totalBarça Exclusive: Interview with The Champions Ring

totalBarça Exclusive: Interview with The Champions Ring

We recently came upon the creative designs of Hyperakt, a New York-based firm that in addition to being a design agency,  specializes in generating the sports-based creative prints known as The Champions Ring. It was the FC Barcelona winning Champions Rings that caught our eye: 2010/11 Champions League, 2008/09 Champions League, 2005/06 Champions League.  Here is also Spain’s 2012 Euro Cup, 2010 World Cup, and 2008 Euro Cup for good measure. Deroy Peraza, founder and creator of both Hyperakt and The Champions Ring, is a die hard Barça fan and has lived in Barcelona.  He met with totalBarça team member, Roberto Curtis, in Brooklyn, USA to give us an exclusive interview on his thoughts on Barça and how it all started for The Champions Ring.

What were your thoughts on Barcelona’s preseason?

I didn’t get to watch full games but I watched highlights of all the games and read about all of them. It’s been just crazy busy. I think that Tito has things under control. It sounds like spirits are high and things are good. I was a little worried about Villa because they kept delaying his return. I think Alba is going to be a great addition to the team and I think they really need Alex Song. Keita wasn’t a starter but he was an important support player and I think they need somebody there to back up the midfield. I think he’s a really good utility player.

Recently Graham Hunter wrote a piece for ESPN Soccernet previewing the La Liga season and talking about the competition and how there needs to be more plurality to it outside of Real and Barça. Unfortunately, the Malaga bubble dying down does not seem like a good thing.

I actually just did a piece for ESPN Magazine about this exactly. It’s actually going to be in the next issue. I’ve actually done a couple pieces for them. They found us because of all the infographic work that we do. This was the first we did for them that was about Barça and Madrid. It’s a comparison over the last two years of ball possession and where both teams possess the ball. It’s also a comparison of Ronaldo and Messi’s goals – which ones are left-footed, which ones are right-footed, which ones are penalties and which ones are headers.

With numbers like these, maybe Valencia should focus more on winning the Champions League. [IMAGE COURTESY OF HYPERAKT AND ESPN MAGAZINE]

But they also have a comparison of the four top leagues and what the odds are of the third-place teams finishing ahead of the top two—for La Liga it would be Valencia. ESPN runs all these simulations and has this little computational model. So the odds for the EPL – Chelsea is the most commonly third-placed team – are something like 1 in 12 or 1 in 20 or something that Chelsea would finish as a first-place team like they were last year. They are kind of slim odds, but in La Liga, it’s one in 50,000 that Valencia would be the first-place team. So the odds in La Liga are by far the worst. The closest thing to that would be the Bundesliga—two percent chance that another team would break into the first place spot. In La Liga it’s a .00002 percent. The most likely of the top four leagues is Italy because Italy is a little bit tighter. It’s around 12 percent. In La Liga the top two spots are kind of impenetrable. On the one side I think it would be good for there to be more competition, but on the other hand I kind of love seeing Barça dominate everything so I’m pulled in two directions there.

How have Champions Ring sales been so far?

It’s been going pretty well. The feedback I’ve gotten is that the price point is a little high so we’re going to lower it about 30 percent lower than they are now. The small ones will be $39 and the larger ones will be $64. But the exciting news is that the History of Major League Baseball is up at the MLB Fan Cave on Broadway. It’s an entire wall and a large bracket of this year’s postseason is up in the window in the next couple weeks.

Deroy Peraza at Hyperakt in Brooklyn with his baby.

So this is the biggest Champions Ring ever made? Yeah, it’s 10’ tall and it’s modular so they are going to be able to add pieces to it as the tournament progresses. So that’s going to be really exciting and there’s also going to be Champions Ring stuff in their postseason guide—about 25,000 copies get sent to each of the 30 teams. At least the baseball ones are going to get exposed to a lot of people so we hope that it keeps spreading.

Have you been in contact with anyone from European clubs or MLS to help get the brand out there?

Not yet. We just launched another product and we’ve been kind of focusing on that and we will come back to the Champions Ring. We’re just a little stretched thin but we do plan to reach out to the other leagues. We’re hoping actually that the exposure on Major League Baseball will help the other leagues come to us rather than us go to them because then we can negotiate a little bit better.

What was the original influence behind the Champions Ring and how did you help it to grow and develop?

The Champions Ring came about during the 2010 World Cup. I was just kind of obsessed with the tournament and watching all the games and not being very productive. I thought it’d be good to do something productive. I saw a poster that I liked that just used single colors to represent the countries. It was just basically in list form and I thought it’d be cool to represent the countries with a single color but to actually make the piece function well. Then the idea of the bracket came to mind and then the thought of using the form of the actual soccer ball, just a pure, clean circle to contain the bracket. It kind of just fell into place because each stage of the bracket has an even number of teams and it halves each round as you get closer to the final. It fit perfectly into the confines of the circle as it’s divided into quadrants.

Hyperakt works closely with Visual.ly and totalBarça was pleased to recently feature an infographic provided by Visual.ly, depicting a comparison of Messi vs Ronaldo – What are your thoughts on the comparison and Messi in general?

I think they’re very different players. I think Ronaldo is a pure striker. He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s going to be awesome on counter attacks and he’s got a killer shot. But I think honestly Messi is the more complete player. He can be the striker. He can be deadly on the fast break and he’s fast as hell and has incredible ball control, but he’s also a possession player who can serve basically as the center midfielder distributing the ball and assisting other teammates’ goals, which in my eyes makes him more complete.

So Messi; your all-time favorite Barça player?

Yeah. I can’t think of anybody else. I mean, you have players like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Romario, Maradona. The only one who can compare to him is Maradona really but I think Messi is just getting started. He’s a much more stable individual who will keep his shit together for longer. His potential for productivity is much higher.

Do you think that potential for productivity would have been lost had Joan Laporta and the technical staff not stepped in and intervened in that relationship that had been growing with Ronaldinho?

I think Laporta gets criticized pretty often for his money management situation but I think he was a pretty smart tactical president and I think they could see Messi’s potential coming and they could also see Ronaldinho was a pain in the ass and a prima donna and he was going to be awesome for a certain period of time and get bored and flame out. They played their cards right and knew from Messi’s personality that he was going to be there long term and they made the right call. Messi is treated like a god at Barcelona. Everything revolves around him. He’s a pretty humble guy but that’s the reality. And that’s not going to work for a lot of players. It’s not going to work for an Ibrahimovic for example who wants to be the star. You have to have a crew of people around him whose egos are not going to be bruised by the fact that they’re not going to be the top dog.

Working with Messi has to be something incredible and something you’re simply not going to want to screw with once you’re there.

Right, but you look at someone like Zlatan who didn’t do so well at Barça, but has been on the winning team in every league he has played. He’s won four or five straight leagues and it’s not for nothing. He’s a great player. He just happens to be a jerk and couldn’t be on the same team as Messi.

So growing up in Miami, how did you learn about Barcelona, how did you become a culé and who were your biggest influences early on?

I started playing intramural soccer when I was just eight years old. In Miami you have this pan-hispanic community. Cubans aren’t really known for playing soccer but it’s full of Colombians and Argentinians and Ecuadorians and Brazilians—the whole range. Those are the kids I grew up playing soccer. One of my teammates happened to be Spanish, from Barcelona, and he was a big Barça fan. He introduced me to the team when we were kids. He was always wearing a Barça jersey and we would watch games together and I kind of became a fan through him. So I played soccer through the end of high school and at different stages followed Barça to greater or lesser degrees. But then I lived in Barcelona when I was 20 for a year. I got exposed to Barcelona culture and went to a game or two and became more of a fan and then in 2009 I lived there again for half a year and by then had friends who were members and so I was able to go to a lot of home games and get to see the beginning of this dynasty that we’re kind of in the middle of and it was unbelievable.

Do you think we’re in decline right now?

I think it’s too soon to say. I don’t think so. I think we’re past the peak but you never know.

Could be a long plateau…

Yeah, a lot of people thought we were in decline when Guardiola took over and look what he did. You never know.

So, the new kits—love ‘em? Hate ‘em?

The home kit is growing on me but I don’t love the whole gradient thing. I hate the away kit. I think the away kit looks super tacky. I hate the yellow and orange fade. I would choose the black second kit from last year any day over the yellow and orange fade. I miss the stripes. I like classic stripes.

So what’s next for The Champions Ring?

We’re just going to try to grow the community. We’re going to keep making rings of the new tournaments for all the sports as they come out, try to get more exposure hopefully through official league avenues and see how much people want to keep digging into them.

As a Brooklyner, what are your thoughts on the new Cosmos situation?

Oh man, I would love to have a team here in the boroughs that we could root for. I’m definitely going to follow the NASL progress. It’s kind of second tier. It’s not exactly MLS. It’s not going to be 20,000 people in the stadium. But it’s exciting that the new leadership is sound enough to start out small and grow from there. I think they’re securing themselves a better shot at getting into MLS is two, three years. That would be amazing to have the Cosmos join the first division.

And one day if the Cosmos and Barça were to meet in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup, who would you root for?

Oh man … that’s a tough one. If the Cosmos got that good and had that serious a following, I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you right now. I probably honestly still root for Barça though, but it would be tough.

A special thanks to Deroy for meeting with us and sharing his passion for design and FC Barcelona.  He has graciously donated a 2010/11 Champions League poster to give away to our community.  We will be setting up a giveway contest in the near future for this.  In the meantime, if you can’t wait to get your hands on one of these beauties – go to TheChampionsRing.com to order your prints!