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Al Jazeera English to air ‘Football Rebels’ for World Cup fans

MUMBAI: English news channel Al Jazeera English is bringing ‘Football Rebels’ back as the World Cup fever is about to begin.

Presented and narrated by former Manchester United star Eric Cantona, the show will spotlight on some of the more unusual stories of football heroes.

‘Football Rebels’ is a five-part documentary that sheds light on five football legends whose social conscience led them to use their fame and influence to challenge unjust regimes, join opposition movements and lead the fight for democracy and human rights in their countries.

Cantona said, “Football is more than the opium of the people. It’s about good intentions, noble hearts… When your country’s at war, your friends are killing each other and children are given rifles rather than footballs, so what if the whole world admires you!”

‘Football Rebels’ is written and directed by Gilles Rof and Gilles Perez.

The first episode of ‘Football Rebels’ is focused on Didier Drogba and the Ivorian Civil War. In 2006 ex-Chelsea legend Didier Drogba used his influence as a footballer to call on the Ivory Coast’s President Gbagbo to end the civil war that had ravaged his home country. He also made a desperate plea for his countrymen to lay down their weapons, resulting in a ceasefire after five years of conflict.

The second episode revolves around Socrates and the Corinthians Democracy movement. Popularly known as ‘the Doctor’ for having gained a degree in medicine, Socrates combined his attacking midfield skills with his revolutionary political beliefs. Along with his team mates he transformed every match into a political statement. His support for democracy helped ordinary Brazilians, living through a military dictatorship in the 1980s, realise that they could have a voice too.

The third episode showcases Predrag Pasic and the Siege of Sarajevo. As war raged across the remains of Yugoslavia, former international footballer Predrag Pasic decided to stay in Sarajevo despite the bombs and open a multi-ethnic football school Bubamara. His brave stand against the sectarian atmosphere, created by civil war, gave many youngsters the chance to learn the philosophy of unity and teamwork through sport.

The fourth episode presents Carlos Caszely and the Demise of Allende. It follows the journey of Chilean player Carlos Caszely and how in 1973 his support for murdered president Salvador Allende led to his persecution by General Pinochet’s regime.

The final episode talks about Rachid Mekhloufi and the FLN Team. It looks back at the Brazilian dictatorship of the early 1980s and how Sócrates, the midfield maestro and Brazilian captain, turned every Corinthians’ match into a political meeting for democracy.

The channel is available on Dish TV (EPG 618) and Tata Sky (channel no. 533).