An Interview with FC Nivelcrack

Jonathan Tomlinson



At PENALTY we love nothing more than the thought of people from all walks of life waking up, putting on their boots and joining their friends for a kick-about. This comes in many forms, from playing for a local team to just simply having a knockabout with your friends in the local park.

These days we talk about progression surrounding the game and with the recent news of footballers like Rashford and Sterling coming forward to make conscious societal changes, the game is looking more progressive both on and off the pitch. With this in mind, it brings the game back down to reality, where it’s manageable to understand that even the most respected footballers are just humans who love kicking a football around with their mates as much as anyone else.

We hear many stories from across the world of people coming together to create initiatives and organisations surrounding the beautiful game and with leading blended Scotch brand, Chivas announcing the recent release of Regal FC (a global concept club for contemporary football culture), we came across FC Nivelcrack, a collective of designers, photographers, chefs and DJ’s from Seoul, Korea. Nivelcrack runs a Seoul-based creative studio specialising in the intersection of football, culture and fashion. Last month we wrote about Chivas launching Regal FC who as part of their launch hosted ‘The Regal FC Rooftop 5s’, the ultimate 5-a-side charity football tournament which saw 50 of the UK’s freshest talent and footballing legends take part. Along with many other amazing community-based teams, FC Nivelcrack flew in from Korea to make a special experience. We managed to pull them onto the sideline and ask Creative Director, Shinjae Lee about them as a team.

How did Nivelcrack start?

Nivelcrack is a brand and creative studio based in Seoul, South Korea dedicated to football. We also run an amateur football club, which is a collective of designers, photographers, chefs, DJs and other creators, all working and playing together both on and off the pitch as an agency and team. I dreamt up Nivelcrack as a college student living in Spain, because I loved FC Barcelona and the local football culture so much. Nivelcrack actually translates to the top flight of footballers in Spanish and is inspired by that time in my life, watching the ways that locals were so devoted to their team.

What does it mean to you guys to be part of the Chivas Regal FC tournament?

We were so grateful and honoured to get the call-up from Chivas to play in the Regal FC Rooftop 5s tournament. It was great to meet such a mix of people, who all shared a love for the beautiful game. We played alongside music talent including Headie One, and other community teams like Grenfell FC, and Alive and Kicking FC. We were thrilled to represent Asia and Korea so close to an iconic stadium such as Old Trafford, and the atmosphere on the day was awesome. Chivas put on a great day of entertainment - it was a true celebration of football culture. We were really proud to represent the Nivelcrack community and movement in the UK.

What’s the footballing community like in Korea?

There actually aren’t many platforms representing the Korean football community - I think K-Pop and other viral trends get a lot of exposure, but we’ve always been focused on representing the local football community that we all know and love. We’re fortunate to have gained a bit of a cult following for the work that we do, and everything is designed to stay true to the way that fans engage with the game, both in South Korea and also worldwide. That’s why it’s so great to get the opportunity to represent Nivelcrack at the Regal FC tournament with Chivas. Initiatives like Regal FC offer teams and individuals the opportunity to come together and share football culture experiences - from music and fashion, to playing on the pitch, it’s a big mix of fans that make up the football community.

What’s changed for you since starting Nivelcrack?

We’ve always tried to stay true to our core value of ‘football beyond borders’ - not only the boundaries people may face including race, sex, nationality and so on, but also expanding the football space through collaborating with different cultures, and presenting the sport through a new perspective. It’s important to us to preserve the culture that already exists by using our influence to amplify these communities. We’re currently working on a project with the child sponsorship ministry ‘Compassionate Korea’, to raise funds for children around the world living in poverty, which is an important focus for us at the moment.

What’s your most memorable release and why?

A personal highlight was when we featured in the global TVC for FIFA 2021 - that was a really exciting moment as I’ve been an EA Sports fan since my childhood. Seeing our jerseys within the game was a crazy moment! We also partnered with New Balance and Baiteze Squad recently,

right in the middle of the pandemic, to create a clothing collection and visual content completely remotely. It was an interesting process not being able to collaborate in person, but we are really proud of what we created, and it definitely lived up to the term ‘football beyond borders’.

What are your main ambitions for the future of FC Nivelcrack?

We’d love to open a flagship store in Europe to help elevate Nivelcrack on the global stage, and as a football fan there are a number of big football clubs that I admire and would love to work with in some capacity. Watch this space!

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