Characters in French Street Football
“Zinedine Zidane was the first Arab guy from the suburbs in Marseille who was playing at such a high level,” Jesse Adang, who directed the film with Syrine Boulanouar, tells the Guardian. “He’s a hero for people like us. [Hatem] Ben Arfa, too. His story is crazy, he stopped playing for a while and he trained with street football during a period to keep his level up he was playing at PSG. You can see that people love him for that when he comes out on the pitch.”
Mahrez develops on this in the documentary when he says street football can be rough. “The ribbing, trash-talk, there’s certainly a psychological element to it. Sometimes in the tournaments you can hear them shouting things like ‘kill him’. We grew up with that. That’s why when you become pro and you’re up against an opponent, you know you have to just make the pass and make the difference.”
All of the characters speak with a passion for the game and share a nostalgia for the days when they were playing it. The piece has already had more than half a million views on YouTube, and it continues to pick up a diverse audience partly, perhaps, because the documentary is like a window into a world that is not very easy to access. It also bridges the gap that exists between not only cultures but generations, too.
French Football players
They include players such as Yacine Brahimi, Ousmane Dembélé and Serge Aurier and local champions such as Ferhat Cicek, who works hard to make sure that football is available as a way of channelling negative energy. “It’s a great way to stay on track,” he says. “It helps you let off steam because you’re angry inside. You’re failing at school and no one helps, you have money issues, your family can’t make ends meet … but on the pitch you’re free … from the problems and the barriers.”