Alfie Whiteman is the only soccer player with a favorite Vincent Gallo album

Soccer and music often make for pretty uncomfortable partners. The beautiful game is usually soundtracked by middle aged men chanting the “Seven Nation Army” riff while the players stick to Lil Baby in the changing rooms. While the Super Bowl gets Usher or Rihanna, major international soccer tournaments are soundtracked by Martin Garrix and Bono.

Outwardly cool players are treated with suspicion too. There is no equivalent of the NBA’s stylish Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to be found in the Premier League. A genuine debate raging in the game right now is whether it’s even OK to have interests off the field.

All of which made last month’s arrival of an NTS show by Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Alfie Whiteman all the more extraordinary. Here is a man blocking shots from Son Heung-min in the morning and playing out Cocteau Twins and Elliott Smith songs from a studio in Dalston in the evening.

The signs he was a little different from his team mates have been there for a while. See this recent TikTok in which he recommends cult U.K. political satire The Thick Of It while the rest of the squad are watching the latest Netflix show. The NTS show took things to a different level, though. Titled Sweet Tooth, the show is, in fact, a somber mix of chilled out jams for the colder months. On the NTS website a melancholy still of Millhouse Van Houten looks out over the tracklist, filled with songs by Vincent Gallo, Floating Points, and David Axelrod. Used to assessing danger in front of him, Alfie ended the show with a couple of upbeat numbers to lift the downer vibes, opting for “Float On” by ‘70s R&B group The Floaters as his kiss goodbye.

Speaking to The FADER, Whiteman says he holds music as close to his heart as soccer and that he jumped at the chance of doing the NTS show after being introduced to station founder Femi Adeyemi by a mutual friend on a trip to Japan. He also discussed how the music he listens to pre and post-match, his interest in the art world, and the perils of being labeled a hipster.

The FADER: Was there a specific energy you were going for with the songs you played on Sweet Tooth?

Alfie Whiteman: I definitely genre jumped a bit, which I think is fine. I don’t know the rules of it so I built it almost like you’re in my headphones. It was the start of the new year so I picked songs with a kind of more somber tone. I gravitate towards the sadder things, whether that’s film, photos, or music just because of the emotion that they can evoke. Even the Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders track, it could be a sad song but it’s also a very powerful happy track.

The FADER: You opened with David Axelrod’s “The Warnings.” Could you tell me why that was the one to open the mix with?

Alfie Whiteman: My dad had a big influence on my music taste and choices. Growing up I was constantly hearing him playing his jazz records in the car. He would also take me to see live shows, too. He took me to Roy Ayers’s last show in London at Ronnie Scotts. I was very lucky. At the time I wouldn’t really think too much about it, but now I realize how cool that was. So the David Axelrod track is one from home. In my record collection at home there’s a lot of stolen records from my dad’s collection. Every time I go around I’ll take one record and then my dad will text me, like, “‘Have you been at it again?’”

The FADER: Is there a track in there that you have a particularly personal connection to?

Alfie Whiteman: I put two of Vincent Gallo’s tracks on from his album When, that’s an album when I went to Sweden in 2021 and 2022 [playing on loan for Degerfors] and spent a lot of time alone there, the classic went through a breakup. They’re some tracks that I’ve played on repeat a lot. They’re always in my Spotify Wrapped.

Alfie Whiteman is the only soccer player with a favorite Vincent Gallo album

Image courtesy of Tottenham Hotspur

The FADER: The way I understand it, a lot of football locker rooms have a collaborative playlist that everyone can throw music into. Have you been able to turn any of your teammates onto the stuff you’re into?

Alfie Whiteman: Eric Dier was playing for Spurs for a while and I got along with him, he’s gone to Bayern Munich now. But me and him would share a few songs. Obviously, before games it’s quite stereotypical what you might imagine, probably some Drake and Lil Baby or something along those lines. But I also don’t dislike that music. It’s not what I listen to all the time, but I can listen to it. Before games I feel like there’s a whole thing of being a Gladiator ready to go out to battle and to fight your life. People might play “Lose Yourself” by Eminem and I get that, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had the Prodigy, and Mobb Deep in my headphones before.

In the gym I am often one of the first in and the sports scientists and me will put on some Radiohead or New Order, Joy Division, those kinds of things might go on, or Pink Floyd. Where probably most of the other guys are not going to put it on. I wouldn’t play the NTS mix out though, I don’t think it would resonate in the changing room. They’d be like, “This is just a bit quiet. Not my jam.”

The FADER: Post-match is just as important as getting psyched up for a match. What do you listen to relax?

Alfie Whiteman: Maybe some Aphex Twin or Brian Eno, maybe even a bit of Boards of Canada. I have a whole ambient playlist that I listen to even when I travel to training and I have a 20-minute walk in the morning. I’m often listening to a sort of more mellow, calming music.

Are there other creative things you’re pursuing away from the game?

A lot of players will go and play golf for the whole day on their day off but I like to listen to music or take pictures. I just published a book of these little pill faces I was making over the course of the year, didn’t really think about what I was doing it, but made it into a little book and sort of released that as a physical piece of work, which was nice to do. Just ’cause it provides me some fulfillment in that I’m making things and I’m doing stuff, ’cause I feel like I have ideas and things inside, but obviously I’m playing football and then that’s my job. It’s just self-expression basically.

The FADER: Soccer has often used “hipster” as a pejorative. Is it a tag you’re wary of?

When you think about hipster, I’m thinking a fisherman beanie and Red Wing boots. My teammates do call me a hippie but I’m not trying to be anything niche. It’s just what I like, it’s just who I am. I’ve kind of kept my private life separate from my work life until now because I didn’t want to use a football to boost other things. I wanted to have my organic life away from work and just be Alfie, but now it’s like, it’s got to happen. I’m not like I’m a superhero living two lives.