15 episodes

Exploring an individual in football every Thursday. Hosted by Simon Kuper, a Financial Times columnist, and Mehreen Khan, Economics Editor of The Times, the podcast covers people such as Mbappé, Messi, Rapinoe and Abramovich.
Simon Kuper, described by Time Magazine as "one of the world's leading writers on soccer," has been to the last nine World Cups and owns Europe's largest football library. Mehreen Khan started her career in sports journalism – and now she's back. Blending socio-political and pop-cultural narratives, she sees football as a brilliant shortcut to also understanding societies, economics, and politics.
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Heroes & Humans of Football Immaterial

    • Sport
    • 5.0 • 10 Ratings

Exploring an individual in football every Thursday. Hosted by Simon Kuper, a Financial Times columnist, and Mehreen Khan, Economics Editor of The Times, the podcast covers people such as Mbappé, Messi, Rapinoe and Abramovich.
Simon Kuper, described by Time Magazine as "one of the world's leading writers on soccer," has been to the last nine World Cups and owns Europe's largest football library. Mehreen Khan started her career in sports journalism – and now she's back. Blending socio-political and pop-cultural narratives, she sees football as a brilliant shortcut to also understanding societies, economics, and politics.
Follow @heroesandhumans everywhere.

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Visit our website for news and updates: heroesandhumans.com

    Gareth Southgate: National hero or overhyped mediocrity?

    Gareth Southgate: National hero or overhyped mediocrity?

    Gareth Southgate's tactical and managerial qualities still split fan opinion as he leads England in his fourth major tournament at the Euros in Germany this summer. But one thing that can't be disputed is Southgate's ability to unite his players in a team whose confidence has been battered by two decades of under-achievment. The former Aston Villa captain has been a leading voice against racism directed at young black English players and is arguably redefining the notion of Englishness in modern Britain. 
    Simon and Mehreen discuss the steps and experiences that how Southgate came to manage another golden generation of English footballers, growing up in a respectable family in South London, learning from the negatives, and bouncing back from *that* penalty miss in Euro '96. But will Gareth Southgate go down in history as a unifying England manager or just another nearly-ran? 

    Timecodes:
    00:00:43 - Proposition: Gareth Southgate is a very laudable, commendable figure, but is he a national hero or overhyped mediocrity?
    00:02:22 - Southgate's background and upbringing in Crawley
    00:05:52 - Joining Crystal Palace as an apprentice and experiencing class division
    00:08:31 - Southgate's playing career at Palace, Villa, and Middlesbrough
    00:12:04 - First meeting with Southgate and the Euro 1996 penalty miss
    00:19:25 - John Major's encouragement after the penalty miss
    00:22:22 - Southgate's unfulfilled club career and disappointment
    00:27:56 - Becoming England manager in 2016 after a national humiliation
    00:33:06 - Resetting expectations and creating a high-performance culture
    00:39:20 - 2018 World Cup and learning to love the new England team
    00:43:16 - Black Lives Matter movement and Southgate's stance
    00:50:00 - Euro 2020 final against Italy and the penalty misses
    00:54:10 - Expectations for the 2022 World Cup and Southgate's limitations
    01:00:22 - Southgate's vision of an inclusive and modern Englishness
    01:04:34 - Conclusion and Southgate's potential legacy

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    • 1 hr 4 min
    Henry Winter: Chronicler of English football

    Henry Winter: Chronicler of English football

    On the eve of Euro 2024, Henry talks about nearly 30 years of dealing with England managers and players, from Glenn Hoddle to Harry Kane - with some very kind words for Jack Grealish.
    Henry Winter is one of the best known and most respected journalists in the English language. Having covered football for over 38 years, conducted over 1500 interviews, and attended thousands of matches, Henry might have a story or two to share. In this episode, we talk to Henry about football journalism, how it's changed over the decades, and the rise of modern media, as well as how he navigates the complicated relationships that journalists have with players and managers.

    Timestamps:
    00:13:06 Discussion about how football clubs and players are doing more community work than the government, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    00:16:22 Reflection on the changing relationship between football players and the press, from adversarial in the past to more cooperative now.
    00:17:14 Discussion on the growth of fan-related content and how it reflects fans' frustration with mainstream media.
    00:21:28 Admission of making a mistake by making fun of Ronaldo's weight on Twitter, learning a lesson about not personalising criticism.
    00:22:39 Reflection on the moral substance of many football players, particularly in contrast to politicians.
    00:27:14 Discussion about the most interesting people to meet in football, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Pele, and Jurgen Klopp.
    00:29:57 Talk about who is best at discussing football itself, mentioning Glenn Hoddle and other players who didn't have much pace but became good managers.
    00:30:56 Question about who one would be happy never to see again, with a reluctant mention of FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
    00:31:33 Suggestion: Jurgen Klopp is one of the most misunderstood people in football, with more science behind his emotional style than people realise.
    00:33:34 Discussion about England's chances in Euro 2024, praising players like Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, and Declan Rice.
    00:34:48 Talk about how social media affects players' mental health, with many going off social media due to abuse and intensity.
    00:36:52 Pondering what one would be doing if not a football writer, suggesting possibly stacking shelves at Selfridges.


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    • 39 min
    Jude Bellingham: Born in England, made in Europe

    Jude Bellingham: Born in England, made in Europe

    Jude Bellingham could go down as the best English player to never play in the Premier League, but how did he go from a shy and polite young boy from Stourbridge, to an integral part of Real Madrid's push for the Champions League title this season?
    This episode describes the careful and precise decisions of Jude Bellingham's career so far that have led him to the biggest stage of world football, despite still being 20 years old. From the thinking behind his shirt number at Birmingham, to rejecting England's biggest clubs in favour of a move to Germany. 

    Timestamps:
    00:00:00 - Introduction to the podcast episode on Jude Bellingham.
    00:02:07 - Discussing Bellingham being compared to the fictional character Roy of the Rovers.
    00:07:00 - Bellingham's background and upbringing in Birmingham.
    00:10:12 - Insights from Bellingham's youth coach Paul Robinson on coaching him at Birmingham City.
    00:16:13 - Bellingham's decision to join Borussia Dortmund instead of clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea.
    00:22:48 - Bellingham's time at Borussia Dortmund and his relationship with players like Erling Haaland.
    00:29:27 - Bellingham's performance at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
    00:32:07 - Bellingham's transfer to Real Madrid in 2023.
    00:41:44 - Bellingham's incredible goalscoring form for Real Madrid in his first season.
    00:49:54 - Discussion on Bellingham's potential legacy and future.
    00:57:20 - The rising trend of incredibly talented young footballers emerging at a very young age.
    01:05:00 - Speculating on what profession Bellingham could have pursued if not football.

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    • 1 hr 6 min
    Carlo Ancelotti: The Godfather of the Champions League

    Carlo Ancelotti: The Godfather of the Champions League

    Carlo Ancelotti, son of poor Italian farmers, could be about to win a record fifth Champions League with Real Madrid. That’s pretty good for a guy whose managerial career started with him refusing to sign Roberto Baggio. This episode describes how the nicest man in football learned how to handle the egomaniacs around him, give players the power, and always made sure that everybody ate well together. The secrets of “quiet leadership” all around the world, from the coach whose own role model is Vito Corleone.

    Timestamps:
    0:00 - Introduction to the episode on Carlo Ancelotti
    0:29 - Ancelotti's background as a player and coach who won multiple Champions Leagues
    2:21 - Ancelotti's qualities of being funny and having empathy
    2:59 - Ancelotti's early life and family background in a farming village in Italy
    6:22 - Ancelotti's time playing for Arrigo Sacchi's revolutionary AC Milan team
    9:27 - How Ancelotti dealt with egos like Silvio Berlusconi as a player at Milan
    11:51 - Ancelotti's early coaching jobs and transition to a more flexible style
    14:50 - Ancelotti getting fired just before halftime at Juventus 
    16:31 - Ancelotti's successful stint at AC Milan as a manager winning the Champions League
    19:00 - Ancelotti's time at Chelsea and getting fired in the tunnel after winning the double
    22:19 - Ancelotti building Paris Saint-Germain into a top club after their takeover
    25:39 - How Ancelotti managed egos like Zlatan Ibrahimovic at PSG
    28:19 - Ancelotti's first stint at Real Madrid and his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo  
    34:49 - Ancelotti's short tenures at Bayern Munich, Napoli and Everton
    36:57 - Ancelotti breaking his Champions League wins record in his second Real Madrid stint
    39:41 - Ancelotti's empathetic man-management style with players like Vinicius Jr, Bellingham
    44:13 - Ancelotti potentially becoming Brazil's next manager
    46:27 - Discussion on Ancelotti's leadership style and legacy

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    • 1 hr
    Mohammed bin Salman: The most powerful man in football?

    Mohammed bin Salman: The most powerful man in football?

    Mohammed bin Salman may be the most influential person in global football, even though he doesn’t seem to like the game. In 2021, the Saudi millennial crown prince became the ultimate owner of Newcastle United, when the Premier League club was bought by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. The country’s de facto leader is also pumping billions into the Saudi Pro League, where Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are on the crown’s payroll.
    MBS is almost certain to win the ultimate prize of hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2034, and probably also the Women’s World Cup 2035 – despite Saudi Arabia’s not very woman-friendly reputation. All this for a man who seems to have never taken an interest in football, neither as a fan nor as a player.
    In 2014, hardly anyone even in Saudi Arabia had heard of him. How did he go from a nobody to the most powerful ruler in the country’s history? And why did he then jump into football? Mehreen and Simon chart the life of a once unremarkable, and not very wealthy, lowly prince, who has risen to become the most authoritarian leader in Saudi’s modern history.
    It’s a story of a rapid rise to the top, dictatorial power, extra-judicial killings, and trillions of dollars that are being deployed to refashion the Saudi economy. With his nation’s petrodollars, MbS is now taking over golf, Formula 1, and even snooker. But MbS’s most controversial foray into global sport is the world’s most popular game.
    Why is MBS in football, and will he stay?

    Timestamps:
    00:01:04 - Introducing Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)
    00:01:32 - Mehreen discusses her connection to Saudi Arabia as a Muslim
    00:03:02 - Discussion of MBS's background and rise to power in Saudi Arabia
    00:06:44 - MBS locking up his own mother early in his reign
    00:08:25 - MBS's attempts to modernise and reform Saudi Arabia
    00:12:19 - MBS's envy of Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup
    00:14:13 - MBS's appearance at the 2018 World Cup opening match in Russia
    00:16:15 - The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents
    00:20:28 - MBS's decision to host the 2034 and likely 2035 World Cups in Saudi Arabia
    00:23:24 - MBS's purchase of Newcastle United FC
    00:28:10 - Saudi investments in bringing star players to the Saudi Pro League
    00:32:42 - Analysis of MBS's motivations for investing heavily in football/sports
    00:39:19 - Comparing MBS to Roman Abramovich's ownership of Chelsea FC
    00:42:37 - What career MBS might have had if not a Saudi prince

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    • 45 min
    The Leadership Secrets of Jürgen Klopp

    The Leadership Secrets of Jürgen Klopp

    Jürgen Klopp resigns as Liverpool manager this month after a nine-year love affair with the club and city, where he became practically a benign cult leader. Above and beyond the Champions League and English title that he won with his “Heavy metal football”, he offered a model of leadership so lacking in our time. 
    The most charismatic manager in football—those teeth visible from outer space, that laugh, that way with words—won't be forgotten. In this episode, we tell Klopp’s story, from his origins in the Black Forest through a long career as an unskilled lower-division footballer to finding his vocation in coaching. We ask: How can we all be a little bit like Jürgen Klopp? And what might he do next?

    Timestamps:
    00:57 Reflecting on Jurgen Klopp's final days at Liverpool after a nine-year tenure.
    01:26 Speculation on Klopp's next steps post-Liverpool.
    01:45 Discussion on Klopp's transformation in appearance and style over the years.
    03:21 Praise for Klopp's human qualities and leadership style.
    04:07 Summary of Klopp's career achievements with Mainz, Dortmund, and Liverpool.
    05:22 Insights into Klopp's challenging childhood and relationship with his father.
    06:30 Exploration of Klopp's cultural and regional background from Swabia, Germany.
    07:23 Klopp's spending habits and moral stance on financial matters in football.
    10:46 Transition of Klopp from a player to a coach at Mainz.
    11:32 Initial scepticism and humour around Klopp's appointment as Mainz manager.
    16:12 Klopp's rise to fame in Germany through television during the 2006 World Cup.
    18:00 Klopp's emotional farewell from Mainz.
    19:44 Klopp's move to Dortmund and his impact there.
    23:44 Klopp's personal approach to managing and connecting with people at Dortmund.
    28:33 Klopp's eventual move to Liverpool and the cultural fit with the city.
    32:41 Klopp's first press conference at Liverpool, where he calls himself "the normal one."
    35:42 Klopp's impact at Liverpool, leading to a Champions League win and a Premier League title.
    39:52 Klopp's energetic and emotional celebration style.
    46:01 Liverpool's comeback against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final.
    49:56 Discussion on Klopp's decision to leave Liverpool at the end of the 2023–2024 season.
    57:31 Speculation about Klopp's future after leaving Liverpool and his potential impact outside of football.


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    • 1 hr 12 min

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