Pro in Africa (2020) - Pojkdrömmen

‘Pro in Africa’ (2020) revisits a boy’s dreams

In the documentary Pojkdrömmen, Writer-Director Emil Moberg Lundén tells his own story of his last-ditch all-out attempt to become a pro footballer at age 30. It’s an entertaining film under an hour, as Emil is the anti-Zlatan, an attractive, talented man who comes to question his self-centered goal in the context of third world problems.

The Story

It’s an interesting premise — who wouldn’t like to go back 10 years and make a different, life-changing decision? In Emil’s case, he was a youth player with promise, but for various reasons quit football at age 18-19. He instead became a primary school teacher, but at age 29, he decided to pursue his boyhood dream rather than look back with regret.

The first half of the film shows how Emil fast-tracks his development. He invests in a personal fitness and football coach who trains him daily. He also goes to Iceland to practice with a lower level team.

In the second half of the film, Emil heads to Kenya, where he has studied before. His goal is to tryout with Gor Mahia FC or AFC Leopards, the biggest Kenyan Premier League teams. As a start, he practices with the Kibera Black Stars, a team in Africa’s biggest slum that plays in the second division. Despite the class differences, he is welcomed, and with his outgoing personality seems to fit in well and excel on the pitch.

Emil is definitely quick with good skills and confidence. In his first game with Kibera, he scores the game-winning goal in a friendly. He envisions himself becoming a ground-breaking great White goal-striking muzungu. “They’ll give you a Luo name and even a wife!” he is told.

But in the end, no club is willing to pay the high cost of his work visa. And Emil realizes that even if he got a roster spot, he would be taking a job and a future away from a local player. Perhaps he also sees his advantages as unfair, compared to Kibera teammates who depend on game-winning bonuses to live and eat.

He has given the pro footballer path his best shot and returns home. The following year (2018), he goes back to Kibera to help found the Wale Wale Slum Soka Academy, which it appears is still operating.

The Conclusion

It’s a touching story, and it’s kind of fun to see the muzungu competing on a pitch that could be a cow pasture. It sort of reminded me of Zlatan playing in the MLS!

Pro in Africa also contrasts with the 2020 drama Tigers, based on the life of Martin Bengtsson, a 17 year old Swedish footballer whose horrible experience at Inter Milan almost killed him. It took around 20 years before Bengtsson could even stand to watch football again. I have seen part of Tigers, but I just couldn’t review it because it was sensationalized and too depressing. Lundén’s documentary is in a way, much more grownup, and certainly easy to enjoy.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8