We are interviewing Eli Mengem, the Australian who presents, produces and directs copa90 YouTube channel. We had the chance to meet him when he was in our city doing “O noso derbi” for the derby days series.
How does someone from Melbourne end up in London?
Thanks to Football, I live London as this is home of football in Europe and the headquarters for my company Copa90!
How did you end up doing this type of work for Copa 90?
In 2013, I entered a competition, where the winner got to Brazil for the Confederations Cup in Brazil and host a program there for Copa90. The show went very well and so Copa90 asked me if I would like to do this around the world full time.
The 2018 Russian World Cup has just ended and, as far as I know, the country has surprised you in a very pleasant way, could you explain why?
Because, I stupidly judged the country before I visited expecting a negative atmosphere and when I got there it was anything but. It was warm, welcoming, and they were excited to show us their culture. At time it was a little different, even weird, but I liked that because that is why you travel to see things you’re not used to and that is why it is so important the world cup goes to different locations.
I also loved how I saw Russian’s who also had judgements about the rest of the world, have their eyes opened when they met Peruvians, Nigerians, Australians and whoever else and realise they were like them.
Then of course was the way they partied. I have never seen some of the things I saw the night after Russia beat Spain, where the fans created rave’s in the middle of the city, in front of the banks and even the Russian secret service, they parked their cars across the lanes and blocked traffic, then played heavy techno until like 8am, it was mad.
Then there was the food, the drinks, the girls and of course some of those matches which were just crazy.
You’ve been to lots of football matches all over the world, out of all of them, which one was the most dangerous?
Well it’s hard to say what was the most dangerous as the thing about danger is you don’t know where it is. But for me, the match that felt the most dangerous was Roma v Lazio, we had to hire a bodyguard to be with us during the match day.
It felt the most dangerous because despite Serbia, Bosnia and Hungary feeling dangerous, we always knew where the danger could lie because the ‘dangerous’ elements made themselves clear, with screaming, chants and their actions. But at Roma x Lazio, outside the ground, it was just silence, just 50,000 guys standing outside looking for an ambush. You didn’t know who was dangerous, you didn’t know where the danger spot was, you didn’t know anything, just people standing around looking. And for me that is far scarier than a screaming mob.
What has been the most amazing story you have ever encountered on these trips around the world?
Well, after there have been too many amazing stories for me, but one that I love to recall was in New York City on the way to Brazil for the world cup. I was filming a link and a guy walked past and I noticed the club badge on his shirt and called out to him. I thought it was Colo Colo from Chile but he explained it was Nacional from Montevideo, then he walked off and we thought that was that.
But then he came back, asked us what we are doing, and when we explained, he invited us to his house up the road, where he unveiled his amazing collection of jerseys he has picked up supporting Uruguay and Nacional all over the world. Standing in his house, sharing football stories all within minutes of meeting him on the street it really was something special, then before we left he handed me one of those shirts!
Now all these years later, we hung out together all of the world, worked with him on Copa90 all thanks to me asking about his football badge!
Out of all the places you have visited, what one was your favourite?
Again this is too hard for really choose one. But if I have to, Brazil, the way they live, eat, drink, dance, and of course love and play football is like a hedonistic drug that every time I go, sweeps me up and makes me never want to leave.
45,000 people watching a football game in Seattle sounds unbelievable to me. Where does this passion for the Seattle Sounders come from?
I think this is a result of a new generation of American’s who have seen through the internet, what football, real football and only football allows its fans to do.
For many decades American’s followed other sports because that was all they knew, but now, they go to twitter, or youtube or whatever and see videos of the Yellow wall in Dortmund or The Kop in Liverpool and they see they will never have this in Baseball or Hockey and they want it. So now, finally, with big stadiums and a growing league, they are living and celebrating their culture through their local football teams.
Who is your favourite football player at the moment?
Messi. I don’t usually like ‘big star’ players especially at ‘big clubs’, but his natural talent is too phenomenal and it is a privilege that we get to live in the era he played and be able to see him live.
In your opinion, which is the football game that had the most passion?
Again, this is too hard to decide one. But for me, what the World cup and Argentinian national team means to it’s people is so crazy, it’s like a sickness, and it’s really hard to find any group of people who care so much about their team and that tournament, so for me it is probably this.
Which football team do you support?
The only ‘team’ I really love is my national team, Australia.
I don’t really support a club as my love for the game comes from the love other people have for their team, I just enjoy seeing and documenting how much it means to others.
But I don’t like Real Madrid.