There’s a study about happiness which found that the two moments of greatest joy and ecstasy in a human being’s life occur when we have an orgasm or when our football team scores a goal
The study went on to explain how the goal was an even greater asset to our happiness, since unlike the orgasm, the goal catches us by complete surprise.
That said, it’s understandable why making a series about the world of football is, at best, complicated, since you’re competing against the greatest show on earth, something that’s vibrant, dynamic and, as I mentioned above, can very often have an entirely unexpected end and that’s hard to reproduce in a series where you’re tied by structures, industry-imposed budgets and deadlines. In other words, no matter how much work you put into it, it’s going to be very difficult to outplay the emotion Spain felt when Iniesta scored the goal in the World Cup final or when we slipped 12 past Malta.
So, we had to turn the story on its head, forget everything we all know, moving away from football as a sporting event of mass appeal to focus on what the camera never shows, what lies behind the curtain of passion surrounding this beautiful game. We needed to shine a light on the stories that never see the light of day but that truly showcase how everything surrounding the world of football exudes the human condition, with all its highs and lows, its heavenly virtues and deadly sins.
The novel by Javier Tebas and Pedro Torrens, El fútbol no es así, roughly translated for That’s Not What Football’s About, was the ideal vehicle for exploring the underworld around football. With match-fixing and illegal gambling as a backdrop, stories began appearing in which corruption, mafias and under the table cash abounded, the perfect ingredients for a series that would appeal to both football fans and those who wouldn’t be caught dead watching a match. In fact, this was another of the challenges we faced when designing Side Games; to convince the hatters. Daniel Calparsoro, Eduardo Sacheri and I (a little later) decided this had to be a series about characters with strong, complex and contradictory personalities, who gave us powerful conflicts and who live their lives on the edge.
These are real people whose weaknesses and ambitions have led them to become bogged down in some pretty complicated terrain
The Hidalgo family reflect perfectly that idea. Like the Sopranos, the Donovans, or the Byrdes (from the fantastic Orzak series, starring an incredible Jason Bateman and Laura Linney), are real people whose weaknesses and ambitions have placed them slap-bang in some complicated terrain, having to adapt to a world and circumstances that are beyond them, while they try to maintain a ‘normal’ family life that keeps them grounded so they’re not dragged into the ever-growing snowball that threatens to devour them all.
The other pillar on which Side Games rests is Laura Ballesteros, the mayor and her world of local politics where corruption is an everyday occurrence and which constitutes yet another pawn in the immense chess game of power, where companies, corporations, foreign governments and even mafias, fight it out in the shadows for the only truly important goal: to rule those in power.
As you can see, Side Games is much more than a “series about football”, and if you manage to see the show, I’m sure it’ll come as a surprise, and who knows? you might even end up donning the colors of Deportivo Leonés.