A football-dance theatre production addressing human trafficking in football
Michael Essien I Want to Play As You… is a powerful and explosive new dance theatre performance from first time choreographer/director Ahil Ratnamohan. Working with eight African footballers, this new work follows the hope, desperation and dreams of these young men.
The financial explosion of football coupled with the growing success of African players in Europe has led to many Africans believing in football as a way out of poverty. While the majority of African players displayed by the media are on million-dollar contracts, there is a growing under-class of football-aspirants living in harsh conditions in foreign lands chasing the dream of a decent football contract.
From the artist:
I first started working on this concept following on from a tour of my first major work The Football Diaries in South Africa during the time of the 2010 World Cup. With Daisy Wouters I then travelled through Ghana and then Belgium, France and Austria attempting to find out more about the so-called ‘football slave-trade’. It was in South Africa that I encountered my first migrant football community, and I soon learned that these communities exist all around the world, I’ve already encountered them in five countries, each one different, correlating in predictable ways to the land in which they are based.
In 2011, I went back to Antwerp to train with the group I’d previously met. I trained with them on a daily basis gaining some sort of acceptance, but still always feeling like an outsider, just as they always would in Belgium. It was on my third stay with the group that I invited some of them to come and work with me on a theatre piece. Explaining to them what it would be was almost impossible, but through football they seemed to trust me and we embarked on the journey that is Michael Essien I want to play as you…
In this project the eight footballers are my closest collaborators and expert football-performers; their stories, opinions and feelings are paramount to creating the piece, as is their finely tuned physical ability. I work with them as a choreographer would with a dancer.
Follow Ahil on his journey