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'It's not all sunshine and rainbows:' sports drama 21 Thunder explores cutthroat world of soccer

'It's not all sunshine and rainbows:' sports drama 21 Thunder explores cutthroat world of soccer
From CBC - July 29, 2017

Sex, guns and gangsit's not what usuallycomes to mind when you think of aspiring young soccer players, but it's all part of CBC-TV's new sports drama 21 Thunder.

"There's coarse language, there's sex, there's violence, but that all comes with the world of soccer," said Emmanuel Kabongo, who grew up playing soccer in the Democratic Republic of Congo and stars as one of the 21 Thunder's competitive young stars.

Shot and set in Montreal, the show revolves around an under-21 soccer team whose players are battling it out to see who will make itto thepros.

Inaddition to highlighting howgrit and talent propel a select few of these playersonto professional careers, the series also goes to darker places as well, showing just how easily those same promising athletic careers can be derailed.

21 Thunder arrives as soccer fever is heating up in Canada. More Canadiansare playing soccerthan ever before. The Canadian national women's team is currently ranked fourth in the world, helpingto bump up the number of fans watching the game.At the same time, there's hope that 2026 could see the FIFA World Cup played in this country for the first time ever.

'It's not an easy path'

Toronto-basedKabongo, whoturned down a basketball scholarship to pursue acting, said the world of soccer is indeed a gritty one. In 21 Thunder, heportrays Junior Lolo, a young star recruitedfrom the Ivory Coast to play for the Montreal Thunder and who discovers the competition to make pro is fierce.

That intensity is one of the things the show getsright, Kabongo told CBC News.

"It's not all sunshine and rainbows. It's not an easy path."

From his own first-hand experience,Kabongoadded,"people do get physical when they want to reach a certain level of professionalism."

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