Boot Dreams: Now or Never unfolds as an engaging six-part documentary series that follows the journey of 16 footballers, aged between 18 and 26, who have faced rejection from elite clubs. These young athletes converge at a distinctive training camp with a singular goal: to secure a fresh professional contract. The program is dedicated to assisting them in overcoming both on-field challenges and personal struggles.
This captivating documentary delves into the heart of their efforts to reclaim their positions in the sport they are passionate about. Spanning four weeks, the series captures their arduous process of rejuvenation. A significant presence throughout the journey is presenter Roman Kemp, who, having once aspired to a professional football career himself, takes a keen interest in unearthing the narratives that have shaped their paths.
Premiering on BBC Three and available on BBC iPlayer starting Sunday, 20 August, the show offers an intimate glimpse into the world of these determined athletes. With a spotlight on their hopes of reigniting their sporting dreams, Boot Dreams: Now or Never resonates with viewers eager to witness their resolute pursuit of both the game they cherish and the vocation they yearn for.
Presenter Roman Kemp shared insights into his own personal connection to the project, shedding light on his motivations for exploring the experiences that have led these individuals to this pivotal juncture in their athletic careers.
How did you get involved in the project?
When I heard about the concept, it sounded like an amazing opportunity as the show represents two worlds for me which naturally collide. The team at BBC Three know that I’m a massive football fan but they also know that I’m very in tune with the mental health space so I jumped at the opportunity. I love football but I would never enter the space of football if it wasn’t my place and I felt this gave me a chance to be part of the game that I love and also have openly emotional conversations with the young athletes in the academy.
As a football fan yourself, what was it like to host the series?
It was pretty amazing. It was cool to be a part of something like being able to go into a dressing room and not feel like an outsider. The lads really made me feel part of the team and I felt like the link between the viewer and the boys so I loved being able to do that.
We see a lot of the boys in the academy due to injury, family trauma and other issues which halted their football careers – did you ever want to pursue football professionally growing up?
Being a professional footballer was never a realistic dream for me but football is my life. I would take being a boot cleaner if that meant I could get into football professionally! I’ve got so many tattoos that are football related on me – it really is my life.
Did you find any similarity with the boys during the process?
I think that young men have similar mindsets a lot of the time. But for the players, it just translates differently. In their world, they’re planning to make it into the team but for me, it’s working towards another show. I was so intrigued to see the emotional intelligence and the progression from a lot of the players throughout the series. A lot of them never had conversations like they did before, but by the end of the series, they were happy to talk about themselves, their family or why they wanted to do what they’re doing.
Do you still actively play football alongside your career today?
Football is sacrosanct to me. On Wednesday evenings, I play football. Do not try to reach me! I play 7-a-side with my mates and we’re in a league. We’ve been friends and playing football since we were six years old. We’ve always played football with each other so we’ve got that as a lovely bond which keeps us together.
What would you say makes a great professional football player?
I would say it’s someone that can apply themselves. We all have different personalities, but it’s how we use those personalities in the talent we’re given. For example in the football world, you’ve got someone like Luis Suárez, who has quite a feisty personality but if he didn’t have that side of him, he may not be as good as he is because he’s applying that side of his character into the game.
On the other hand, you have someone like Ronaldinho who was always a player with a smile on his face and it was amazing to just watch him play. So, I wouldn’t say it’s all necessarily about dedication, it’s about applying what you’ve got and putting that into the game. But hey, what can I say, I’m just a TV presenter!
How important do you believe academies like these are to young people?
They are so important but unfortunately, there aren’t enough academies like these. There are a few others that have been set up but there can be only so many footballers these days. It’s not about giving everyone a contract but it’s being aware that those that are being left behind might need a little bit of help.
What do you think viewers can expect and learn from the series?
They can expect to see a darker side of football that they never really knew about. Football isn’t just all about money, fame and ‘the dream’. That dream is very few and far between and when it doesn’t work out, it can leave you in a really tough predicament. I also think that people will learn about the pressure that is placed on young footballers and I think that’s something that gets forgotten about.