Exploring masculinity among young teenagers in London

'What Makes a Man' is a new short film which focuses on three 13-year-old boys from London who reflect on what kind of men they want to be when they grow up

A NEW film is exploring masculinity among young teenagers in London.

What Makes a Man has been created by COPA90, the home of football culture and Football Beyond Borders, the education charity, and focuses on three 13 year-old boys from The Totteridge Academy school in north London.

In the film, Fernando, Gui and Pedro talk candidly about the pressures of having to look athletic and dress well, discuss their football heroes, and contemplate the expectations and temptations they face at this crucial time in their lives. 

The trio also take the time to reflect on what kind of men they want to be when they grow up and acknowledge that muscles, cars, women and control represent “old school” versions of masculinity, and discuss alternatives routes to manhood.

Football Beyond Borders produced the film as part of COPA90’s Creator Commissions Initiative, which offers a new grant each month to fans, presenters and filmmakers, empowering a generation of young creative football fans to tell the stories that matter to them.

The film takes a co-creative approach, letting the young people move towards their own – insights on masculine identity and its consequences on our lives and the lives of those around us.

Pedro said: “It’s very hard to be a man because society makes us have specific options, we don’t have a chance to be who we are…When someone tells you to be a man it makes you think you’re not man enough, and then you limit yourself and your self esteem goes down.”

Fernando and Gui feature in What Makes a Man

Fernando’s mum also shared her thoughts on what it means to be a man today: “A man is a man when he has his head screwed on. When he envisages being someone. A man who sorts his life out, finishes school, gets a job,and is principled and calm.”

The film, directed by COPA90’s Tom Brandhorst, features graphic designs by Luis Jacobs and is one part of a larger “Masculinity in 2019” project by Football Beyond Borders, which is an education charity that uses the power of football to support disadvantaged young people in the UK. 

Stefan Imerson, Project Lead at Football Beyond Borders, said: “To say that working with these remarkable young men has been a pleasure would be an understatement. Their willingness to look at themselves openly and to share their thoughts and emotions as well as their bravery and desire to grow, learn and take responsibility for their own futures, and the future of the world they inhabit, is a testament to the best of young men that we should champion and be proud of.”

Across the Creator Commissions, COPA90 has covered a wide range of topics: how football is providing unity and resistance in the face of intimidation and oppression in Palestine helping to battle mental health problems in the remoteness of the The Arctic; breaking down boundaries and destroying stereotypes in Mexico; toppling Dictators in Algeria ; and giving a voice to overlooked communities here in London.

Ed Groves, Head of COPA90’s Creator Network explained that “the common thread running through all the stories is that they show the human side and the very best of our beautiful game. While others might continue to feed you the headlines of Messi and Ronaldo’s goals, the Creator Commissions are an opportunity to unearth the stories of those everyday fans who are doing extraordinary things from every corner of the globe.”

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