New football TV shows hope to score with fans

Just when non-fans thought it was safe to turn the television back on again, a new wave of football shows are about to the hit the small screen.

A raft of dramas, documentaries and children's shows based on the beautiful game have been snapped up at MIPCOM in Cannes, the world's top entertainment showcase which ends Thursday.

They are led by a high-end series called "The Window" based on the Machiavellian machinations during the transfer window in Britain's Premier League, created by "The Musketeers" and "Mr Selfridge" writer James Payne.

Backed by the German public broadcaster ZDF and Japanese giant Fuji TV, it follows the vicious off-field battle to sign a brilliant 17-year-old prospect called Jordan Burdett.

Payne said soccer stories appeal to millions of fans across the world who dream that a star player could turn their club's fortunes around.

"Like many fans I'm glued to the phone during the summer months (of the off-season), following the sagas of the transfer window," he said.

They were all "high-stakes human stories", he added, which change careers and the fate of clubs.

The hit teen drama Mustangs FC about an Australian girls' football team, is building up a global following, showing on CBBC in Britain, Universal Kids in North American and ABC in its homeland.

- Cantona-Platini dream team -

The BBC also have high hopes for their "Match Of The Day: Can You Kick It?" a talent search for the next male and female stars tied to their flagship football highlights round-up, an institution in the UK.

A Dutch show selling at the French Riviera market has another spin on the same format, "Street Football Challenge", which sets out to find the best street soccer players.

Programme makers are also trying to feed fans' boundless curiosity about their idols.

British show "A Game of Two Halves" features former football stars taking on new challenges, with ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand trying his hand at boxing, German legend Jurgen Klinsmann taking to the skies as a helicopter pilot and horse racing enthusiast Michael Owen competing as a jockey.

The more conventional "The Football Show" boasts exclusive off-the-pitch looks into the private lives of "14 superstars and legends of the game" including Brazilian maestro Ronaldinho.

Two such legends have been radically morphed in the hilarious new children's cartoon "Coach Me If You Can" from the makers of "Oggy and the Cockroaches".

It kicks off with the world's greatest soccer player Erico Platana (a nod to superannuated French icons Eric Cantona and Michel Platini) being turned into a ball by a wizard.

The ball falls into the hands of a boy called Daniel Sissou and "Erico has to seriously deflate his ego to help clumsy Daniel become a champ," said its French producers, Xilam Animation.

It is not clear whether the two legends were in on the show, but the chance to bewitch a new generation of young fans is surely worth the leathering they take.

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