“In this country, politics is football and football is politics”

The second season of El presidente, fiction created by Armando Bo, has already been released on Prime Video. Numerous historical elements portray, in a sarcastic tone, the world of international football leadership. In these eight chapters, entitled Game of Corruption, the president of FIFA, João Havelange, through corrupt and unscrupulous strategies with clubs, associations and governments of the world, stands in power. Without ethics or morals, he made agreements with Jorge Rafael Videla, during the 1978 World Cup, in the middle of the military dictatorship: goals in the newspapers, on the radio and on the screens, while the country was governed with kidnappings, torture, murders, disappearance of people and appropriation of babies. In the series, Havelange and Videla are the Portuguese actor Albano Jerónimo and the Argentine Favio Posca. The Chilean Andrés Parra takes up the character from the first season, Sergio Jadue, but this time, as a narrator, he becomes an accomplice with the viewer.

Bo is the grandson of the film director after whom he received the same name and remembers with admiration “the films that my grandfather produced, prior to Isabel [Sarli], such as Cloth Ball and Leather Ball; You will also honor your mother I loved as a boy; My old man also did very interesting things: The super agents marked an era”. Currently, he is in charge of the production company About Entertainment.

With the French Gaumont, Prime Video, Kapow and Fábula, he made this enormous series, due to the number of people, locations, objects and costumes used for the reconstruction of the period. Bo, winner of an Oscar for Birdman, confesses: “Buenos Aires is where I’m from. We Argentines have a hard time leaving. I have been living in the United States for a long time; a year in Uruguay, filming the series. But I use Buenos Aires as a base. I like my children to be close to the family.”

—What does the series propose, about the football and political relationship, in particular, in Argentina?

—In Argentina, politics is soccer and soccer is politics. The series shows soccer characters who seek to transcend, who have a personal ego. This is the story of Havelange, who sought to transcend and achieved it by manipulating, using football and Pelé. In politics today, marketing is used to tell one story or another. Everything is strategy. The series gets into a world where there were still ideals. In the ’60s, ’70s, there were stories: religions, politics; communism was one side; on the other side there were dictatorships. Nothing remains of those structures today. The series takes all this with humor and also criticizes it; parody works and no, comedy. In Argentina, we see the drums a thousand years ago in all public events. The barras bravas are in some and other places. It is not that we saw it when Macri came to power. Soccer has been used for many years. The 78 World Cup was the most tragic and terrible use.

—How did you face the representation of the military dictatorship? Can you make humor with that?

—It was complex. It is not a light subject. I did not get into that area on a whim, but because the protagonist, Havelange, has his first World Cup in 1978 like his. We tell that story, with respect, but having freedom. They were so, so bad, so murderous, they were doing everything so wrong, that at some point there is some absurd humor there. It’s not funny, but we had a chance to beat them up laughing at what idiots and murderers they were, how ill-prepared they were. Havelange had to deal with these guys who were disasters, murderers who were hiding everything with this World Cup. Favio Posca, and Fabio Alberti, who is also in that chapter, are references. I grew up with his humor when he was a kid. They bring humor and at the same time they are credible, they are real. There is a hint of humor, of cynicism, trying not to cross over to either side.

—How was the production and filming process of this series?

—It was written in 2020 and produced in early 2021, when there was still no vaccine against Covid. So it was a huge productive challenge. Also, it was a challenge to buy it: it is told in Spanish, English and Portuguese, with a cast that comes from England, Germany, France, Spain. The scale of production was gigantic. We were lucky to film in Uruguay, where the Covid had not yet hit. We reproduced all the countries in that place. We brought costumes from all over the world, cars from Brazil. There were two hundred people being tested every day, with very strict protocols. Editing was exciting; There are eight episodes, almost eight hours of content: they are equivalent to almost four movies.

—Being about to start another World Cup, how do you see the millions of people who accompanied the previous World Cups that are portrayed in the series, and the millions of people who right now invest their money in trips, merchandising, figurines, that feed that corrupt business that you portray? In other words, there is business because there are consumers.

– I am one more. I buy figurines and I also like football and I watch it. I do not criticize the sport that, somehow, generates unions. You can watch football with your family, with friends, be happy. At the same time, football became a business. The mass of soccer is the people and clearly they are influential. Marketing can manipulate people and the series tells that: who is behind these manipulations. The series criticizes the system, but no, from a place that I am not part of. I enjoy that world even though it is corrupted.

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“In this country, politics is football and football is politics”