South Of The River – The History of the Docuseries
In 2020, 14% of of the Premier League The England-born players came from ten square miles of south London.
The region has become one of the most productive breeding grounds on the planet despite being plagued by austerity and crime.
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From Jadon Sancho to Joe Gomez, a new generation of players raised in cage football and fed by the desire to escape deprivation has taken the game by storm.
There is a palpable swagger emanating from South London and the proliferation of talent transcends football. Grime superstars Stormzy and Dave, the voices of an empowered generation, are also native to the region.
South of the river, a new docuserie will be broadcast on BT Sport, explores the region’s exponential increase in gamers, and takes an unwavering look at associated social issues, including knife crime, gang culture, and funding cuts.
Champions League-winning captain Rio Ferdinand, who grew up on a communal estate in Peckham, is an executive producer.
The three-part series features Premier League players from London’s most prosperous catchment area, but it’s the disarming and heartfelt testimonies of those who aspire to follow in their role model’s footsteps that make it essential viewing.
The tragic dichotomy between getting a contract and falling into delinquency is a dominant theme and statistics reveal the appalling scale of this scourge.
South Of The River Explores The Next Generation Of Promising, Ambitious And Highly Talented Young People
Since 2014, knife crime in London has increased by 53% and from 2014 to 2019, murders due to gang violence have increased by 150%.
“Would I want to be a child then now?” Said Ferdinand. “No. In my day, if you have some punch, that’s it. At this time, there are no more fights.
In one heartbreaking scene, we are introduced to a professional aspirant whose brother was stabbed to death in 2014. “The pain now hurts more than it did,” he says in haunting footage.
The increase in the number of elite South London players has coincided with the crime epidemic and for many, football is seen as a passport to a better life. A silver bullet. Freedom.
“It’s either you walk into this gang life or you walk into this football life,” says a youngster on the books at Millwall.
The production chain is even more striking given the reduction in centralized expenditure on sports and leisure equipment in the capital.
?? It’s a talent factory like no other ??
– Rio Ferdinand
Foundation funding has been cut by almost a third over the past five years. The concomitant increase in school exclusion and crime translates into a lost generation.
But hope is eternal and local clubs like Lambeth Tigers, Madabout FC and Kinetic Academy are leading the response.
“Our programs are very holistic, so they are focused on human development,” says Harry Hudson, co-founder of Croydon-based Kinetic, which was formed shortly after the 2011 riots.
They work with children from the most disadvantaged areas of London and have a knack for spotting talent. Joe Aribo of Rangers and Josh Maja of Bordeaux made the grade after graduating from their academy.
The series also highlights the importance of social cohesion as a driver of change. Volunteers like Darnell Simpson play a vital role in the overall development of children and are the unsung heroes of the community.
Simpson once dreamed of reaching the top. He grew up with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez but has since focused his attention on training at Catford club Moonshot FC.
“I realized that it was not me playing football that was going to make my dreams come true, so I had to find another way,” he says. “I come from this dark place. You want to make sure that other people aren’t in that dark place either. “
Bristol city Kasey Palmer is one of the many players to benefit from Moonshot’s coaching, but only a fraction of the hopes reach the top.
Among players entering Premier League academies at the age of nine, less than 0.5% will make a living from gambling.
Eberechi Eze, born in Greenwich, was released from Arsenal, Fulham, Reading and Millwall before his prodigious talent was finally recognized by Queens Park Rangers.
“How I liked playing football in the cage is what I want to do in the Prem,” he says, reflecting on his twisty path to the top. “My advice would be never to lose faith.”
Greenwich-born Eberechi Eze was repeatedly rejected before reaching the Premier League
West Ham Michail Antonio is another player who has taken the road less traveled.
He was a part-time lifeguard during a stint at non-League Tooting & Mitcham United and is now one of the Premier League’s friendliest players and prolific strikers.
Earlsfield-born Jamaican international even reveals AFC Wimbledon refused to pay her £ 7 registration fee before being picked up by Reading in 2008.
“Football kept me from being on the streets,” he says.
“If you’re from South London, cage football is what you do from a young age.
“Where I grew up, people take what they want. It was up to you to keep them from getting it and I put it in my football.
The capital is a cultural melting pot, but future black footballers are increasingly fighting against growing state harassment in the form of arrests and searches without reasonable suspicion.
In 2020, black men aged 18 to 24 were 19 times more likely to be arrested and searched than the general population.
For so many, football represents liberation from social ills and personal turmoil and a deeply moving closing scene demonstrates the enduring power of football when tragedy strikes.
Heartbreaking but hopeful, South Of River is more than a sports docusery.
It’s the perfect encapsulation of the ambitious and provocative spirit of South London and a reminder that football reflects society as a whole.
It takes us back to a time when, ignoring the evil influences that permeated the upper echelons of the game, all we had was a soccer ball and a dream.
“It’s great that the area of London where I grew up is getting the recognition it deserves. It’s a talent factory like no other, ”says Ferdinand.
“You will hear from me and many others who, against all odds, have had the chance to represent South London in the biggest clubs and international competitions in the world.”
“South Of The River shines a light on what makes the place so special and the obstacles to overcome, while showcasing the next generation who dare to dream as they follow in our footsteps. I am proud to be from South Of The River.