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Coming Soon to Hollywood: Soccer Heroes and Villains

10 Feb, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

It’s not just in the news that you’re hearing about soccer. Hollywood is fielding two projects, each trying to capitalize on the success of the sport, thanks to its heroes, as well as the corruption found at its highest level.

The good guys (or at least the funny ones) will be found in a show, tentatively called “Dream Team,” which centers around a youth coach, who following a stint with a national championship team, takes over the reins of a disparate group of eight-year-olds. Since this is a half-hour comedy show, viewers can expect to be treated to caricatures of soccer parents, and perhaps some stereotypes of kids as well.

The show, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “is inspired by (co-writer and co-executive producer Kari) Lizer’s experiences as a soccer mom on weekends.”

The idea for the show was so hot, notes the Reporter, it landed a pilot-production commitment at ABC following a competitive situation with other networks bidding. Variety Magazine described the show as “nearly a sure thing.”

But if “Dream Team” features a scrappy group of kids playing for laughs around a soccer field, “The Big Fix,” coming to the silver screen, tackles the serious – and seamy – underside of the game.

The movie, Variety notes, covers the events around a match-fixing scandal that plagued soccer and involved bribes of refs, players and even coaches. The script for the movie is based on Brett Forrest’s ESPN Magazine article “All the World Is Staged,” published in 2012.

According to Deadline Hollywood, the film follows three main characters: the ex-Interpol agent charged with cleaning up the game (based on the life rights of Chris Eaton, a former police officer who helped uncover the scandal while serving as top enforcement agent for FIFA); the masterful match fixer being funded by the Triads (based on the currently incarcerated Raj Perumal, who was caught in Finland and charged with match fixing); and the promising young player who has to choose between his personal honor and the safety of his family (an amalgamation of several actual players).

Variety notes, “producers have obtained Eaton’s life rights. Perumal was first jailed for match-fixing in 1995 in Singapore, then built up a match-fixing network in Europe, Asia and Africa by focusing on players in less prominent leagues. He was arrested in Rovaniemi, Finland in 2011 for having a false passport after he was spotted berating athletes on the local team.

“One week later, Chris Eaton, FIFA’s head of security, arrived in Rovaniemi,” the article said. “He knew exactly who Perumal was. Eaton informed Finnish investigators that they had just caught the world’s most prolific criminal fixer of soccer matches, an elusive figure whom Eaton had been chasing for the past six months. Perumal had rigged hundreds of games across five continents, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent gambling winnings for Asian and European syndicates.”

While FIFA certainly had its share of headlines recently, the issue of match-fixing in sports has been brought to the fore with the recent tennis scandal. Count on this movie to keep the drum pounding.

Variety has also reported that 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment are working with the Belgium-based directing team Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah on “The Big Fix.” No release date has been set yet.

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