Armando Bó: “The world of football for me is a parody in itself”

The filmmaker, screenwriter and producer Armando Bó returned to the ring with the second season of “El Presidente”, the production of Amazon Prime Video that in a tone of comedy and satire portrays the network of corruption behind FIFAand that in this new installment he travels back in time to tell the story of how the Brazilian João Havelange managed to appropriate the governing body of world football and transform it into the multi-million dollar empire that it is today.

“The world of football for me is a parody in itself”, the director of “The Last Elvis” (2012) and Oscar winner for the screenplay of “Birdman” (2014), here director and showrunner of the series premiered on Friday. It is that this second season, which bears the full title of “The President: The Corruption Game” and although it is set in another era and with a different cast, maintains the humorous approach of the first.

While the original season (2020) followed the affair of the aforementioned “FIFA Gate”, its most relevant events and characters through the eyes of the small Chilean leader Sergio Jadue (Andrés Parra, in one more of his chameleonic transformations), the new episodes move the action several years before and even include the 1978 soccer championship, organized and won by Argentina with the participation of Favio Posca and Fabio Alberti in central roles.

“The President” Season 2 I Official Trailer

After the World Cup in England in 1966, Havelange (played by the Portuguese Albano Jerónimo) was just another South American leader, subjected to the designs of an International Federation completely dominated by European associations. After the physical abuse suffered by Pelé in that World Cup event and the early elimination of the then two-time champion, the Brazilian became obsessed with tilting the balance of power in the opposite direction.

Little by little and with everything against him, postponing his personal life and his loved ones, the leader begins a campaign to gain control. The key: achieve the support of the majority of the less relevant countries in the football concert. There will be hilarious stories, inspired by real events, such as the exhausting African tour in a proselytizing key of the Brazilian team that won Mexico in 1970.

Colombian Parra’s Sergio Jadue returns for the new season, this time as an accomplice narrator/ghostly figure who will guide the viewer through Havelange’s labyrinth on the way to power.

Produced by Bó himself through his About Entertainment production company, along with Gaumont, Fábula and Kapow, the cast of “El Juego de Corrupción” is completed by Anna Brewster, Carol Abras, Nelson Freitas, Polliana Aleixo, Isadora Ferrite, Leonardo Cidade, Leandro Firmino, Demétrio Nascimento Alves, Fabio Aste and Phillippe Jacq.

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Armando Bó, the director of “The Last Elvis” (2012) and Oscar winner for the screenplay for “Birdman” (2014).

Did you always know that the continuation of this story would be a kind of prequel?

The truth is that the idea for the second season came up when we were filming the first. It seemed that it worked and they came to ask me what I imagined, and the idea came to me why not tell the beginning of the world of corruption. At a time when the sport was managed by Europeans, this Brazilian decides to start this battle against the windmills, and manages to conquer power and invent the system that manages soccer; this that the power has the small teams. History portrays that discovery of Havelange, that by relying on African countries he could unseat the Europeans from FIFA. Havelange was a guy who negotiated with all the military dictatorships, who never cared much about anything other than transcending and how to grow that business that he saw behind and that we all consume. And boy did he do it.

Jadue was a point of entry into this inviting world through the gaze of a fainthearted. Havelange, meanwhile, is a different kind of man. What difficulties did this type of protagonist entail?

One of the great challenges was how to maintain the tone of the series from season 1, of that Greek tragedy that Jadue lives and that naturally had humor. And Havelange’s story was not so humorous; she was drier, tougher, more informative; it was quite difficult to find how to tell the story of someone who was in power for a long time. The guy died at the age of 101 and the first idea was that if he had died at the age of 98 he would not have seen the FIFA Gate. That’s why the series begins with its 100-year celebration and no one goes, which seemed very absurd to me.

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Favio Posca (left) has a participation in the series as a high-ranking Argentine military man.

Favio Posca (left) has a participation in the series as a high-ranking Argentine military man.

What curiosities did you discover in the process?

He knew what I think anyone who likes football knows, which is that he managed FIFA, invented it, exploited it and made it grow. In a way that I think it also did positive things. In other words, it unified, it gave opportunities to many countries; I don’t think he did it because he was a good guy, but because that brought volume and business. I learned a lot, and also in some way I was able to travel through the 70s, travel to Africa and see how this guy using Pelé managed to conquer and get closer to the African leaders. Somehow I managed to travel to the 78 World Cup and see how Videla and Massera squeezed Havelange and him without caring about anything.

Why did you decide to change the narrator’s focus? Before, Grondona (Luis Margani) narrated, that he was a man who could tell from the knowledge of having been there.

The world of football for me is a parody in itself; I am a football fan but at the same time everything that happens around football is very difficult for me, so the idea that the protagonist of season 1, who was Sergio Jadue, this little corrupt man from Chile tells the story of the great creator of the Great Corruption seemed very absurd to me and I think it gives a touch of humor to this whole story, it helped me paint the series of a parodic world, taking it a little to the extremes. The irony of Don Julio having died just as the FIFA Gate explodes was very good for Season 1, but at the same time having someone wrong like Jadue telling Havelange’s story, someone Havelange would never have hired, is hilarious.

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Fabio Alberti plays a powerful soldier who is related to Havelange during the 1978 World Cup.

Fabio Alberti plays a powerful soldier who is related to Havelange during the 1978 World Cup.

Are you surprised that so much attention from the media, from the public, on the FIFA Gate has been turned off?

I think it’s very ironic that Season 1 was about how the FIFA Gate blew up for the Qatar Cup and today we’re kicking off Season 2 with the Qatar Cup happening and not that much has changed. I think it is something very interesting to relate at this time that we are about to go to this World Cup. Obviously the only thing that matters is that Argentina win, right? But at the same time you can’t not look at the things that happen behind you.

From the first season you founded your production company, About, with which you made this series and others that are in development. At this same time, the streaming universe finished growing with the appearance of several new players. What do you find in the series as a narrative format?

It is very difficult to achieve quality in so many hours of content. I mean, eight hours of content is a lot, it’s like four movies, it has a lot of productive challenges. I think also the streamers in these years realized that not everything has to be filmed; there was like an explosion of filming, of trying to fill in hours of content of whatever and I think they realized that people don’t react to anything. That things have a time, that the themes that are chosen are important to achieve relevance. I think it’s a time when there is a change in the world of streaming, where they are clearly looking again, and saying “what do we want to tell and why? And what can connect with the audiences? If not, it is already doing to do.

Armando Bó: “The world of football for me is a parody in itself”