfer news, decent results service and big match previews there is very little to the cater to that "other" breed of football fan in Spain.
That Spanish football fan who wants to know about teams outside the big two, the fan who sees the sport he loves spiralling out of control into a international macro business where only the privileged few participate, who wants to read about other teams in other countries, who is interested in reading about football from the past, who wants a cultural perspective of the game, who wants to read the views of journalists who are free to write without any editorial constraints or pressure from certain clubs media officers.
Rewind back to the Summer of 2011 and enter one Panenka magazine. Named after mythical Czech international Antonin Panenka and with a bold 11 point mission plan that included points such as "We want to feature non-mainstream articles on players who win and lose, with special emphasis on the losers", "football stories from other countries, from other times.... history, culture & politics with football as the background".
A monthly magazine clearly influenced by the classic football fan European mainstays (When Saturday Comes - UK, So Foot - FR & 11 Freunde - GER), Panenka has been a breath of fresh air. Over the year the magazine has published excellent articles on subjects ranging from the Tibetan national team, 20 years of Russian football post CCCP, the phenomenon on Flamengo in Brazil, long overlooked features of Spanish 2B teams (Spanish cup semi finalists Mirandes and Atletico Baleares), the Jorge Mendes empire as well interviews with figures from the modern game.
The new Issue No. 10 of Panenka has a special focus on the English game with interviews with Gus Poyet, Matt Le Tissier and an article on the rise of Swansea City amongst others.
For more info ; http://www.panenka.org/inicio
Kubus magazine, emerged earlier this year. Its unique angle is that its written exclusively in Gallego (the language of the Galicia region in North-West Spain, home to Deportivo la Coruña and Celta Vigo). Available in down-loadable PDF format, issue 3 has just been published and contains a diverse range of features including a report on the famous Peru national team of the 70's, the antics of Nacho Novo and an article on UC Ceares, Spains pioneering club run by supporters.
Whilst Kubus has more of a fanzine feel about it, the range of articles are staggering and the reader can clearly feel the affection for the subject matter by the Kubus team.
Issue 3 of Kubus can be read in PDF format via the link below.
For more info : http://revistakubus.com/
Founded by members of the now defunct daily newspaper Publico, Libero, unlike the above mentioned publications was launched with national distribution and an initial print run of 10,000 copies. "To culturise football or to football-ise culture" is their objective in the opening editorial of the début which hit the magazine stands a month ago. Issue 1 of this tri-monthly publication again features a wide ranging of football related issues and whilst its impossible to escape certain over-laps with Panenka, Libero features a higher percentage of interviews with media personalities (singers, writers, politicians) who are also passionate about the game along with a fashion piece and even some Euro 2012 economic football related news.
For more info : http://revistalibero.com/
All three magazines are hugely accomplished publications, stylish, excellently presented with good writing and would hold their own comfortably against other established titles in other markets. Lets hope that there is a market for decent football publications and that the Spanish football fan indeed has an appetite for other news and not just the latest Real & Barça tattle or what Sergio Ramos has been wearing in Ibiza during his Summer holidays.