“I would like to dedicate the [Afcon] trophy to all African coaches. We’re not yet there, this team has taken just months to build. We will continue building.” It was a surreal moment on the night of 10 February 2013 when Stephen Keshi, the coach of Nigeria’s national football team, uttered those words inside the packed press conference at Soccer City Stadium in Soweto, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Scores of journalists were waiting for a great, perhaps triumphal quote from this man who had charmed the continent over the three weeks of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, with his team of rag-tag soldiers, three-quarters of whom were serving the national squad for the first time. Instead, Keshi said something anti-climactic: “We’re not yet there.”
Dramatic films about football–with few exceptions, say “Sixty Six” or “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation“– are usually a bust. It seems hard to recreate on-field action or to make connections to larger themes about the nation, identity politics, institutional violence, capitalism or the romance of the beautiful game. And nowadays professional footballers’ lives off-field can be regimented and organized, drained of any real drama. Mario Balotelli, or before him Lilian Thuram or Eric Cantona are major exceptions.