Have you ever been inside a prison cell … for work? I have. I was in a prison cell doing research for a TV concept, which was eventually pitched to me as Streetkings in Jail (more on that later) … but it’s all in a day’s work for Insight TV and VICE Studios.
Working with VICE Studios was a great experience, as both Insight TV and VICE Studios create original content, which is focused, first and foremost, on storytelling.
Now, we come to Streetkings in Jail. This exciting new 4-part TV series, features four international legends of the game – Ruud Gullit (Netherlands), Gilberto Silva (Brazil), Juan Pablo Angel (Colombia), Kevin Kuranyi (Germany) – and the incredibly talented OG of street football, Edward van Gils – a street footballer with first-hand knowledge, of how the beautiful game can transform lives.
We asked each of them to reminisce about their childhoods, their neigbourhoods, and how close they came to spending a lifetime behind bars. It’s immensely moving to hear these idols of the beautiful game, talking candidly about their youth.
They were once kids who had played football for fun, with only the faintest hopes of becoming professional players. The streets … that’s where they ended up after school; that’s where they learnt the life and footballing skills, that would remain with them for the rest of their lives.
The four legends then visit prisons in their local countries. They investigate how the prison regimes deliver football programs to the inmates. In prison, they meet men who could have become kings of the world stage. Yet, one wrong decision early on in their life, took them down the wrong path.
It is quite breathtaking to hear their stories, and to discover how they still live for football. It’s their means of survival in places that can be violent and brutal. Ultimately, it’s profoundly moving to see, that it’s the simple game of football, that gets them through their day.
Perhaps the best experience for both Insight TV and VICE Studios was Colombia. On the rocky, sandy streets of Bogota, where Juan Pablo Angel once played with his friends, he recalls the tragic story of Andrés Escobar, a Colombian international. Playing in a 1994 FIFA World Cup match against the USA, Escobar inadvertently scored an own goal. Upon his return to Colombia, Escobar was murdered. Football it seems, has the power to make or break lives.
Juan Pablo and Edward then visited Cárcel Distrital Prison and found amazing football talents who had poignant life stories. They went on to play a match with the inmates on the prison court. Amidst the passionate cheers and enthusiastic jeering of prisoners in orange jumpsuits, Juan Pablo and Edward must have thought: they’ll never forget they were there!
All of which brings me to this denouement: Choices in life dictate everything that we do. Streetkings in Jail showcases how one wrong decision can immeasurably transform your life. One kick of a football, could be the difference between a life on the world stage, or a lifetime behind bars. Perhaps most importantly, it beautifully illustrates how sport and football in particular, can change the world, and truly transform lives for the better.
Streetkings in Jail premieres September 10 exclusively on Insight TV.
On 13 September we are taking over IBC 2019, at Amsterdam Rai. Come down to meet Dutch footballing legend, Ruud Gullit and challenge the Godfather of street football, Edward van Gils, in our exclusive panna cage! We’re also arriving in Germany on September 17, at Munich’s Olympia Einkaufszentrum. Visit our panna cage and challenge German footballing legend Kevin Kuranyi and Edward van Gils.