Our favourite uncle, ex footballer, and Arsenal and England icon, Ian Wright has launched a new and exciting six-part series which brings together top Premier league footballers, athletes and musicians to talk about experiences and life in their respective fields. Emphasising how the two biggest worlds of entertainment are interlinked with each other in a brand new and refreshing concept. Ian Wright is a man of the people, a down to earth legend that always pays respect to young talent. Whether its talent on the football pitch – like his beloved Arsenal star boy Bakayo Saka or UK rappers which he always bigs up any chance that he gets.
The Behind The Game Podcast is an immersive platform put together by the Premier League and Ian Wright to give fans of music and sport an insight into this world of entertainment. Big names have already shared their stories on this podcast, from Jarrod Bowen, Tinie Tempah, Callum Wilson, Kojey Radical, Alex Iwobi, Emi Martinez, The Ezra Collective and Oriana Sabatini. A motivating podcast that focuses on educating fans, upcoming footballers and musicians on the desire you need in order to succeed in your respective fields. Feeding into the multicultural society that tunes into Youtube, the podcast also brings international stars from across the globe to talk about their upbringing and how they managed to make it on the world stage of entertainment.
Episode 1 sees Ian Wright bring together Newcastle striker Callum Wilson and UK artist Kojey Radical for an innovative talk about life. Callum Wilson has made a name for himself as a prolific Premier League striker and has even been called up to play for England – the ultimate recognition for his talent. In this episode we see a more sensitive side to the footballer as he opens up about his youth, going into safe houses and care, feeling heavy responsibility growing up and the intense self belief he had to tap into at a young age in order for him to reach a goal.
“Football was life and death, I would cry to sleep praying please God make me a footballer.” This level of determination comes from experiencing so much at a young age to make sure that he lived a better life as he got older and he made his dream come true. This was seen when talking about his game performance to catch the eye of England manager Gareth Southgate. Always growing up as the underdog gave him the motivation to go even harder.
Kojey Radical tapped into his origins and shared how his mum did not understand his passion of being an artist until she came to his first show and saw the crowds reaction. He touched on the level of self doubt that artists go through on a daily basis when they create their music and how the scale of success is consistently changing.
“I need tension, drama, action, lights, camera everything bro”. He talks about how he needs to feel like his back is against the wall to create his best work. He is always striving to prove the doubters wrong, something that Callum Wilson himself relates to. Showing how in music and football, negativity can also make you mentally stronger and help you produce your best work.
Despite that, Kojey Radical talks about how performing on stage and seeing fans sing along to his bars with pure emotion is the best feeling about being an artist. “Music’s going to connect the way its going to connect.” Something a music lover can relate to, when that one song truly hits you, there are no words to describe it.
The 2nd episode of this six part series we see Nigeria and Everton midfielder Alex Iwobi and brothers Femi and TJ from the Ezra Collective speaking so honestly about entering into the worlds of football and music. Ezra Collective is a five-piece from London self described as a group that “marry the delicate technicalities of jazz musicianship with afrobeat and hip hop.” With the band finding international success with chart hits, tours and being named as the best jazz act at the 2022 MOBO awards. They broke the top 10 of the UK pop charts which is a significant achievement for a jazz act.
Alex Iwobi started his football journey from an early age, signing for Arsenal at the age of 9 and worked hard till he made his Arsenal debut at 19. Now at Everton, Alex Iwobi expressed how difficult it was for him to leave his boyhood club to move up North by himself and to adjust to a new life. Having now re-captured his form, Alex expressed how the support from his family and friends kept him grounded and reminded him of how far he has come on his career and why he should keep going.
Along with football, Iwobi revealed that he has a studio in his home where he uses music as a form of escapism and therapy. Alex explains that his love for music and its form of therapy derived from rapper Chip on one of his bars “Rap is in THERAPY.” This is a key way that young black footballers are able to express themselves away from the media scrutiny and mental stresses of performing to the masses on a daily basis.
The Ezra Collective explained that their release from music is football, something that shows how music and football rely on each other as a form of entertainment and relaxation. This episode shows how important music is, with Iwobi and Ian Wright showing extreme appreciation and love to the creative process behind the music made by the Ezra Collective. The band have a clear confidence in their ability and allow each other to express their creativity without any suppression or pressure which makes the final product of their music so authentic. They even played the original voice note that was used to make “Victory Dance” along with the mindset behind each instrument used. They talked about how hard the beginning of their journey was, losing sleep, not making money but they refer back to how support from their family kept them going.
Episode 3 of The Game Podcast sees Ian Wright bring Argentina’s 2022 World Cup winner and Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez and singer Oriana Sabatini together. The episode focuses on the sacrifices they both made to leave their family behind to focus on their passion. With Emi Martinez mentioning leaving his family in Argentina at 16 to play in England for Arsenal. A clear example of how driven these stars are to make sure that they fulfil their dreams. With English not being his first language – he was determined to make sure that he learnt English within a year to give him a better chance of embracing himself within English culture and football so he can get one step closer to being the best. “I create chaos” a phrase he says in this podcast and this was seen in his World Cup antics which helped Argentina win the World Cup.
Oriana Sabatini, an Argentian model, actress and singer who mentioned that Avril Lavigne is one of her inspirations. Leaving Argentina to move to Rome with her boyfriend Paolo Dybala was also a big step for her but it has also paid dividends looking at the trajectory of her music career. The guests and Ian Wright also touched on looking after their mental health and seeking advice from their therapist when things become tough. A key reminder that to achieve such high levels of success it is also important to look after your mental health too.
Along with this podcast bridging the gap for these two influential industries, football and music in the UK may have reached a new level of integration with the arrival of mystery rapper DIDE. A new masked rapper who describes himself as a “rapper at home and footballer on the pitch.” He released his first single titled “Thrill”, and he has taken the UK scene by storm with the video on YouTube already on over 1.7 million views.
His bars are not only catchy, but they refer to him being a footballer in the Premier League. “They gonna put it in the paper like which baller is this.” Social media had people turning into detectives with some speculating that it could be Eddie Nketiah, Bakayo Saka or even Eberechi Eze. Whoever it is, they need to keep it going because it has made the music and football scene even more exciting.
It is clear to see how much music and football can integrate and immerse themselves to create something special. There is a beauty in the struggle at the beginning of each individual career, but to have the ability to express yourself on the pitch or on a song to the masses is an art.
It is really eye opening to get an insight into the thoughts of these entertainers and why they are all individually brilliant at their crafts. Music and football allows people to be themselves and encourages others to express themselves in their own way too. There is a form of education from a series like this for young footballers and musicians that you don’t tend to receive anywhere else. So, for that we have to give our flowers to Ian Wright for showcasing this level of insight on such a worldwide stage.