While Montreal may not come close to rivaling the level of fanaticism many European and Latin American cities display toward their soccer teams, there are definitely many devoted enthusiasts of the beautiful game among us. For the first time in North America, an effort is being made to bring them all together. Pitch Fest, Montreal’s newest festival, aims to connect hardcore and casual fans alike through film, visual arts, and music all in celebration of the game of soccer.
Paul Desbaillets, one of the founders of the festival and an avid soccer fan, said the time is ripe for this kind of festival to exist here and he hopes the idea of a soccer-themed festival will spread to other North American cities. Soccer as a cultural phenomenon is becoming very prevalent here, he said, but we don’t really have as much of an outlet for it as other parts of the world.
In a way, the cultural aspect of the game is the true focus of Pitch. It seems as though Desbaillets and his fellow founders really sought to make this a celebration of the fans rather than of the players of the sport. Soccer players are idolized the world over so it’s refreshing to see the focus shifted to soccer’s legions of supporters.
Desbaillets said it was important to not make this just a film festival, but to include other forms of art as well. Photography by Jeremy Patterson, art installation by Alan Ganev, painting by Ruben Ramonda, and visual art by street artist Stikki Peaches, as well as DJ showcases presented by MEG are some of the non-film components of the festival. Desbaillets said all the artwork presented in the festival (all of which are for sale) were specially created for this year’s edition of Pitch.
Additionally, organizers have made a great effort to showcase the cultural phenomenon of soccer from as many viewpoints as possible. Ladies’ Turn, which premiered in North America at the festival, tells of the difficulties Senegalese female soccer players face; Casuals explores the development of a youth fashion movement among UK soccer fans in the 80s. 11 Metri is the story of Agostino Di Bartolomei, legendary captain of Italy’s Roma team who took his own life with a gunshot to the heart.
In a city with as much multicultural diversity as Montreal, it can be difficult to unite soccer fans whose loyalties are fragmented and lie with so many different teams. This festival may prove the one occasion per year when every soccer fan, no matter their allegiance, can share the love of their favourite sport under one banner.
Pitch Fest runs from December 5 to December 7. For a full schedule, see their website.