The recent announcement by FIFA, soccer's worldwide governing body, that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups would be held in Russia and Qatar, respectively, prompted cries of dismay from England and America alike, as both countries were passed over. But viewers of one of my favorite documentaries of the year, Pelada, wouldn't have been surprised to see the World Cup go to relatively obscure corners of the world. It truly is the world's game, one that thrives far from the immaculately groomed stadiums and international superstars of the West. Soccer players-turned-filmmakers Ryan White, Rebekah Fergusson, Gwendolyn Oxenham and Luke Boughen spent a year traveling to more than two dozen countries looking for pickup games of soccer. They found games on Tokyo rooftops, in Kenyan refuse dumps and in Ecuadorian prisons, and they played with hijab-wearing Muslim women, Chinese freestylers and old Brazilian men. No matter where they go, soccer is a common denominator, a simple game played with feet and a ball. But it isn't simply a feel-good travelogue: The conditions under which soccer is played vary widely from country to country as a reliable indicator of living conditions there.
The film has toured the country incessantly since it was last seen here (at Durham's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April and at the Pinhook in June). A weeklong opportunity to see it in a theater begins today at Raleigh Grande, off US 70 —David Fellerath