What gave you the idea for the mag?
Seven years ago, I was working for Studio – a magazine about arts and culture founded by Federico Sarica (formerly at Vice Italia), and we realised that readers reacted extremely well to our way of talk about sports – with in-depth pieces, reportages, and a great attention to photography.
Meanwhile, Giuseppe De Bellis was publishing a lot of great longform pieces in the Il Foglio newspaper and we got to know each other. After a couple of years, he came up with the idea to publish a magazine about sports but with an innovative approach, one influenced both by cultural journalism and fashion. It was June 2014, and Undici was born, as a sort of ‘cousin’ of Studio.
Where did the name come from?
Hard question. During those first days we were talking a lot about what to do, how to do it, what to call the magazine. We considered thousands of names, but I don’t remember the exact time we decided that Undici was the right one.
It means ‘eleven’ in Italian, the number of players on the pitch when playing football. It’s quite elegant when written down, and it can be shortened to a number. Perfect for branding purposes too.
How would you describe the aesthetic/style?
Obviously, the whole team are avid readers of all sorts of magazines. Tommaso Garner, the creative director, is maybe more fashion-savvy – he has worked for Hunter Fashion Magazine and Alla Carta, for example.
Giuseppe De Bellis, the founder and editor-in-chief, has a more journalistic approach, having directed a newspaper before Undici. I love Monocle, the T Magazine by the New York Times, the New York magazine.
The photographers that work for us are not sports photographers, and this gives Undici an interesting approach.
What is your impression on the growth of printed magazines in the game?
Surely, it’s a great thing. Both the public and the sport will benefit from it. There are risks though – that a lot of magazines are born with a lot of enthusiasm but without a good business plan, and they shut down within a year or so.
What is happening in the Italian game?
We had to come to this point. After the World Cup in Germany, we struggled in South Africa and Brazil. But, it’s not easy to tell what it is happening exactly, because the clubs are good – Juventus, Roma, and Lazio are still fighting in the Champions and Europa League.
I guess the whole game needed more organisation and I’m confident that the new Federation will succeed.
How big a miss will Italy be in the World Cup?
Honestly, I never thought for even a second, in my life, that I could watch a World Cup without Italy. I still cannot believe it. I don’t know how will it be in June and July, I guess it will be really, really sad.
What type of footballers are you most interested in covering?
Obviously you can’t miss the big players, but we are very interested in covering the younger generation too, also considering the fact that Italian football needs a new start.
In our latest issue we interviewed Nicolò Barella and Riccardo Orsolini, two young players who are already really good. And some months ago, before he became AC Milan’s revelation, we had a nice chat (and photoshoot) with Patrick Cutrone, just in front of San Siro. But we also cover managers, scouts, directors… we want to cover the whole game, not only the part you see on the pitch.