Coach Zoran and his African Tigers (2014)

Coach Zoran and his African Tigers (2014)Watching this BBC documentary is like watching a train wreck, where the runaway locomotive is the Serbian coach of the new South Sudan national team.
Only in its first year of independence, South Sudan is ill-prepared to run a football team. The government has no money, and the population is so impoverished that homes don’t have electricity. The South Sudan Football Association (SSFA) hires Coach Zoran Djordjevic, who pursues his agenda like a juggernaut.

ZOran fabricates his own metal goals and scouts the country via public transit since the country cannot provide him a car or driver. After playing just one friendly, he enters the team in the 2012 CECAFA tournament. He assumes there will be funds for airfare and money to pay him. At one point, in a contest of wills, the SSFA locks the team out of practice.

Zoran unilaterally names the team Tigers after his own nickname. He unilaterally selects a sheep as a team mascot, possibly so that he has at least one loyal friend in Africa. SSFA President Chabur Goc Ali concludes,

“Football is a sport that teaches us peace, harmony, and humility. Unfortunately, none of these traits are to be found in Zoran.”

There is little actual soccer in the film, but Director Sam Benstead gives a circumspect but good sense of the problems with Sudan, the SSFA, and Coach Zoran. I knew nothing of Sudan before I saw this film, and I was disturbed by the tour of the star striker’s family compound, where he has 26 sisters and 35 brothers.

But a weakness of this documentary is that it leaves so many unanswered questions. I would like to know:

  • Did Zoran get paid, and who paid him? FIFA?
  • How did striker Hassan Ismail Konyi get a tryout with the North York Astros in Toronto, Canada? How was he identified? Did Zoran help him get the tryout? Why didn’t Hassan get a contract?
  • What happened after South Sudan’s protest to stop producing oil for the North?
  • How did Zoran and others get back to South Sudan after the tournament?
  • What really happened to Zoran’s mascot sheep, Champion?

You know what I really learned from this film? That it is a charade to charter a FIFA Football Association in a new nation that is so unstable and has so many more urgent needs. It is obvious that the FIFA funds are mainly lining someone’s pocket and securing a vote for Sepp Blatter’s FIFA presidency (watch Planet FIFA).

In Juba Arabic, Serbian and English, with English subtitles.
Produced for BBC Storyville. 75 minutes
SoccerMovieMom Rating = 6

Director: Sam Benstead
Released: 2014-02-14 (UK)