I arrived in Afghanistan in the summer of 2012 to pursue a job at a telecom company. But by spring of the following year, I had left that job to begin playing professional soccer with a Kabul-based club (story from Sports Illustrated). I was immediately taken aback with the vibrancy of the soccer scene. Soccer was being played at big stadiums, on street corners, and everywhere in between. I started documenting my experiences, and those of others, on a blog.
My favorite space in the whole city quickly became a public park in the center of town. It boasted a pick-up soccer “stadium.” The stadium didn’t have much by way of ornamentation, but there was no lack of personalities. There were ballers and smooth talkers, hot heads and pot heads, thugs and softies. I fell into this crowd easily. As an American playing pick-up ball in this park, I was just another abnormality.
Side note: The New City Park was portrayed in an ESPN feature about my time in Kabul that recently ran on SportsCenter. You can check out the story here. This piece is distinct from the project we are currently raising money for.
I began filming when I realized that my friends and teammates had some extraordinary stories to tell. One friend, Noorullah, who you’ll meet in this movie, is currently sleeping on the streets. After being kicked out of his home by his father, he moved to Kabul to find work. Through many hours spent at this park, he became serious about soccer and has foregone a steady job and a bed to ensure adequate time for his soccer training.
Another friend and character in this film, Mosadeq, is on the verge of making the Afghanistan’s national beach soccer team. If he does well there, he could be called up to the full national team. The only problem? He’s had to give up a year of schooling to pursue this dream, and his well-educated family makes no secret of their disapproval.
Sultan aka Chicharito is a business owner disillusioned by the corrupt business environment in Afghanistan. He seeks out soccer as an escape, something he can believe in after ten vain years of trying to improve his country.
Bashir is a family man who moved from his home provinces of Baghlan to sell dried fruits and nuts in Kabul in order to provide an income for his family. Bashir feels lonely living on his own in Kabul and comes to the park to socialize and find a surrogate family.
And finally there’s me, Nick, your Director and the man behind the camera asking the questions. I will narrate this film and, in doing so, provide insight as to what it was like for me to be accepted into such a community.
We are excited to make this film to offer a view of Afghanistan rarely seen by U.S. audiences. Additionally, these characters' poignant stories reveal the complex role of soccer and sports in our lives and the universal way we play out our dreams, disappointments, and tragedies on the field.
How You Can Help
All the filming that needed to be done in Afghanistan is completed. What is left are additional photography and interviews here in the US, space and equipment rentals, the significant task of editing the compiled footage, translation, licensing, audio mastering, and distribution.
Our budget indicates that we’ll need $18,000 to see this project through to completion. We plan to create various cuts of the filming ranging from 15 minutes to 30 minutes or longer in length.
In addition to monetary donations, we would also absolutely love in-kind donations in the form of expertise in performing any of the tasks listed above. (For example, if you’re a graphic designer who could help us out for a day, or a property manager that could lend us a workspace for a month, let us know!) Not only will this allow us to dedicate the money we do raise to higher quality inputs, but it will also expand the creative power behind this project. It goes without saying that in-kind contributions will be acknowledged accordingly in the film credits.
Noah Schechter, Producer – Noah is a filmmaker and director living and working in New York City. He recently completed a short film, "Once, Again" as well as promotional pieces for JAWSoft, Inc. and the Baltimore Waterfront Partnership. Noah is a graduate of Williams College and was born and raised in Baltimore.
Danny Arruda, Executive Producer – Danny is a feature producer for ESPN and the owner of Killer Banana Productions. He is a creative and strategic adviser for this project.
Risks and challenges
While we plan to begin work on “Kings of the New City” in March of 2014 and to dedicate most of our waking hours to the project until it’s completed, there is always the possibility that certain pieces will take longer than expected to fall into place. Should we decide to include animation in the film, for example, or to record a performance of Afghan classical music in Kabul—these components may push back the end date of the project by a few weeks.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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