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Peter Karl in the midst of celebrations in Bogota after Colombia qualified for the World Cup on Oct. 11. | Courtesy of Peter Karl.

Wallingford native involved in World Cup documentary


WALLINGFORD — Lyman Hall High School alumnus Peter Karl and two roommates from Emerson College will begin filming a World Cup documentary in April, visiting nine or 10 countries in about 100 days. Their 7,000-mile journey ends in Brazil for the World Cup in June and July.

“American Futbol” will document the culture and passion of Latin American soccer for American audiences, said Karl, a 2006 Lyman Hall graduate.

“We want to capture the history and pageantry that these countries have,” he said.

The team consists of Karl, 25, a journalist and former Record-Journal sports correspondent, and Sam Mathius, 24, a writer and lifelong soccer enthusiast, who will be the on-camera presenters for the feature-length production. The third member is producer Petar Madjarac.

“They represent our target audience — American soccer fans,” the Serbian-born Madjarac, 25, said of Karl and Mathius.

If the trio reaches their fundraising goal of $100,000, they also plan to bring cinematographer Austin Ahlborg, whom they also knew from Emerson.

The team has raised about one-third of its goal and is pursuing corporate sponsorships and other partnerships, Karl said.

Madjarac and Mathius are both more acquainted with European soccer, the former as a native of the continent and the latter as a fan. They feel Latin American soccer is less structured and allows players to showcase their individuality.

“Style-wise, it’s kind of the NBA versus college basketball,” Madjarac said.

It also has a vibrant fan culture, more intense than the one in Europe, Mathius said.

Karl said American soccer fans follow the European game, but the country’s 54 million Hispanic Americans provide a strong connection to Latin American soccer.

Karl and Mathius said their reports will be uncensored and unfiltered accounts. They intend to interview players and club team officials, along with fans.

“Many of them will be controversial stories that you may not hear about, but they need to be told,” Karl said.

The expedition is tentatively scheduled to begin in Los Angeles on April 1, with the group’s goal being to visit nearly every Latin American country that qualified for the World Cup. They will spend about 10 days in each country and post a three- to five-minute “webisode” from each, Karl said.

In each country, the team plans to stay in hostels, short-term rentals, and residences of people they meet.

“This isn’t some cushy expedition,” Karl said.

From Los Angeles, they will cross into Tijuana, Mexico, to experience the culture of the local Tijuana Xolos soccer team, which boasts “a fan base without borders” featuring a large contingent of fans from San Diego, Karl said.

After their stay in Tijuana, the team will fly to Mexico City and then Costa Rica and Colombia, where they will travel by bus to cities including Bogota, Santa Marta, and Cali.

“We want to take our experience on the road,” Karl said, acknowledging the safety concerns involved.

Karl, who worked as a reporter and English teacher in Bogota in 2013, said Colombia represents both the passion and pitfalls of a soccer-mad society. He vividly recalls the “incredible experience” of being present in October when the county qualified for its first World Cup in 16 years.

However, Colombian soccer culture is also laced with violence. The country has had incidents where fans have been killed by rival fans for wearing their club team’s shirt, he said.

Mathius said Colombia will be a ripe source of stories for the documentary due to its complicated relationship with the sport in the last few decades. Colombian soccer was strong in the ’90s, as drug lords pumped millions of dollars into club teams, he said.

The Colombian government eradicated the “narco-soccer culture” when it went after the drug kingpins, but the loss of drug money resulted in the game’s decline, Mathius said. As club teams began to follow better business practices, Colombian soccer has rebounded, he said.

After Colombia, the group will cross over into Ecuador, where they will stop in Quito and Guayaquil, before heading to Santiago, Chile. They will then cross over the Andes Mountains to Buenos Aires, Argentina, followed by a stop in Montivideo, Uruguay, before journeying north to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the heart of World Cup action.

Besides being the tournament’s host nation, Brazil will be another hot-spot for controversial topics that the documentary will cover. The country will face protests this summer from citizens who object to the sums being spent by the government on the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, which will be held in Rio, in light of pressing economic problems it faces such as poverty and inequality, as well as inferior conditions in its healthcare and public transportation systems, Karl said.

After the World Cup concludes, the team will return to the U.S. to do post-production on the film and prepare for its release and distribution, details of which have not yet been established.

In the meantime, they are consumed with raising money and awareness for the project. “I want people in this area to know that this is happening, and they can have a connection to it,” Karl said.

For more information or to donate to the project, go to americanfutbolmovie.com.

jgebeau@record-journal.com (203) 317-2242 Twitter: @JeffGebeauRJ



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