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HBO’s World Cup Docu-Series Returns with ‘Destino Rusia 2018’

A mix of on-field history, off-the-field interviews and third party perspectives, the series hopes to appeal to fans and non-fans of the beautiful game alike

CANNES — Summer 2018 will mark the return of the world’s most popular sporting event the World Cup, and along with it, HBO’s latest entry into its quadrennial cup-themed “Destino” series. After “Destino Sudáfrica” in 2010, and “Destino Brasil” in 2014, in their first collaboration  and HBO España this week launched the third edition of the series, “Destino Rusia 2018.”

Each episode contains short, detailed profiles of HBO Latin Americaa team or individual who is likely to make an impact on the upcoming tournament. Past installments have followed some of the world’s best and most popular players such as Brazil’s Neymar, Italy’s Pirlo and Spain’s Xabi Alonso.

This year’s first episode featured spots on the Spanish national team with interviews from Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata, Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcántara, Real Madrid’s Isco and Atlético de Madrid’s Koke, as well as a stand-alone feature on Colombia and Villarreal striker Carlos Bacca.

Variety caught up with HBO Latin America’s Roberto Rios and HBO Spain’s Miguel Salvat to discuss this year’s series.

How did the co-production between HBO Latin America and HBO Europe come about on “Destino Russia 2018”?

Roberto Rios: This is the third time we produce this series, after South Africa in 2010, and 2014’s Brazil. We decided to make “Destino Rusia 2018” when we originally planned our 2018 programming, at that time HBO España didn’t exist. But Miguel Salvat and I talk to each other a lot, and we were delighted to find something which could further a union of interests. We needed to pool economic resources. But also, without Miguel, this would have been an attractive project for HBO; with him, we’ve found more interesting and unexpected angles. This is a perfect project, proving the existence of common identities in Spain and Europe.

What makes “Destino Rusia 2018” original?

Miguel Salvat: The key focus is in how we develop the stories around soccer, stories about surprising figures. They’re not stories which make front page, but they are certainly worth telling. Soccer is a world which allows us to talk about other things: co-operation, social issues, personal stories, It’s a series which is totally centered on characters, not because they’re soccer stars, but because they have a story to tell us.

For many soccer fans, part of the attraction of the World Cup is that it’s a multi-national experience, the closest they might get to the culture of some countries through their fans. I feel opening up the series mirrors this….

Rios: We shared the prior two “Destino” series with HBO viewers in the U.S., via HBO Latino. Now, “Destino Rusia 2018” will air in over 55 countries around the world. This lets us reach many more nationalities through this production which talks about a sport and an event that brings the whole world together.

Salvat: Also, soccer is increasingly multinational. Countries follow ever more national leagues, players in other leagues abroad. Spain’s La Liga is full of Latin Americans and Europeans from many parts of the continent. Last month, Seville eliminated Manchester United from the European Champions League thanks to a Tunisia-born footballer who plays for France. But these personal stories will not just be liked by soccer fans, but people who like well-told stories.

Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship?

Rios: It began a long time ago. I knew Miguel before he began at HBO Spain. This project is an example of clear possibilities. Collaboration of course has many aspects and reasons. We have to find something where it is natural and genuine. We don’t want to make little Frankenstein monsters. In Latin America, we’ve been making original productions for 15 years and have had to look for a union of interests between Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the rest of the region. Although Mexico and Argentina speak the same language, there’s a lot of commerce in intellectual properties between Brazil and Argentina, for example. So we have had to focus on authenticity.

Salvat: HBO España is part of HBO. My natural habitat is Europe. I’m obliged to look to the North and East, but it’s obvious that Spain and Latin America have a very special relationship. This series has been a no-brainer in the sense that we didn’t have to break the mold. Yes, it can be the beginning of other collaborations, not because we’re being ordered, but because they make sense.

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