wsc302Who better to teach sportsmanship to children than a cartoon version of Jose Mourinho, argues David Craik

Racing towards a La Liga title, threatening to be the first man to win three European Cups with different teams, having English clubs clamour for his signature next season – what more is there for José Mourinho to feel good about? Is not it obvious? His next challenge is, of course, to rival Hong Kong Phooey, Yogi Bear and Ivor the Engine for the title of best cartoon series ever.

At a cost of £1.6 million, the Portuguese animation group Sports Stars Media has started work on a 26-part series called Mourinho & the Special Ones. They aim to have it on TV screens worldwide within the next 12 months. After a year and a half of negotiations, the show has received the full endorsement of the self-styled "Special One". At an unspecified cost, they have secured exclusive rights to Mourinho's cartoon image through agency Polaris Sports. The series, which will be aimed at children between the ages of six and 12, features an animated Mourinho. The man himself will not provide the voice of the character, but his looks, mannerisms and expressions will all feature.

In the cartoon, Mourinho helps a team of young multicultural kids at a special football school to develop as both players and human beings. The 26-minute long episodes, whose storylines have been approved by Mourinho, will convey the message that every child can be a special one at something.

"In the cartoon Mourinho isn't the special one. It is the kids who have the talent," says Sports Stars boss Ruben Dias, whose other production credits include Gombby's Green Island – the tale of an ecologically friendly boy who lives in a giant croissant.

"Mourinho will identify their talent and the kids will have the privilege of being coached by him. Each episode will show kids how to train and prepare for a game, a game itself and also social adventures outside of football. Mourinho will intervene and help them in their normal lives, such as problems they may be having at home. The importance of friendship, loyalty, sharing, sportsmanship and drive to win will be experienced and enjoyed. These are the values José wants to communicate to the world."

The so-called enemy of football? Stop sniggering please, Anders Frisk and Tito Vilanova. "José was our first choice for this project but, yes, we understand he is a love-hate character," says Dias. "This cartoon is not about portraying him as a superman. We will show him making mistakes, the consequences of those mistakes and how they are resolved. But remember that José is also known and admired for qualities such as his hard work and discipline."

Talks with TV broadcasters will get under way in the next three months, with the aim of the first episode being shown early next year. Unsurprisingly, Portuguese TV is showing the greatest initial interest, but the UK is seen as a "primary market". Hopes are high that the show will find a broadcaster here. "The series will be in English but it will be dubbed for other broadcasters worldwide," Dias adds.  

There are also plans to bring out a range of Mourinho toys, books, clothing, DVDs and computer games. "José and Polaris were key to us seeking a London listing," adds Dias. "They wanted assurances that the project would be a success and thought the move would benefit all of us." Success will also help Sports Stars repeat the model with other international sporting stars such as a certain Portuguese footballer currently playing under Mourinho. "Cristiano Ronaldo is a Polaris asset and he could be another character suited for animation," says Dias. "We will consider it, but it is not an immediate focus."

From WSC 302 April 2012


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