Archive for the ‘Football Culture’ Category


Representing for Die Mannschaft. German National Team Fan Club Smyrna, GA ready to go!

Here we are .. the end of day 5 Euro 2016: 12 matches, the opening group games for all 24 Euro teams, are in the books; 22 goals; 6 matches decided by one goal; 3 ties; Germany, Italy and Hungary managed 2:0 victories.

Based on the first week of play, here are some of our pleasant surprises, shockers, under performers and overachievers:


Wales’ super sub Hal Robson-Kanu scores a late winner to shock Slovakia in its Euro 2016 opener.

Pleasant Surprise — Wales: The Football Association of Wales, the 3rd oldest national FA in the world, waited 58 years to field its national team  at a major international tournament. Not only did Wales’ superstar Gareth Bale score a goal, the team scrapped and fought it’s way to a 2:1 victory over Slovakia. With the win, Wales sits atop Group B (and England) … at least until Thursday when they battle the perennial underachieving English.

Shocker — Hungary: Many EURO 16 fantasy types picked Austria to go far … after all they took care of business in Euro qualifying plus have Bayern Munich superstar David Alaba and Christian Fuchs, proud member of this year’s Premier league winner Leicester City. Well, Hungary had an appetite for an upset and beat Austria soundly 2:0.


Hungary’s goal scorer Adam Szalai does his best impression of the Lambeau Leap as his nation upsets Austria in their Euro 2016 opening match.

Biggest disappointment — Belgium: If this is truly the best Belgian’s ‘golden generation’ of footballers can do than it’s time to sell your gold reserves. Pound-for-pound, player-for-player, the 2016 Belgian national squad is easily the most impressive of the 24 Euro teams. They started their Euro campaign with a haphazard, uninspired performance versus the laser focused and disciplined Italians. Not all is lost, but the Red Devils may need to watch tape from the 1980s-1990s teams that delivered true championship caliber performances.

Buffon singing

Italian national keeper Gianluigi Buffon sings his heart out during the EURO 2016 pre-match country anthems.

Overachievers — Italy: Oh the irony … the team best known for defense and eking out boring 1 nil victories, topped the week 1 scoring charts with two surprise goals against Belgium. Entering the EUROS as one of the weakest Italy squads in many years, the Azzuri are playing light and burden free. Will they be the team to watch? Let’s see what their next match vs. Sweden brings.

As we head into week 2, we have finally warmed up our Euro 2016 diesels and are ready to hit the open road. Who will shine? who will whine? and who will continue to dream of Euro glory. Stay tuned!

Germany contests its 2nd Group G match today versus Ghana. While Ghana, similar to most of the African Federation world cup teams in Brazil, has disappointed so far, the squad has the talent and fight to make this an exciting matchup. Here are some of our musings and match facts ahead of the match.

Pressing the reset button

Fans of the German national football teaHistorically, the Germans have been challenged with staying focused throughout the duration of international competitions. Surprisingly, the dip in focus and form usually occurs the second match into the group stages. In Euro 2008, Germany fell to Croatia (after a sound victory vs. Austria) in its 2nd match and  in South Africa (WC2010), the team lost to Serbia after an inspirational win against Australia. With Ghana out for blood and in ‘do or die’ mode after falling to the U.S. boys, Germany needs to keep their eye on the ‘winning the group’ prize and treat the Ghana match like their first one.

oezil & rocky balboaCelebrating Özil

Mesut Özil was the difference maker in Germany’s last world cup match vs. Ghana. His lethal strike in the 59th minute of the must win last group match solidified his standing as a ‘up and comer’ on the global soccer scene. In fact, due to his performances in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Özil ensured his place among Europe’s top young talents and was sought by teams like BarcelonaArsenal, and Real Madrid. On August 17th, 2010, his German club Werder Bremen announced that they had reached an agreement with Real Madrid for Özil’s transfer. He now plays for Arsenal along side national team colleagues Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker.



Match Facts
  • Germany will play its 101st world cup match compared to Ghana’s 14th which qualified for a 3rd world cup in a row
  • Last time Germany lost to an African side at the World Cup was way back in 1982 against Algeria
  • Since 1994, Germany have won their second World Cup group game only once that was against Poland in 2006 (whichTRF attended in Dortmund with his daddy!)


    My dad and I celebrating Oliver Neuville’s extra time winner versus Poland in the 2nd match of Germany’s 2006 World Cup campaign

Four of the last six World Cup goals conceded by Ghana have come from set-pieces …  Germany has one of the tallest teams!

  • Today is Germany and Ghana’s third meeting. Germany emerged winners on both previous encounters, 6-1 in a friendly in 1993 and 1-0 in group stage at the 2010 World Cup
  • All seven goals scored by Germany against Ghana have come after the 60th minute

Germany will break its curse of bad 2nd match group performances and add 3 points to its WC 2014 tally. 2:1 the final score with Mesut Özil reminding the world that he’s top class.

My Germerican heart has been beating out of my Brust with excitement this week. Not only did Die Mannschaft ‘Mueller-handle’ CR7 and his portuguese brethren in their Group G opener, Juergen’s U.S. boys, five of whom also claim Germerica, finally broke the seal vs. Ghana in a thrilling yet agonizing 2:1 victory for the ages. Oh yeah, there’s more … FIFA’s goal line technology (designed by a German company) made its debut during Sunday’s France-Honduras match … technology 1 technophobic naysayers 0. And if things couldn’t get any rosier fuer Deutsche and Deutschland lovers everywhere, Wednesday marked the end of Spain’s reign as global football juggernaut (and Germany killer) guaranteeing that Brazil will crown a new world cup champion in 2014 … hallelujah! Let’s take a closer look …

Germany 4 Portugal 0: What a way to celebrate Germany’s record 100 world cup matches

Angela Merkel has made a habit of visiting the national team after matches and she did not disappoint after Monday’s win over Portugal. Pictures of her enthusiastically celebrating German World Cup wins have become standard fare. She’s definitely Germany’s talisman.












FIFA debuts goal line technology and wins … German tech startup GoalControl to the rescue

GoalControl installed 14 cameras in each of the 12 World Cup stadiums, located high up above the stands. The cameras work together to triangulate the motion of the ball with calculated precision, snapping up to 500 images per second. The result … when French striker Karim Benzema struck a ball toward the Honduran goal and it looked to be on the line (no goal) not over the line (goal) the brand new technology took over and erased any doubts. France scored, FIFA scored and GoalControl celebrated.Goal line tech












The mighty Spaniards failed to make it out of group qualifying … after only 2 matches in WC 2014 … Enuff Said!

Adios Spana

Here we are, on the first world cup Sunday (the Final is today in 4 weeks!), half-way through the first round of matches in the group stages, with 8 games under our belt.   There have been plenty of eye-raising and even hair-raising and downright shocking moments … here are my top headlines:

Red card goes to WC refsFIFA World Cup Referees …anything but world-class: Right from the very first match the official’s performance has been criticised and scrutinised and the spotlight yanked from the world cup players that so far have delivered a lively, high-scoring and entertaining tournament. After Mexico’s victory vs . Cameroon, despite several inexplicable officiating faux pas, I was seriously contemplating my own for of walk-out … watch less matches because of the horrible and seemingly acceptable lackluster officials. Luckily, Holland’s exhilarating performance and a handful of very high quality matches since — all without official interference, have turned the spotlight back on the players, teams, fans and the host. Let’s hope the next 56 matches are void of ANY officiating controversy.

van Persie goalDutch Treats: Look at the 8 WC final scores so far and the 5:1 tally stands out … a dismantling of the Spanish compliments of the Netherlands. Who’d have thunk it? Clockwork Orange, true grit, focus, bravery, believe and unprecedented unity come to mind. I said before the tournament that Spain might well have a tough time this WC, primarily based on its aging roster and a lack of hunger (after gorging at the ‘highest level of soccer’ buffet too long) to 4-peat (Euro 2008- WC 2010-Euro 2012- WC 2014), but surely no one expected this. Anyone who knows me, realizes I am not the biggest Holland football fan (mild understatement) but anyone who enjoys the beautiful game was surely licking their lips on Friday. I really hope this was just the beginning of the Oranje show and I’ll be the first to raise a cold glass of Crush to celebrate this Dutch revival.

Mexican Calm: I was thoroughly impressed with Mexico’s convincing 1:0 win over Cameroon … El Tri created plenty of scoring chances and looked like a completely transformed squad from the crew we saw struggling to even qualify to earn a ticket to the big dance. To me, even more impressive than the result, was the squad’s calm and collected, ‘chillin’ attitude after being literally robbed of 2 goals by atrocious officiating in the first half. No one lost their cool and led by Mexican mascot and skipper Miguel Herrera pulled together to still end up victorious. What role models and consummate professionals.

Costa Rican Miracle: Another day, another upset. The Costa Ricans surprised the world saturday with an inspiring come from behind victory versus footballing giants Uruguay. The South Americans who on paper have one of the strongest, experienced squads (even without Luis Suarez who did not play with a knee injury) took an early lead but got majorly out-played by the wily islanders. CR’s win gives CONCACAF member nations an impressive 2 and o record heading into upcoming matches for federation mates Honduras (today vs. France) and the US (Monday vs. Ghana).

Andrea Pirlo

Italian Youth: I know this may sound as an oxymoron, especially if comparing the likes of 35-year-old midfield maestro Andre Pirlo, goalie legend Buffon (36), defender Andrea Barzagli (33) and midfielder Thiago Motta (31), but the Italians looked young and fresh versus the crampy, limping English last night. While England took advantage of multiple water breaks and other interruptions to barely survive the rigors of the rainforest humidity, the Italians (who are also European and don’t play in the Amazon heat) looked rejuvenated and ready to run post match wind sprints. Who knows what’s in the Chianti but if your Italian bottoms up!

FYI … Dude, our world cup spirit dog, is taking Sunday off and will be back Monday with new World Cup 2014 predictions. 8 matches in, he’s picked 5 winners including correctly predicting 2 final scores!

Welcome to the 2nd edition of  World Cup 2014 predictions, compliments of Dude, our world cup spirit canine. Some of you may recall ‘Dude-stradamus’ , our Euro 2012 prognosticator and his knack for pick that tournament’s winners. We’ll as many of you saw yesterday, Dude is back to kicking butt like he did in 2012. He went 2 for 3 on 6/13, including picking the exact final scores for the Mexico and Chile matches.

Today is the only 4-match game day during WC14 so let’s see what tricks Dude has up his sleeves …


columbia1Colombia … a crazy talented squad even without the striker services of the talented Radamel Falcao. Falcao is still nursing his torn ACL, but Monaco teammate and attacking midfielder James Rodriguez as well as productive forward Teofilo Gutierrrez should easily carry the Colombians past the group stage. Unless you are greek or a lover of no offense, the Greeks offer a dull and methodical football style … this won’t work vs. Colombia. Dude is confident in a convincing Colombian victory.





Dude says it does not take a rocket scientist to predict the winner in this one. His favorite player is Freddy Mercury aka Luis Suarez and Cavani. Together they will crush the Costa Ricans who always look really strong in CONCACAF qualifying until they get tested by ‘real’ squads or the snow (LOL).




The 2nd epic match within the first three days of  WC 2014. We actually see this one going sort of like Spain-Netherlands (in terms of dominance) but in England’s direction. This is the first time I remember the English being underdogs and not hyping up their big tournament chances … it suits them well. Although they have a young, unproven squad I think they can dominate the Italians especially since we just heard that Italy’s goalkeeping legend Buffon is out with an ankle injury. Go England … make it count.


 Japan vs. Ivory Coast  [9PM DST start, ESPN2]

japan1We love Shinji Kagawa from his Borussia Dortmund days so hopefully we’ll see him dominating play for Japan. Cote d’Ivorie has Man City’s Yaya Toure in charge supported by ‘oldie but goldie’ Didier Drogba. This match-up looks even and Dude thinks we’ll see an entertaining scoreless draw.

It’s time for our first edition of  World Cup 2014 predictions, compliments of Dude, our world cup spirit canine. Some of you may recall ‘Dude-stradamus’ , our Euro 2012 prognosticator and his (in)ability to pick that tournament’s winners. We’ll Dude is back and has been sharpening his skills to provide you with invaluable insights and predictions for World Cup 2014. Dude was off yesterday but showed up this morning ready to do this thing and “pick em like he smells em”.

MEXICO vs. CAMEROON [Noon start, ESPN2]

Mexico winsMexico’s media darling Chicharito nee Javier Hernández Balcázar will do what he does for Premier League club Manchester United which is sit on the bench. The Mexican NT announced the buzz-worthy decision yesterday, but Dude thinks having the ‘little pea’ come off the bench as the ultimate WC joker will put Mexico on top … and keep them there.






spain1It’s a rematch of the 2010 WC final and the result should be the same. Spain still has the Dutch’s number and despite an aging Spanish roster, there’s way too much quality and strike power now including Athletico Madrid/Chelsea bound goal-getter Diego Costa. It’s known that Holland is looking to avenge its awful EURO 2012 campaign but they’ll have to wait until their second match versus the Socceroos.





chile1Chile’s strong WC qualifying results (3rd behind Colombia and Argentina) will translate to a strong world cup squad. Chile’s Alexis Sanchez successfully emerged from Lionel Messi’s shadow at Barcelona this season and the lightning-quick forward will be looking to lead Chile in Brazil. Juventus’ Arturo Vidal is the team’s big star but injury might keep him out of the first match. The Socceroos are an inexperienced bunch and seemingly the weakest of the country’s last 3 NT’s. Chile will win this one with ease.

Greetings TRF readers, welcome FIFA World Cup Fanatics. It’s been a while since we brought you some Fussball insights, commentary and biased opinions. Consider the drought over and buckle in for our 2014 World Cup coverage. Watch this space for #WC14 notables and quotables, player profiles, match previews and reviews, cool footie pictures and vids, strange WC factoids and world cup stuff you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

For starters, here’s a handful of useful links to enhance your world cup viewing experience:

World Cup printable bracket: Thanks to Eight by Eight, we can all print-out our WC match plan and keep it close by. Why use an app when you can waste paper!

Full world cup match broadcast schedule: Everything and everything about who is showing what, when and who’s commentating each of the 64 matches starting June 12th

SI World Cup TV coverage guide: Much condensed, at a glance version of above

FIFA World Cup Fantasy League: Build your WC Brazil fantasy team with FIFA’s official McDonald’s Fantasy game. Easy to set up … why not!

Must See Pre-WC TV: Tuesday night at 8:30 PM Eastern, ESPN will air the final 1 hour episode of Inside: US Soccer’s March to Brazil, an awesome behind-the-scenes look at USMNT’s road to Rio. Don’t touch that dial because “There is no Tomorrow”, a close up of the Brazilian NT at 9:30. In case you miss all of that, there’s no avoiding the 24 hour ‘Countdown to Brazil’ soccer TV marathon starting at 3PM on June 11th and ending at 3PM on Thursday, just in time for ESPN FIFA Match Day, the live pregame show leading into the tournament-opening match: Brazil vs. Croatia from Arena de Sao Paulo.



The one and only 1. FC Kaiserslautern Soccer Club It is a question we are often asked in life, usually as it relates to that first kiss, the first sexual encounter or our first real love interest. As you know, The Real Futbol is a soccer blog so our ‘first time’ memories are squarely focused on the beautiful game and what first got us dreaming of bicycle kicks and last second match winners.

In this post, our ‘first time’ will take you to Kaiserslautern, the quaint town’s footballing pride and joy, Germany’s Traditionsverein 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and the crown jewel of it all, Fritz Walter Stadium (auf dem Betzenberg).

Kaiserslautern is a University town known for a strong US military presence and the FCK soccer team.

Kaiserslautern is a University town known for a strong US military presence and the FCK soccer team

My first trip to “K-Town” to see the ‘Roten Teufel vom Betzenberg’ was some 26 years ago. I was not particularly pumped up to see FCK play but definitely curious since this would be my first professional soccer game. I had zero expectations going in and was more excited about sampling the Stadion eats and treats then I was about having a front row seat to some of the most fanatical Fussball ‘Fandom’ in all of Germany. The roughly 50 mile drive from Roemerberg was one to remember as the last 20 miles of our route was bumper-to-bumper traffic chock-full of FCK fans commuting to this Friday evening match from all over the region.

The FCK Westkurve ist one of the wildest and craziest fan sections in German soccer

The FCK Westkurve is one of the wildest and craziest fan sections in German soccer

Cars were decorated with FCK scarves, flags, decals and any number of fan items you can imagine, passengers wore their FCK jerseys and jackets and took every opportunity to ‘serenade’ the home team with a Hupkonzert (car honking concert) and popular FCK fan songs.

By the time we parked at Kaiserslautern’s Messeplatz and took the bus up ‘Zum Betze’ (the ‘mountain’ where the stadium sits), I had forgotten about Bratwurst  and Cola and was part of the mob singing “Hoeher Hoeher FCK” at the top of my lungs and quivering with excitement about what I would experience next.

The Betzenberg in Kaiserslautern (also known as Fritz Walter Stadion) is the home of the FCK red devils

Back then, all German Fussball stadiums had legitimate terraces (standing room only supporter sections) so nobody except a few pampered VIPs would dare sit during the game.

The Red Devil is FCK's lucky mascot, devil horns and all

The Red Devil is FCK’s lucky mascot, devil horns and all

Standing during a 90 minute soccer match may not be everyone’s idea of a great time, but I can’t think of a better way to intimately experience the pulse of the game, every bad shot, every hair-raising foul and of course every sweet goal.  I remember we played Bayer Leverkusen and the legendary South Korean striker Cha Boom known not only for his awesome name but thunderous ball striking ability. The biggest highlight by far was admiring the vast sea of red, made up of 20,000+ FCK supporters crammed into the West-end fan section (the legendary FCK Westkurve)

The rest of the evening was a blur but I remember coming home and discovered I had left my voice in Kaiserslautern. What a night! What a team! What awesome fans! I was hooked for good.

Fritz Walter Tribute Choreography

FCK fans honor hometown hero and Germany World Cup winner Fritz Walter with a choreographed pre-game celebration to remember

One of the really cool aspects of this week’s NYC Kicking + Screening Soccer Film Festival is discovering films and topics that I would otherwise never hear about, let alone watch. One of these gems is Friday’s short film selection ‘The Final Fax’, directed by German filmmakers Nico Raschick and Birke Birkner.

The 15-minute flick features Martin Sonneborn, editor of a German satire magazine, and his attempts to bribe eight members of the 24-member FIFA executive committee on the eve of the World Cup 2006 host country vote. Sonneborn’s bribe letter offers gifts, mostly eatable, in return for votes for Germany. The unthinkable happens and New Zealand delegate Charles Dempsey abstains from voting (after having been instructed to vote for South Africa), thus swinging the World Cup 2006 host decision Germany’s way. Here’s a ‘Frage und Antwort’ (Q&A session) we had with Nico Raschik (NR). We have kept the original in German and added English translations (in BOLD) for each question.

TRF: Wie lange machst Du schon Filme? How long have you been making movies?

NR: Ich arbeite seit 1999 beim Film und habe meinen ersten Kurzfilm und Musikvideo im Jahr 2000 gemacht. I’ve been working in the genre since 1999 and produced my first short and music video in 2000.

TRF: Was is Dein Bezug zur Thematik? Zum Fussball? What is your background and relationship to the film/topic?

NR: Ich selber war in meiner Kindheit sehr erfolgreicher Leistungssportler.  Aber man muß wohl kein Sportler, geschweige denn ein Prophet sein, um zu erkennen, dass es leider bei allem nicht mehr um Sport, um Fußball geht. Und nach unserem Film ging es ja weiter – ich meine, was macht eine FußbalWM in Katar? Growing up, I was always involved in competitive sports. But, one need not be a professional athlete or a prophet to recognize that sport, and in this case football, has taken a back seat (to corruption, politics …). Case in point, how did a football world cup end up in Qatar?

Als Regisseur geht es mir aber immer mehr auch um das, was drunter liegt. Ein Leitspruch, den ich bei dem Film die ganze Zeit im Kopf hatte, war,  „wenn es am schlimmsten ist, soll man tanzen „. Das zeigt sich dann eben in der letzten Szene, wenn Sonneborn mit dem Rücken an die Wand steht und 100 MIo zahlen soll…wenn es am schlimmsten ist, soll man tanzen. Im Sport sollt es spielerisch zugehen und um Leidenschaft – und die hat Sonneborn. Das sieht man in der kleinen Szene, wenn das Titanicteam gegen die Businesstypen spielen. Sie können bei weitem nicht mithalten – aber spielen mit Herz☺

In my role as a director, I am always looking for what is underneath it all, below the surface. One of the themes I kept on remembering as we were shooting was ‘when things are bad and the odds stacked against you, go ahead and dance’. The point is to remain light-hearted, yet focused. Sports should focus on performance and passion (and having fun while playing). 

TRF: Has Du und Deine Filme schon mal bei einem Soccer/Fussballfilmfest mitgemacht? Have you ever participated in a soccer film festivals? Have you produced other soccer films?

NR: Nein – wie ich schon sagte, geht es mir immer eher um etwas, was drunter liegt. Ich weiß, dass man jemanden von außen immer  gerne auf eine Sache festmachen mag: Du hast einen Horrorfilm gemacht – war doch schön, was ist dein nächster Horrorfilm? So ist es genauso mit Fußball, Komödie… Generell bin ich kein Fan zu sagen, hauptsache das Genre oder die eine Sache – ich bin ein Fan von Geschichten. Und diese Geschichte mußte einfach gemacht werden.

No. It is human nature to categorize everything and try to pigeon-hole someone based on what they have done before …’ you make horror movies, what’s your next horror film? I like to focus on stories and why certain stories must be told as opposed to specific genres.

TRF: Gibt es eine Zusammenfassung/highlights vom Kurzfilm? Summarize The Final Fax. What’s the main message?

NR: Es geht um Leidenschaft  wie beim Fußball – und wie man 2006 die dt. Mannschaft spielen gesehen hat, haben sie leidenschaftlich gespielt – das ist Sport, denn sie waren ja nicht die technisch besten oder auch drittbesten, aber die Mannschaft mit dem größten Herz.  Deshalb wohl in dem Film das Highlight: die Montage zwischen dem leidenschaftlichen (aber hoffnungslosen) Spiel von Sonnborn und den geldumhangennen Machtmenschen der FIFA. It’s all about passion. Persönlich mag ich aber die letzte Szene: wenn alles festgefahren scheint und Sonneborn eigentlich so unter Druck steht, dass er erfürchtig (wie alle anderen) vor den Funtionären mit der Macht hinknien müßte. Gib nicht auf, halt an deiner Überzeugung fest + wenn es am schlimmsten ist, soll man tanzen.

In The Final Fax, it’s all about showing the passionate but hopeless game played by the main character Martin Sonneborn pitted against the mighty and corrupt FIFA powerbrokers. And in the end, against all odds, with the all-powerful football officials and politicians breathing down his neck and making him beg for mercy, Sonneborn does not give up or sell out his believes. Remember, when things are bad and the odds stacked against you, all you can do is dance! Side note: This never say die attitude was put on display during the 2006 World Cup, when the German National Team played with a fire,passion and conviction that had not been seen in decades. They were not the best technicians but displayed the biggest heart. That’s my take-away for The Final Fax … heart, passion and conviction. 

TRF: Wie kamst Du an dieses Thema? How did you end up focused on this particular topic?

NR: So ist der Film nach einer realen Vorlage entstanden, als eine Satire auf die reale Satire, welche in der FIFA und Fußballwelt gespielt wird. Und das nicht als reines Abbild, sondern so wie aus der Sicht von Sonneborn erzählt. Denn Martin Sonneborn hätte ja ebenfalls einen ernsthaften Spiegelartikel schreiben können über Korruption im Fußball. Nur dann hätte doch jeder gesagt: langweilig, weiß ich doch. Und so hat er selber bestochen: mit einem Korb mit leckeren Würstchen und einer Kukuksuhr. Er machte Satire – und führte dazu, was er hätte sich selber nicht besser wünschen können: zur WM im eigenen Land. So sollte der Film auch sein und ich habe viele Originalzitate gesammelt und mehrere Ereignisse aus umfangreicher Reschersche zu der Geschichte verdichtet.

The film is a satire based on the satire of organizations like FIFA and other powerful football entities. What makes this film unique is Martin Sonneborn’s approach. As a publication editor, he could have chosen the high (boring) road  and written a serious article about corruption in football. The result would have been very predictable … ‘we know about corruption … boring’. Instead, he decided to turn the tables and be the one that lead the corruption and bribery efforts. His offer, a gift basket filled with specialties from the Black Forest and a Kukuclock , ultimately lead to the unraveling of the ‘business as usual’ FIFA and to a highly controversial 2006 world cup host.

TRF: Wo schon ge-screened? Has the film been shown before?

NR: Ich hab den Film in Berlin auf einem Festival gesehen – mit Martin Sonneborn. Das war nen schöner Abend. The Final Fax feiert allerdings be Kicking & Screening New York sein US Premiere. We screened the film at a festival in Berlin with Martin Sonneborn in attendance. That was a fun evening. The Final Fax will be celebrating its US premier at the Kicking+Screening soccer festival this week in New York.

This wraps-up our Q&A with Nico. Make sure to stop by the K&S Soccer Film Fest tonight (July 22) to check out The Final Fax and the evening’s feature presentation Soka Afrika. Also, thanks to Nico’s partner in crime, producer Birke Birkner, you can download the official Final Fax Press Kit (in German).

I woke up this morning thinking ‘I really love twitter’. Besides following hundreds of thousands of Women’s World Cup tweets over the past weeks granting me access to back stories, side stories, commentary, and players’ thoughts from Germany, I have to thank twitter (and Alexi Lalas) for ‘introducing’ me to the Kicking + Screening Soccer Film Festival.  A four-day festival dedicated to soccer films, most of them never screened before, right here in our backyard? Yes! I ventured to the K+S site, saw the amazing roster of films slated for the 3rd annual New York festival, July 20-23rd, and booked my flight. That was about a month ago, so it’s hard to believe the festivities are only a few days away.

Recently, I had the pleasure to chat with Rachel Markus, Kicking & Screening brainchild (along with Greg Lalas), about the festival’s background, the features and short films being screened, and the detailed festival schedule …

TRF: Rachel (RM), I am thoroughly excited about this Wednesday night’s K&S New York Soccer Film Festival kick-off and have been following your stories and updates on the blog and twitter.  For starters, I wanted to provide TheRealFutbol readers some more details, a ‘tale of the tape’ if you will, on K+S prior to the event and highlight the daily festival schedule. Let’s start with a bit of background.

RM: The Kicking & Screening Soccer Film Festival is an annual New York-based event that brings together soccer and film enthusiasts to celebrate the beautiful game as expressed on film. K+S provides a forum for filmmakers, artists, and writers to showcase their work.

The success of the inaugural 2009 sold-out K+S New York festival spurred not only a repeat in 2010, but also satellite festivals in Washington, DC, Houston, North Adams, Mass., and, most recently, Amsterdam. To date, the festival has presented seven U.S. premieres, a speaker series featuring respected bloggers, writers, and journalists from the soccer world, and a photo exhibit. In September 2011, K+S will return to Europe for the first K+S Football Film Festival in London.

TRF: The 2011 K&S Soccer film festival taking place at Tribeca Cinemas July 20th-23rd features 11 films including a US and World premiere. Please tell us more about the selections and the process.

RM: One of my biggest thrills of co-producing this festival has always been previewing the various film submissions. This year alone, we received 55 films from 25 countries including Pakistan, Indonesia, and South Africa. While the overriding theme is of course soccer we are very open about the specific twist or angle various filmmakers present. For example, several of the selections this year are not about specific games or rivalries but actually focus on behind the scenes soccer activities and in one case a referee’s dream turned nightmare.

In terms of the K+S 2011 NY screening schedule, we are excited to present 6 short films and 5 features (with a double feature planned for the last night) including the US premiere of “Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story” on Thursday, July 21st, and the premiere of “Match 64” on Saturday.

TRF: You mentioned including a ‘speaker series’ as part of past K&S festivals. Can you provide more details about what you have in store?

RM: We recently announced our speaker panel series for all four days and will have New York Red Bulls GM/sporting director Erik Soler and ESPN soccer analyst Alexi Lalas headlining this year. All panel discussions will be held at Tribeca Cinemas, after the evening’s screenings, and include directors, producers, and writers from the majority of K+S’s official film selections. The full panel discussion schedule includes:

  • “The Passion of the Game” — Wednesday, July 20: Gavin Sullivan, writer and producer of Argentina Futbol Club (feature selection); Rick Ball, writer, producer, and Manchester United fan
  • “Over There: The Battle for American Respect in Europe” — Thursday, July 21: Alexi Lalas, ESPN soccer analyst and former US national team star; Nick Lewis and Ranko Tutulugdzija, writers and directors of Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story
  • “Developing Talent or Trafficking Players? Player movement from Africa,” — Friday, July 22: Erik Soler, GM/sporting director of the New York Red Bulls; Simon Laub and Sam Potter, producers of Soka Afrika
  • “Pressure at the Highest Level” — Saturday, July 23: Daniel Gordon, director of Match 64; Mattias Löw, director of Rättskiparen

TRF: Who is your typical ‘K+S’ enthusiast? And what sort of a turnout to you expect this week? And, if I want to check out the festival, but can only come out one night, when should I go?

RM: Since its inception, we literally have had 1000s of soccer film fans come out and support the craft. Of that group, we have welcomed artists, filmmakers, professional soccer players, other athletes, sports commentators, journalists, underground film lovers as well as ‘regular’ folks who enjoy movies. Estimated attendance for K+S NY? We have had encouraging pre-event buzz this year and are definitely presenting the most impressive roster of films to date.  With that said, it would be great to sell 200 tickets for each nightly screening.  In terms of when to come to the festival, I would say purchase a 4 day pass but if that’s not feasible, there’s truly something for everyone.  From the perspective of the fans’ passion (Opening Night) to reliving that incredible chill of experiencing and watching World Cup victory (Closing Night), each set of films and panel discussions will be captivating.

TRF: We know that the screenings all take place at night, but can you please give us a run-down of the daily festival schedule and some more details on the venue?

RM: Sure.  Doors open at 6:30pm, and the Red Bulls Street Team freestylers will be performing before the films.  The film screenings begin a 7:30pm.  Immediately following the films, the discussion panels will be held in the bar/lounge area.  And of course, part of the fun of the festival is pre- and post socializing in the bar with fellow soccer enthusiasts, players, writers, and filmmakers.

TRF: Your website lists a very impressive list of festival partners and sponsors including the New York Red Bulls. We know that the Red Bulls are playing on Saturday before the last night of K&S screenings. Are you planning anything special? Encouraging folks to attend the game?

RM: Yes, we are very proud of the community and international support for the festival and especially excited about the Red Bulls partnership. As you mentioned, they play FC Dallas at Red Bull Arena (located in Harrison, NJ) on Saturday at 6pm and the team has designated a special promo code for all K&S event goers and is offering discounted tickets for Saturday’s game. Tickets can be purchased here using the promo code RBNYKANDS.

TRF: Lastly, when we spoke, you mentioned donating some of the K&S proceeds to charity. What a great idea, can you please elaborate?

RM: We have been working with charities since starting K+S three years ago and usually partner with a local organization. This year, we chose Soccer Without Borders which runs community-led, year-round youth development programs in under-served areas in the USA and abroad. Based in Berkeley, CA, Soccer Without Borders currently operates 7 year-round programs in 5 countries on 3 continents.

Rachel, thank you so much for your time, good luck with the K+S Festival and see you there.