INTERVIEW: AUTHOR JORDAN FLORIT

INTERVIEW: AUTHOR JORDAN FLORIT

'Red Wine and Arepas' is about to teach us all about Venezuela. However, this won't be your average review – but instead an education with football at its core.

What do you know about Venezuela, besides what you have heard about it in the news over the past months? Well after launching an incredible crowd funding project, 25 year old freelance writer, (and now soon to be author) Jordan Florit is about to take you around a country using football as its vehicle.

We caught up with Jordan, to find out a bit more about the project that has got football readers so excited.

CK: Jordan – we know you're originally from Southampton but living in Croydon. So who is your team?

JF: I am a Saints fan.

CK: That's refreshing! Do you have a favourite shirt from the clubs history so far? 

JF: My favourite Saints shirt is our away shirt from 2009/10. It reminds me of the classic style of Boca, which is instantly recognisable.  There’s also a lot of detail in the yellow band across the chest that you cannot see in the picture. The shirt also marked the start of a new era; the first under new ownership and the year we won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

CK: How did the project come about?

JF: Subconsciously, you could say there was a purposeful seven year run up. I first became more than just intrigued by Venezuela in 2012. I began to read a lot that year because I finished college and chose not to pursue university. For about four years, I read a book a week. Around half of those were football and a quarter were on Latin America - without accounting for the overlap. 

The project came about when I decided I wanted to allow others to learn about Venezuela, through the medium of football. I avoided the topic for many years, despite an intrigue, purely because of wariness over the polemic nature of the Venezuelan conversation. 

CK: Why specifically Venezuela?

JF: I was drawn to Venezuela for non-footballing reasons, initially, but I believe that football is a great anthropological insight. I feel that there is only one dimension to the conversation on Venezuela at the moment. All people know of is the economic crisis, oil, and political unrest. So much nuance and niche is lost when a population of over 30 million is distilled into one paradigm. I want to educate people through other means, and I believe football is a great insight into society.

CK: What attracted you to Latin America?

JF: I am naturally drawn to the Spanish speaking world as my grandfather was Spanish. He passed away when I was 10, but I grew up being told I “didn’t look English.” I associated myself to my Spanish roots but was completely disconnected from them. I tried to reconnect and had a natural disposition to anything in the Spanish language. Through my wife, I became enamoured with the wider Latin American culture and as I became more accustomed to it, I read more about it. Venezuela captured me the most because of the lack of reading material in English outside of Chavez and The Revolution as topics.

CK: Do you have any author's that you look up to?

JF: Yes: Jonathan Wilson and James Montague. They are exceptional football writers. You could have no interest in football and still be entirely enchanted by Montague. Wilson writes with such lucidity that I feel as if I am in school being educated by the coolest and most unassuming teacher there could be.

 

CK: Do you think SA football has a greater authenticity when it comes to its support and the business around the game?

JF: Without a doubt when it comes to the authenticity of the game and the support. For all the stereotypical corruption chatter that surrounds South American football and CONMEBOL, whilst I don’t deny it, I’d rather have it and the integrity of the spectacle than the flagrant abuse of UEFA and FIFA as well as a diluted match-day experience and a soulless league, sold off to corporate interests and sponsors. I’d love to find a country with a governing body that had the sport as its sole interest and priority, overseen by an independent body with the same aims, but it is as likely as Estonia winning the World Cup and the Euros back to back. 

CK: Is there another purpose around the book, besides just the football?

JF: Yes. Make no mistake, this is predominantly a football book, but through football I aim to educate readers in Venezuela through a prism that isn’t polemic or with political agenda. This book will be uncensored in opinion but factually accurate.  

With football not being the number one sport in Venezuela – do you see it eventually over taking baseball?

Without a doubt, and that is why I have subtitled the book “How Football is Becoming Venezuela’s Religion.” I think it’s usurping of baseball as the national sport is inevitable. Football can offer positive international representation on a truly global scale. Baseball cannot. Venezuela’s population crave and deserve that recognition. Football can offer it; baseball cannot. I believe that is why a growing number of people are becoming interested in football. The more Venezuelan football players that move to the MLS, Brazil, Argentina, and Europe, the more that will increase. Venezuelans take great pride in their players making it to these leagues.

Josef Martinez: Venezuelan player who is breaking MLS records with Atlanta United.

 

CK: What is the main aim of the book?

JF: To add to the conversation on Venezuela. I don’t aim to change it, simply to change the one dimensional element of it. I believe so many people are missing out on an understanding of Venezuela and it’s society and communities due to the nature of coverage, whether it’s right or wrong misses the point; it’s a narrow window into a multifaceted and far-ranging population. 

CK: What have been the challenges writing the book?

JF: The first challenge I faced was actually deciding to go ahead with the project. Before I tied my flag to the mast and launched the Kickstarter, many people told me not to do it, not to go to Venezuela, not to start conversations that could have no end or close doors on me. For me, writing a book on Venezuelan football without ever having gone would’ve been pointless, halfhearted and without authenticity. I either write it and went or didn’t at all. In that sense the challenge was easy.

The second challenge was selling people a book that is yet to be published and does not exist in a finished form. That is a completely different task to selling a book that is complete and on the shelf. It has required a completely different approach. I’ve essentially asked people to buy a book that does not yet exist. It hit fully funded within half its campaign length, so it’s gone well so far. 

Time will tell whether it’s naïveté, but I feel as if the biggest logistical challenges are behind me. The only one I still envisage is being away from my wife and baby daughter while I am in Venezuela.

CK: How did the title come about?

JF: The national team’s nickname is “La Vinotinto” - The Red Wine. Arepas are a bread like product made of corn flour. Bread and wine have religious connotations as does the power and all-consuming nature of football. The two staples of national identity - Red Wine and Arepas - paired up with the notion that ‘Football is Becoming Venezuela’s Religion.’

 

CK: What have the surprises been from researching the book?

JF: A novel surprise has been the tradition of giving youth team debutants in the first team a stupid haircut; often just a shaver taking chunks out of a head of hair. It’s certainly different.

The biggest surprise has been the openness and willingness of Venezuelans to help, offering their houses, logistical support, and contacts to me. It just doesn’t and wouldn’t happen here. It’s organically and fast growing project thanks to the engagement and enthusiasm shown by Venezuelan football fans all over the world. 

CK: Why should people read this book?

JF: People should read this book if they have anything of, or more than, a remote interest in not just football, but history, culture, politics, and sociology. Football is the vehicle of this journey, but the passengers are aspects of society that I will not and cannot ignore whilst still doing the country justice. 

Read this to educate yourselves on a country so simplified in public discourse, and to understand the power of football in society. It is more than you could imagine. 

 

CK: How/where can people get involved with supporting the project?

JF: People can back the project on Kickstarter by ordering a copy of the book or simply pledging to support the campaign. As of 2230 on Friday night (16th) the project has hit its funding goal, so anyone who chooses to back the project from now on can do so safe in the knowledge that they are backing and supporting a project that will go ahead and us already successfully funded.

There are a number of innovative ways to support the project and be involved in the book, that wouldn’t have been on offer, if I went ahead with a standard publication. I chose to take this route having turned down a publishing deal, and it’s allowed me to offer different experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise get from purchasing a book. 

Along with the book, people can opt in to a photo and video diary subscription, which will chronicle the entire journey and include exclusive snippets from the interviews, in both video and photo form, and they can purchase the right to have a guest article featured in the final published book. As standard, everyone who contributes to the project will have their name included in the artwork of the book, as well as the acknowledgements.

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You can check out Jordan's Kickstarter page for more information and to order your copy here.

 

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