Host of the popular “Men in Blazers” football podcast, Roger Bennett and illustrator and artist Nate Kitch are the duo behind the recently released book ‘Gods of Soccer’, which examines 50 women and 50 men who are or have been among the sport’s greatest players.
For the World Cup Qatar, Bennett and Kitch picked 11 male players for CNN to showcase some of the biggest stars on the planet who have played in tournament history. They also explain some of the thinking behind what Kitch was trying to capture about each player with their artwork.
“These images capture the human truths about each player – character, idiosyncrasies and backstory,” Bennett said.
Nat: The uncontrollable aura of a man who transcended sport and captured the eyes of the world.
Roger: A work of art about a man who was more of an art object than a footballer.
Nat: Rising high by the crowd that bears it; loved by Benfica, loved by Portugal, loved by the whole world.
Roger: The greatness of football can make memories of a player you’ve never seen play immortal. Eusebio is one of those players for me. And this image captures that feeling of eternal triumph.
Nat: I wanted to have that sense of community, a community that he was always a part of; the stripes of the shirt extend to those among whom he walked.
Roger: A footballer known as “Alegria do Povo” (“The joy of the people”). These are his people. It is their joy.
Nat: An ever present myth …seemingly reversing time while being a companion through it. The bicycle stunt against England echoes that perfectly… going back the years… the dots representing the many teams he lent his mighty powers to.
Roger: A man who is a superhero in his own imagination perfectly presented – you don’t have to know where the ball is. It’s in the net.
Nat: A player who could boil in seemingly uncontrolled rage but undoubtedly continued to be a leader. That’s what I wanted to capture here; the maniacal fury of one of the most imposing figures in English football.
Roger: Roy Keane as a firestarter you should never look into his eyes unless you want to scorch your retina with the heat of a thousand suns.
Nat: A player responding at game time and an illustrator responding at art time. Rog’s words, Muller’s image.
Roger: Gerd was a goal machine. He finished with his shin, his crotch, every part of his body. What mattered was that the ball crossed the line. It’s pure Müller. Often unsightly. Always deadly.
Nat: Ladies and gentlemen…this is Lionel Messi.
Roger: No face needed. A demigod who plays football, and everything else is just shadows.
Nat: The world of football is watching First so I wanted to show Brazil looking back; easily and effortlessly.
Roger: Less a human being. Plus the world’s first global billboard. My favorite picture in the book.
Nat: The English say that when they first faced Ferenc Puskás and his Hungarian team, it was like playing against men from outer space. Something otherworldly that they couldn’t put their finger on…I wanted it to have a similar resonance.
Roger: ThThe most powerful of the Magyars… A goalscorer so prolific that he gave his name to the Goal of the Year award.
Nat: Philosopher by name… glory that belongs to the Colosseum.
Roger: The coolest footballer of all time. Captured to his heart. He believed that the beauty of football mattered more than the results and that revolutionary politics was perhaps the most important of all.
Nat: Total. Soccer.
Roger: Brilliant orange.