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History Sets Global Soccer Programming Extravaganza in Run-Up to World Cup (EXCLUSIVE)

Soccer star David Villa will be the face of the ‘History of Football’

The History channel is capitalizing on the global appeal of soccer with “History of Football,” two weeks of worldwide and localized programming celebrating the beautiful game in the run-up to this year’s World Cup. It’s the channel’s biggest-ever programming initiative.

David Villa – a World Cup winner with Spain and former Barcelona player – will feature in some of the original programming and will also serve as global ambassador for the event, promoting it to his 28 million social media followers. Considered a student of the game, the Spanish former player said of “History of Football”: “It gives my fellow players, coaches, and myself an opportunity to talk about what the game means to us and also to relive so many incredible memories.”

A+E Networks International’s executive managing director, Patrick Vien, is behind “History of Football,” which will run soccer-related programs across the channel’s schedule from May 28 to June 10, with the World Cup kicking off days later. Dan Korn, VP of programming for A+E U.K., is also closely involved, and will executive produce “History of Football,” which will be officially unveiled at NATPE in Miami on Tuesday.

“I’m a big believer in brands capitalizing on a cultural moment and producing urgent television events that attempt to crack through the clutter,” Vien told Variety. “A year of the World Cup is a year where much of the world becomes temporarily hyper-connected, and the History brand is globally distributed to the point where it can seize a moment of that nature and put its own storytelling imprint on that event.”

Three original series have been commissioned as part of the programming bloc, each running to five installments: “Football’s Greatest: Head to Head,” “History’s Greatest Moments in Football,” and “Football Godfathers.”

Goalhanger Films, the British-based production company set up by former England and Barcelona star Gary Lineker, is making “Football’s Greatest: Head to Head,” which will feature an expert panel debating who is the best player of past and present generations in an effort to reveal the greatest of them all.

“History’s Greatest Moments in Football,” produced by All3Media’s North One Television, will focus on the teams and players in recent World Cups who have carved out their place in the history of the game. “Football Godfathers,” from British indie Zig Zag, will comprise five documentaries about the minds and strategies of the world’s best managers, revealing how they rose to the top and their trademark styles and tactics.

The “History of Football” extravaganza will go out across History’s 160-territory footprint, with more than 40 hours of new content. As well as the global originals, there will be a raft of localized programming in individual territories.

In Britain, the birthplace of the game, local programming will include “Britain’s Greatest Managers.” In Italy, another soccer stronghold, there will be a one-hour profile of famed coach “Vittorio Pozzo.” And in Latin America, there will be “Messi,” a biography of the Argentinian superstar.

Vien said that “History of Football” will have been 18 months in the making by the time it launches and that A+E would like to do more event programming around soccer, not necessarily tied to the World Cup, which is held only once every four years. “We’d love for this to become a brand,” he said.

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