Football is Never Only Football

in 10th Duhok International Film Festival

by Sait Tarakcioglu

Kordo Doski’s Allihopa: The Dalkurd Story goes beyond a mere football documentary, offering the audience a compelling cultural and emotional experience. The famous words of Simon Cooper, “Football is never only football,” resonate anew in this documentary, brought to life through the seven years of dedicated effort by Kurdish-Canadian director Doski.

The film portrays the epic struggle for the success of a football team in Sweden, predominantly composed of Kurdish immigrant youth, despite limited resources. Through this story, Doski provides an in-depth exploration of identity, belonging, homeland and statelessness through the lens of sports. Transforming the cinema into a stadium, Doski makes the documentary more interactive for the audience. Thus, the struggle of a group of people united by the symbolic bond of a flag with the colours of Kurdistan gains additional meaning as it is felt through the heartbeats of viewers thousands of kilometres away. The documentary has the power to transform the audience from mere film spectators into passionate football fans.

Selected as the Best Kurdish Film at the 10th Duhok International Film Festival, the documentary stands out not only for its powerful narrative but also for its intriguing parallel editing, attention-grabbing sound design, and production value that appears superior despite a low budget. The skillful use of the film techniques allows the audience to emotionally connect with the football team and immerse themselves in the narrative until the last second. Although there were other Kurdish films at the festival, including Ayşe Polat’s In the Blind Spot, which won the FIPRESCI Award, the Dalkurd documentary received the Best Film award, gaining significant appreciation from festival participants.

The film begins by narrating the ultimate goals of the team’s founder: a Kurdish team with the flag of Kurdistan will rise to the top league of a European country, proclaiming “we are here” to countries denying Kurdish existence. Kurds constitute the largest group of people in the world without their own state. The Dalkurd football team transforms the yellow-red-green flag of stateless Kurds into a symbolic representation of an ancient longing through its emblem.

Despite financial constraints, the team achieved the remarkable feat of rising from the bottom of the Swedish football leagues to the top in 2017. The documentary meticulously and skilfully shares the team’s tale of heroism, revealing the burden on the players’ shoulders and their emotional connections with the audience. The longing for Kurdistan among Kurdish players becomes a deep emotional bond expressed in sincere conversations in the documentary. This longing evolves into a shared goal even for non-Kurdish players on the team, making the Dalkurd documentary convey the true meaning of being a team to the audience.

With only three matches left for the team to achieve its goal, they lost the first two, causing a significant setback of morale. Meanwhile, a referendum is taking place in the northern region of Iraq, where the majority of the Kurdish population is voting on whether an independent Kurdistan should be established in northern Iraq. Although the referendum mostly resulted in favour of establishing Iraqi Kurdistan, unfortunately, international pressure led to the nullification of the referendum results. As a result, Kurdish players in the team are devastated not only because of losing the matches but also because of the postponement of the establishment of a Kurdistan state. The documentary skillfully conveys this drama to the audience through parallel editing. Nevertheless, despite the players being under the influence of this traumatic situation, they try to rally and win the last match, which is the only obstacle before their goal.

The Dalkurd documentary presents a unique narrative where sports, politics, athlete psychology and solidarity intertwine, and it will inspire young Kurdish filmmakers. Moreover, it will provide research opportunities for academic circles interested in sports due to its strong and controversial themes.

In conclusion, the film stands out both technically and narratively among other films. In this context, the screening of such a film at a highly attended festival in the Kurdish region is crucial for reaching a broader audience, demonstrating the importance of inspiring people, viewers, or youth to pursue their goals. The inclusion of Kordo Doski among directors who are building Kurdish cinema, following in the footsteps of the renowned Kurdish director Yılmaz Güney (1937–1984), is a gratifying development for Kurdish cinema.

Sait Tarakcioglu
Edited by Birgit Beumers