Some footballers become managers. Other pundits. But Eric Cantona, being Eric Cantona, appears to have embraced a new life as an itinerant, socially inquisitive film-maker. In a new documentary film, the former Manchester United captain and all-round magnificent human being has joined forces with Amnesty International to investigate Brazilian football, politics and the intersection of the two.
Speaking to Amnesty to promote Looking for Rio, which premieres on Saturday 7 June in London, Cantona takes healthy swipes at "corrupt" Fifa and the decision to award the 2022 tournament to Qatar, which he states proves that they "don't really care about the sport." But he is positive about the effect that the 2014 World Cup can have on Brazil:
It is why this World Cup is very important. Because the World Cup is there, now everybody can know a lot of things and they can speak and they can debate about things. All the people, the journalists, TV, all the media from all around the world. Unfortunately what's happening is not very nice — it is horrible — but I think it is an opportunity for the country to take that in a positive way for the future.
However, he is less positive about what he sees as an increasingly corporate game, one that is in danger of losing touch with the less well-off, the people of the streets, who he views as being absolutely crucial to the health of the game:
I have been in Maracanã before and I loved Maracanã. Now it is just a stadium like the Emirates Stadium, or Stade de France. And they say: ‘It's a revolution for us, we have to educate the people to sit.' But they don't want to sit, they just want to stand up and sing and dance ... So they don't educate them, they just throw them away.
But it is a shame because it's these kind of fans who made football and it's these kind of fans who have a child who will play football. Because most of the people, most of the players come from poor areas. To be a footballer you need to train every day when you are a kid, you need to go in the street and play in the street every day.
While he believes that the decision to award the World Cup to Brazil was justifiable — "in terms of football" — he is entirely damning about the forthcoming tournament in Qatar:
FIFA have their responsibility. And in giving the World Cup to Qatar they show the world that they don't really care about the sport ... Eighty per cent of the people [of Qatar], they work for the other ones, sleeping in — you know — small areas, so many of them. Some of them died, they work for those other ones.
The film is part of Amnesty International's inaugural Sidelines Film Festival, organised with football quarterly The Blizzard. Cantona's interview and brief excerpts from the documentary are below. Highlights include some fascinating snippets from the interviews with ordinary Brazilians, the obligatory beach football, and Eric nodding along to a street carnival while wearing a tiny, inexplicable, red fedora: