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Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 10:54 UK

Falling out of love with football

By Julian Shea

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Vikash Dhorasoo documented his time at the 2006 World Cup

Whenever a major football championship comes round, the one thing as predictable as the release of ill-advised pre-tournament team songs is the publication of post-competition diaries.

But after the 2006 World Cup in Germany, France midfielder Vikash Dhorasoo did something a little different.

Having been a regular starter in the qualifying matches, the former AC Milan, Lyon and Paris St Germain player found himself frozen out by coach Raymond Domenech.

606: DEBATE

Rather than write about it, however, Dhorasoo, who had recorded his thoughts and feelings throughout the tournament on a Super Eight camera, got together with friend and video maker Fred Poulet.

The result is a deeply unconventional sporting film called Substitute, which is released in Britain this week.

"It was an experiment," Dhorasoo, 34, told BBC Sport.

"Three months before the World Cup, Fred gave me a camera and told me to film myself at the tournament, then afterwards we would see what we would do with it.

I think I'm not a good product to sell at the World Cup - it's big business, and I'm not representative of French society

Vikash Dhorasoo

"I don't write a diary, but I treat this as a diary with a camera instead of a pen."

Anyone anticipating MTV Cribs-type insights, though, is in for a shock.

The old-fashioned camera produces grainy images, with sound dubbed on separately, and for copyright reasons there is hardly any match footage.

Professional football can rarely have looked so unglamorous - which is exactly what Dhorasoo wanted.

"For once, it's something about sport that isn't about victory and champions or success and glamour - it's about the loneliness and the possibility to not play, to be rejected."

The selection of Dhorasoo, who is of Indo-Mauritian descent, drew some media criticism, with some of them likening the relationship between player and coach to that of a father and son.

Zinedine Zidane and Vikash Dhorasoo
Dhorasoo in action during the World Cup qualifying campaign

But despite this, Dhorasoo was given only two brief run-outs against Switzerland and South Korea, before - without explanation - the door was shut on his World Cup dream.

"During the preparation I understood I would be a substitute, but I thought I'd be used during the tournament. I only played 16 minutes."

What follows is the depiction of football as a frustrating, joyless job, as Dhorasoo grows ever-more disillusioned and alienated.

At one point, he even says he has been fired, rather than dropped, and added: "We won against Brazil - actually, 'they' won against Brazil."

The film's most telling moment comes as France celebrate their semi-final win over Portugal.

Overlooked and uninvolved, Dhorasoo stands at the back of the joyous throng - before walking off, alone and unnoticed.

"I'm not a spectator, I want to play," he stated.

Player and coach during World Cup training
Close but miles apart - Dhorasoo (left) and Domenech (right)

"It was my job to be there, and I had to be ready if the coach called me.

"But after the final I was happy it finished - I wanted to go home and stop with football and this team."

After the tournament, Dhorasoo retired from international football, having won 18 caps and scored one goal.

"I didn't like football enough to want to continue to play that way. It's only a question of money. I'm happy to have finished.

"I'm not a good product to sell at the World Cup - it's big business and I'm not representative of French society.

"I'm not white, I'm not from north Africa, I'm not black - I'm different. I'm small, I've got long hair - I'm not commercial."

His club career did not last much longer.

In September 2006 he was sacked by Paris St Germain and a short spell with Italian side Livorno ended on equally unhappy terms before he retired altogether.

In Substitute, the supposedly glamorous world of football is exposed in a harsh light - and director Poulet says this honesty is what they are most proud of.

"We wanted to make something creative and sincere," he commented.

"If you want to meet a footballer now, you have to go through an agent, and it's always regulated, but this was based on friendship and confidence.

Fred Poulet and Vikash Dhorasoo
Film-makers Fred Poulet and Vikash Dhorasoo

"Everyone can recognise their own problems in the film. You can be on the bench in your professional life. We see more of life than of football."

Over the course of the tournament, Dhorasoo's initial optimism gives way to despair.

As the final approaches, he seems to be counting off the days until he is released from his footballing prison.

And Poulet says this sums up how his life has changed post-football: "Vikash didn't know it but this film was the beginning of his new life and his freedom. What I see now is a free man. Vikash tastes freedom every day."

Substitute is released in select cinemas across the UK from 9 May


see also
France 0-0 Switzerland
13 Jun 06 |  World Cup 2006
France 1-0 Mexico
27 May 06 |  World Cup 2006


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