[Pelada] Movie Blog
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January 22, 2013
The Pelada Crew in 2013
Filed under: Uncategorized |

To read about our adventures on the road and on the field, check out my new book with St. Martin’s Press: Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty Five Countries, and the Search for Pickup Soccer. It’s available here: http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Game-Twenty-five-Countries-Search/dp/1250002044.

Nearly three years after premiering at South by Southwest, PELADA is doing well and has screened in many countries across the world, from Qatar to Poland. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response that pickup has generated–in addition to some generous reviews of our film (check out this one by James Dall on ESPN), we’ve received wonderful emails from viewers who have told us their own pickup tales, fantastic accounts of games played everywhere, with anyone. Thank you so much for sharing your stories.

We, the Pelada crew, are doing well. Ryan’s new film, Good Ol’ Freda (http://www.goodolfreda.com/) , centered on the never-before-told stories of the Beatles’ longtime friend and secretary, will premiere at SXSW this March. Rebekah (aka Ferg) has her own production company in San Francisco–check out her website at www.rfilmsprod.com. Luke is practicing environmental law at a small firm in Newport Beach. And I’m teaching writing classes at Laguna College of Art and Design and Orange Coast College.

Finally, Luke and I are expecting a baby this summer. Despite some envisioned headaches involving pronunciation, we intend to name the kid–boy or girl–Xavi, after the Barcelona center-mid whom we are both mildly obsessed with, drawn to his subtle grace.

We love hearing pickup stories and would love to hear more in the comments section.

All the best,


June 2, 2009
Crip-walking in Shanghai
Filed under: China |

AK is a twenty-eight-year-old Chinese man who gave up a highly paid, highly respected job as a banker so that he could have more time to work on his football tricks. I want to say that while I watch him juggle the ball on his shins, it’s hard for me to imagine him wearing a business suit and sitting at a desk, but that’s not true—I can easily imagine him wearing a suit and sitting at a desk. Maybe he could see it too—like us, he’s at that age where things start funneling in directions you’re not even sure you want to go—and maybe that’s part of what led him to tell a disbelieving father that his grown up son wanted to become a street soccer player.

Several years ago, AK saw a youtube video of various street players. He enjoyed watching them so much that he started trying tricks himself. Everyday he spent hours mastering the moves he saw on the computer screen and then inventing his own, until he became arguably the best streetballer in China. Nowadays he has a small following of guys who meet him in public squares and attempt to replicate his tricks. They play outside the metro station, in the center of People’s Square, in front of a Mao statue at East China Normal University—anywhere they think people will see.


April 10, 2009
On the Rooftops
Filed under: Japan |

PEOPLE TOLD US not to bother going to Asia. Franklin Foer didn’t make it there—when he wrote How Soccer Explains The World, it was the one continent he left out. The passion that spanned Europe, Africa, South America, and the Middle East apparently didn’t exist in Asia. China, the most populated country in the world, rarely qualifies for the World Cup; in 2002 when they did qualify, they failed to score a single goal. When I researched the Asian pick-up scene, the Internet turned up only one article in Time magazine: “Woes in Asia.” An excerpt:

“In Japan, it’s often said that we teach too much,” says Yahiro Kazama, one of the few Japanese to have played professionally in Europe. Japanese kids—like others in East Asia—participate in organized after-school soccer, but tend to abandon the sport outside regulation time. “They are good at learning,” says Japanese soccer commentator Michel Miyazawa. “But if I ask my son to play with a ball, he seems surprised and says ‘Really? Here? Now?’”


October 8, 2008
LA or Bust…
Filed under: United States |

WE WERE GOING 80 MPH down highway 94 on the twenty-second hour of our cross-country drive when we struck the deer.

Ryan, Ferg, Luke and I were moving to Los Angeles to try our luck in the big city and turn our 300 hours of footage into an hour and a half feature-length film. Ryan was taking the southern route, Ferg was cutting straight through the middle, and Luke and I were taking a slightly out of the way route via Montana. We’d loaded our lives into my ’96 Camry. While it had 168,000 miles on it and was missing three inner door handles and two outer door handles, there was no reason to believe we wouldn’t make it.

It was the good kind of drive—rolling hills, trees rising out of rivers, sideways light that lit up the cornfields, empty roads, good music and the feeling that so much was ahead.


August 7, 2008
Austin's Field
Filed under: Kenya |

I am in the middle of the backseat of a taxi with one camera and a pillow on my lap when I see my first matatu. It’s a fuchsia pink mini-bus and there’s a giant picture of Mariah Carey above the taillights. It’s thumping loud music and there appears to be some kind of strobe light. A man is hanging outside the door—he periodically jumps off the still-moving vehicle, thrusting out a hand to those trying to leap on board, then shoving them safely down the aisle. He thumps the side of the bus and the driver takes off.


July 21, 2008
Ten-minute Game
Filed under: Israel |

We always listen for yelling—from the Iraqis in London to the old men in Brazil, the best games are marked by a failure to refrain. It’s not usually the fourteen-year-olds or the eighteen-year-olds shouting into each other’s faces; they’re too conscious of keeping their cool, of portraying to the world that there are more important things ahead. But right around the time you’re on the other side of your playing career looking back, there’s a behavioral abandon. Weeknight games matter as much as or more than anything else in your life and you’ve stopped trying to fight it—so yes, you’re going to yell your head off if someone’s saying your goal is not a goal or trying to jip you out of your final two minutes on the court.


July 2, 2008
Cuss a Gnome
Filed under: England, France, Germany, Spain |

The European Wrap-Up

EURO2008 Spanish and Swedish fans


June 17, 2008
The Legend of Ruud van Nistelrooy, The Curse of the Americans, and The Cake Side of Life
Filed under: Germany |

Four years ago, Ruud van Nistelrooy–international Dutch superstar–took a vacation along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The weather was bad–dark sky, poor visibility, unappealing road trip conditions. So when he saw a sign for Holiday Inn Drive, he pulled off the highway and opted to wait out the weather.

While hauling his bag out the car, he noticed a small white placard: ASHEVILLE INDOOR SOCCER CENTER.


June 16, 2008
Priests on mopeds, heels on cobblestone…and other paradoxes
Filed under: Italy |

We want to play in the Vatican. We have the slightly illogical rationale that if we can get inside a Bolivian prison, we should be able to get inside a church.

This desire sprang from the discovery of something called the Clericus Cup—where priests-in-training from all over the world play each other on a field overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica. For weeks now, Luke has been reading up on these player-priests: even Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone—the Vatican’s Secretary of State—is a calcio devotee who recently bought a Serie C team and hopes one day to have a professional team representing the Vatican.


June 12, 2008
Filed under: France |

The taxi drops us off in the center of a large square in the Old Port. There are boys riding bikes through a fountain, fisherman with crossed legs drinking Pastis, and pigeons dive-bombing from window to window.

Our window is on the seventh floor and after we’ve hauled our bags and equipment up a skinny, winding staircase, we open the peeling shutters and lean outside, looking out at the masts of the sailboats—hundreds of them docked at what used to be France’s main port.


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