At The Intersection Of Sports & Culture: Five Sports Magazines That Are A Lively Distraction From The Traditional

Written by

Dawn Broadbent


Whether you’re crazy about cricket, fanatical about football, or obsessed over swimming, there are hundreds of sports magazines out there dedicated to giving sports fans their dose of the action. We’ve all heard of Sports Illustrated, ESPN Magazine, Slam, and Runner’s World. But here at Mantra Sport, it’s the independent sports magazines unknown to many, that we really enjoy getting our teeth into and which we believe deserve more recognition. Because, unlike their mainstream predecessors, the five spectacular sports publications listed below go beyond discussing sports action, scores, and events. Rather, these magazines use the culture of sport as an anchor to give voice to bigger social, economic, political, and cultural stories around the world. And in doing so, these magazines offer a platform to tell stories that people may not have engaged with otherwise. So, crazy sports fan or not, we’re certain that these magazines will spark your interest one way or another!

Athleta Magazine

Athleta is an Italian sports magazine based on the first ideal of athletic competition, of surpassing oneself. Published from Verona by photographer Giovanni Gallio it focuses on imagery of sport, with a series of photographic reports from different countries and competitions. In the words of its founder, Athleta is “a journey into the principle of resilience, in discovering your limits through your body.” It’s about telling a stories of glory, pain, and endurance simply through photos. Its stories range from the Norwegian Combined competition, to Gallio’s own report on Burmese fighters, and Kevin Couliau’s more reflective series of lonely basketball hoops from around the world. The magazine creates an atmosphere through its visuals but is open for interpretation by its readers. It is raw and honest, without over-dramatisation. It lets readers put their own emotions into perspective as they think best. This is what sets Athleta apart from others in the market.

Victory Journal

Founded by Christopher Isenberg, Victory Journal is a print and digital publication based in New York that devotes itself to the intersection of sport and culture. Victory celebrates the glory and the ignominy of passionate sports players. Its visual aesthetic, that uses large-format photography and typography, was inspired by the likes of classic 1970s magazines such as Rolling Stone, Avant Garde, and Eros. “We always knew we wanted something larger, something that had the gravitas to live on not just as a piece of printed ephemera, but as a historical object,” says Creative Director, Aaron Amaro. Certainly, the boldness of the imagery and the sheer size of the publication as an object chimes with this period of time when print was king, and makes it stand off the shelf. However, beneath it’s sizeable type and dramatic imagery, the publication critically investigates the peripheries of sport and its participants. For example, Issue 13 includes photo stories on subjects as diverse as Bhutanese archery, US championship checkers and French Ring, a late 19th-century dog sport that came to the US in the 1980s. There are features on men’s gymnastics and women’s ice hockey, a look at Serie B’s Venezia FC, before the issue concludes with some of Ray Wright’s 1970s portraits of English football players in their homes. The combination of oral histories, personal essays and beautiful photography, which captures key moments in sport, makes Victory a truly outstanding publication. 

Shukya Magazine

Created by Takashi Ogami, Shukyu is a magazine that inextricably intertwines football, art, and culture. Being an oriental publication, its visual aesthetic is perhaps most intriguing to the Western eye. From its centred stacks of headlines, to its monochrome type, and mixed papers, Shukyu occupies a curious space in the world of sports editorial. But with football remaining at the core, this publication has universal appeal. Its issues are varied in scope, diving into themes of identity, body, youth, and technology. All-in-all this is a quirky yet brilliant addition to the indie sports mag scene. 

The Domestique

The Domestique is a sports lifestyle publication inspired and created by the sub-culture communities that surround sports - primarily cycling. What began initially as a simple blog sharing some past-times about cycling by Joshua Page and his friends, is now an enriched sports magazine about to drop its third volume. The Domestique brings to the foreground the less heard stories of the ‘extra-ordinary everyday’ sports personality, and is documented through the collaboration of a handful of the next generation sports photographers, writers, and designers within its community. TD deliberately turns away from the mainstream coverage of the sport, with its focus on elite male athletes, and instead places an emphasis on the sense of community that, like Josh and his friends found from riding their bikes together all those years ago, many recreational cyclists inhabit. It's definitely one to read if you're a trailblazer like these guys! 

Good Sport

Finally, reinventing the traditional model of a sports magazine, Ben Clement’s

Good Sport aims to focus on the amateur rather than the professional athlete. Ben started the magazine in 2014 with the aim for it to be a way of “breaking down barriers and delving into a diverse range of topics through a sporting lens”. Be it – architecture, design, food, science, travel, sub-cultures, social justice and of course performance, activity and innovation. Ben also explains how, on his travels around the world, he noticed that “there was a resurgence of people who had disconnected with sport who wanted to reconnect with it but had no platform or publication to do so.” Good Sport was created with the intention to fill this gap, and we believe it’s certainly done just that. Its features are unusual and unexpected. For example, GS always include a food segment called Half-Time Oranges. The fascinating and left-of-field feature is a prime example of how the magazine delivers sport-focussed content, through the lens of much broader reaching interests.

So, whether you’re an avid sports fan or a cultural nerd, delve into the pages of one or two of these magazines next time you’re looking for an alternative to your usual read. You can purchase them from many online magazine subscription websites such as Stack or Newsstand. These sports magazines are proudly independent, a lively distraction from the traditional, and striving on being a counteraction to sport culture, journalism, and imagery. We hope you enjoy! 

Written by

Dawn Broadbent