PtG Article 06.10.2011

Movies about football: The road to riches, disappointment or reconciliation

The contrasts between football’s multi millionaires and its less powerful stakeholders were highlighted on the third day of the Play the Game conference. Through research, documentaries and investigations, a number of filmmakers and journalists presented contrasting stories on those making a living from the beautiful game.

Marcela Mora y Arujo, a freelance journalist, gave a gripping account of one of the most iconic and controversial footballers of the modern era, Carlos Tevez. Her story of riches, scandal and murky transfer dealings contrasted sharply with that of footballer Morten Nielsen.

His story was detailed by journalist and director Niels Christian Jung, whose new fly-on-the-wall documentary follows the career of one of Denmark’s most promising football talents through his contract with Chelsea and his subsequent unhappy return home.

Football as the way out

Tevez began life in a one-parent family in a poor Argentine barrio. Severely scalded as a child, he was subsequently taken into the care of his aunt until he was signed by his local club, Noberto Propatp of All Boys. Registered as Carlos Martinez, he then moved to Boca Juniors and Corinthians of Brazil before his most famous transfer of all, to England’s West Ham.

One thing all these transfers had in common, Arujo related, were that the financial details were shrouded in mystery and characterised by the presence of shady foreign businessmen and agents. As the Argentine’s lucrative move across Manchester made him one of the world’s highest-paid players, she said, his roots were brought sharply into focus by the imprisonment of his half-brother for armed robbery.

Promises lost

The new documentary "Son of a Football Star", by journalist and director Niels Christian Jung, follows the fortunes of Nielsen, the son of the former professional Danish footballer Benny Nielsen, who five year ago was just as exciting a prospect as Tevez. However, as Jung details in the documentary, Nielsen’s hopes of a bright future were shattered after his release by Chelsea led to an unhappy return to Denmark.

Jung’s aim was to get as close as possible to the young talent, from the time he signed for the London club in 2005, to his subsequent spell at the Netherlands club AZ Alkmaar and his disheartening return to Denmark. Jung filmed Nielsen’s interaction with coaches, family and officials over five years, during which time he was given unprecedented access to the player’s private life.

The film shows how difficult life can be for many of the professional football players whose early promise is not realised, Jung said.

Reconciliation in Rwanda

BBC Journalist Harshad Mistry spoke of an as-yet-unfinished documentary, Rwanda 17, which follows Rwanda’s Under 17 team in their attempts to qualify for the FIFA Under 17 World Cup.

The documentary takes place seventeen years after the nation’s horrific genocide, meaning none of the players involved were born when it took place. It uses interviews with the multiethnic squad to focus on Rwanda’s strides in integration and development since 1994.