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Fifa President Lauds Robben Island Football Film

Standing: Former Prisoners: Mark Shinners, Sipho Tshabalala & Antony Suze; Dr Joseph S. Blatter, Dep. Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, Former Prisoners: Sedick Isaacs, Tokyo Sexwale, Lizo Sitoto and producer Anant Singh
Seated: Actors: Az Abrahams, Merlin Balie, Tshepo Maseko, Wright Ngubeni, Presley Chweneyagae
Seated: Deputy President Pumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

The World Premiere of the film, More Than Just A Game kicked off the weekend of activities surrounding the Preliminary Draw of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ at the International Convention Centre in Durban last Friday and was attended by a powerful group of high profile personalities from government, the arts and the football fraternity. Deputy President Pumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was the guest of honour with FIFA President, Joseph S. Blatter. Also in attendance were Ministers Essop Pahad, Jeff Radebe, Makhenkesi Stofile; Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad; KZN premier, Sbu Ndebele; KZN MECs Zweli Mkize, Ina Cronje and Mtholephi Mthimkhulu; Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Durban, Obed Mlaba and Deputy, Logie Naidoo. The film produced by Anant Singh and Helena Spring and directed by Junaid Ahmed, stars Presley Chweneyagae (Tsotsi), Wright Ngubeni (Generations) and Tshepo Maseko (Isidingo). It tells the dramatic and little-known story of organized football played among prisoners on Robben Island.

At the event, Mr Blatter presented a certificate of honorary membership of FIFA to the Robben Island football league, the Makana Football Association. Accepting the certificate were former chairmen of the Association, Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa, Dikgang Moseneke, politician and business personality, Tokyo Sexwale and the five former prisoners through whom the story of More Than Just A Game is told, viz. Tony Suze, Lizo Sitoto, Mark Shinners, Sedick Isaacs and Marcus Solomon.

Speaking about the film, Mr Blatter said, “Tonight is a night of memory – memory of the amazing history of the Makana Football Association, founded on Robben Island along FIFA rules, principles and statutes; and this memory of playing football, more importantly to create on this island, a space of dignity, respect and democracy. It is also a night of the celebration of football, this universal game of passion and emotion for billions of fans for whom it is much more than just a game, since it unites us in a world which is increasingly becoming more divided. The football values of solidarity, democracy, discipline and respect for all should be more than ever preserved, protected and fought for. This is the lesson of the Makana Football Association and the lesson of football played on Robben Island as we see in More Than Just A Game. I would like to praise the producer of this movie, Anant Singh; the director, Junaid Ahmed, the actors and all those who made this movie a reality.”

Danny Jordaan, CEO of the FIFA 2010 Local Organising Committee commented, “The movie captures the essence of the contribution of football to the struggle. More Than Just A Game captures part of that journey. It is an incredible experience. It was just wonderful to have the international audience here to share some insight into our struggle and our history.”

Producer Anant Singh said, “We are thrilled to have had the World Premiere of More Than Just A Game in front of an audience of the local and international football world, but more importantly people who have contributed so greatly to South Africa’s struggle for freedom and democracy. The film is a tribute to the people on Robben Island who fought for the privilege to play football. The film demonstrates our continent’s love for the game, validating the FIFA World Cup™ finally coming to Africa. We thank FIFA and the SA 2010 Local Organising Committee for the opportunity to showcase our film during the Preliminary Draw weekend.”

More Than Just A Game is a Videovision Entertainment production in association with Telkom Media, Filmex (Pty) Ltd, Distant Horizon, and the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa. The film stars Presley Chweneyagae, Wright Ngubeni, Az Abrahams, Tshepo Maseko and Merlin Balie. It is executive produced by Sudhir Pragjee and Sanjeev Singh and produced by Anant Singh and Helena Spring with Chuck Korr, Lord Ted Rowlands, Double Jab Productions and Hannelie Bekker co-producing. The score is composed by Vusi Mahlasela and Brendan Jury. The screenplay is written by Tom Eaton and it is directed by Junaid Ahmed.

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