Red Wine and Arepas – Our interview with Jordan Florit

Here’s our interview with Jordan Florit – he tells us about his upcoming book, ‘Red Wine and Arepas: How Football Is Becoming Venezuela’s Religion’

The thing that stands out most about Jordan Florit is his relentless drive and determination. We talked to him last year about his book project and all of that hard work has now come to fruition. The book is finished and is available to pre-order through the Kickstarter websiteChris Henderson talked to him about the return of the football season, the journey of self-publishing and, of course, his upcoming book, ‘Red Wine and Arepas: How Football Is Becoming Venezuela’s Religion’

Chris Henderson: Thanks for joining us, Jordan. Firstly how have you been keeping in lockdown?

Jordan Florit: It’s been a very surreal experience. I live over 100 miles away from my parents and the rest of my family and I’ve stuck to the lockdown rules throughout, so I’ve not seen any of my family since February, apart from my dad who I saw for the first time in over four months on Father’s Day. Fortunately, the book has kept me very busy. Lockdown began when I had six weeks of writing left to do and as you know, we’ve been in it ever since. I’ve worked my full-time day job throughout, however, so it didn’t bless me with extra time, just fewer distractions!

CH: Great, sounds like an interesting balancing act. How are you feeling about the return of the football season?

JF: I remember the week running up to the start of lockdown. I was due to go to watch my team, Southampton, away to Norwich on the Saturday. I now feel a bit silly for spending that week hoping that the games would not get called off. Obviously it was the right decision. In terms of it returning, I think this season is now tarnished for everyone to an extent. We’ll always remember it as the year in which football stopped for 100 days. I feel for the teams who have missed out on promotion as a result. The inconsistency in the voiding or continuation of the season across the English football pyramid has not been good.

CH: So tell us about your upcoming book ‘Red Wine and Arepas’. How did the idea first come about?

JF: What I love the most about football is not what happens on the pitch but rather the role it plays in the communities it is embedded in, the communities it serves, and the culture it helps shape. Football is an incredibly powerful social expression and tool. When I write about football, I write about these things; I always aim to use football as a way of explaining and exploring other issues and trends.
I have followed Venezuela closely since 2012 and was fed up with the one-dimensional news coverage that we get of the country here in England. What do we see? Maybe one or two stories a year and always on the same topic: the oil crisis or the economic crisis. That’s all the average person knows about the country and this means so much nuance, colour, and vibrancy is lost behind the headlines.

I decided I wanted to use football as a way of peeling back the newspaper wallpaper and as the medium to tell the stories of Venezuela and Venezuelans. This idea first came to me in April 2019, after These Football Times published an article I wrote about a young Venezuelan midfielder named Cristian Cásseres Jr. who plays for New York Red Bulls, and it was well-received. With the popularity of football increasing exponentially in Venezuela, I felt the time was right to write a book about the country seen through the lens of football.

CH: Sounds fantastic. What do you think makes Venezuelan football unique?

JF: The unnatural position Venezuelan football holds in Venezuelan society is unique. Football has not been an enduring cornerstone of the country and its culture like it is in England and Brazil; it has not been a natural reference point. Instead, due to its historical relationship with American oil companies and a once constant exchange of people and goods with the United States, Venezuela’s choice of sport and biggest cultural influence has always been baseball.

An awful history in FIFA and CONMEBOL competitions did not aid football’s cause. The national team did not even enter the Copa América during the competition’s first 51 years and 28 editions, and when they eventually did, 40 years would pass between their first and second victory. Along with Ecuador, they are the only CONMEBOL nation yet to win the competition, and since Ecuador qualified for the 2002 World Cup, they are the only CONMEBOL nation yet to grace football’s biggest stage. Yet today, against all odds, football has usurped baseball to become the country’s #1 sport.

CH: Why is that?

JF: Well, the upswing in the national team’s fortunes, which started in 2001 and has been on a near constant climb since, has coincided with a prolonged existential crisis in Venezuela: political, societal, and economic turbulence has left the country on its knees and its people craving positive representation in the eyes of the world, the kind of positive global representation that football can offer unparalleled. The national team has become the great unifier and rallying point for the people of Venezuela defying tradition and the status quo. This is just one of the ways in which Venezuelan football is unique, but perhaps the most important.

CH: Tell us about some of the people you’ve met during writing the book…

JF: When I started the project, I very much expected to be writing a book from the outside looking in. Thanks to openness and willingness of a few influential people in Venezuelan football and their belief in what I wanted to achieve, I was very quickly and warmly welcomed into the world of Venezuelan football in a country many consider a closed shop.

Most important to the project’s success was Rubén Villavicencio, who was the Executive President of the Venezuelan Football League when I started and is now the president of Primera División side Atlético Venezuela. He opened many doors to me and over the course of the past 12 months, I have met Stalin Rivas, considered by many as the greatest Venezuelan player of all time; Miguel Mea Vitali, an 84-times capped retired international midfielder; Richard Páez, the national team’s most iconic manager; Caracas FC manager Noel Sanvicente, the most successful Venezuelan football manager, with 12 league titles to his name; the brother of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, Adelis Chávez, who is president of Zamora FC, one of the country’s leading clubs; and a multitude of players, coaches, journalists, and agents, as well as interviewing many more online, by video and phone call, including two of the biggest names in the women’s game – Daniuska Rodríguez and Verónica Herrera. In total, I interviewed over 100 people.

CH: You told us last year that writing a book was your dream. How does it feel now that the book is about to be released?

JF: There is a satisfaction to it but for a short while I felt like it was going to be bittersweet; like when you really start to get into a holiday and then suddenly its your last day and you have to go home and leave all that enjoyment behind. The book has been a massive part of my life every day for over a year. I felt like the book being published would be the end of the journey and that I would be left with this gaping hole. Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case for two reasons. Firstly, I feel like Venezuelan football is part of my life now, not a part of my life I will now close the door on; and secondly, because I chose to self-publish, the work is not over, it isn’t like I’ve written the book and now I hand it over to a publisher and sit back, so that will keep me busy. The book is already undergoing translation into Spanish, which I am really excited about too.

CH: What advice would you give to someone looking to write a book and get it published?

JF: Do not write a book for the sake of it; do not write a book if your only reason for doing so is because you want to. I have always wanted to write a book but I knew that I would only do so if an idea captured me and inspired me enough. This wasn’t the first time I had had an idea for a book or even started a project, but it was the first one I still felt passionate about a month after starting; that’s how I knew it was something I really wanted and needed to do. That is 70% of the battle, I would say – having the conviction and passion to execute your idea and carry through to completion.

As for getting it published, it really is not the be-all and end-all; being published still carries a lot of credence, but I do not think it is all that deserved. What a publishing house does, on the other hand, is absolutely invaluable – I did not doubt that when I started and having had to do all they do myself, I certainly don’t now, either, but strip away the service they provide and all ‘getting published’ is is someone saying, ‘yeah, I like your idea, I think it will sell and you are a good enough writer.’

If you are a good writer, you can get that validation, if you need it, by writing a load of articles for the multitude of good platforms out there: if it’s a reputable platform and they’re letting you write for them, you’re a good writer, and if your pieces are then getting read, your topics of choice are interesting. If you are willing to put in the work needed around the book, go self-published. It is a ballsy move and takes a lot of time and effort, but the journey has been hugely satisfying. Saying that, if I ever write another book, I might say yes to a publishing deal instead of rejecting it!

CH: How have you found balancing writing the book with your family life and other commitments?

JF: Sadomasochistic. When I started this project, my daughter was three months old. She’s now 18 months old and my wife is 30 weeks pregnant. In one sense, I was already used to a lack of sleep and time management, so writing a book was just an addition to the load, but I do look back and wonder how I managed to get through it all and not quit; the answer is how in love I fell with what I was writing about and the people whose stories I tell. I also look about five years older than I did last year.

I had to give up some things though: for the first time in my life, I didn’t play for an 11-a-side team during the past 12 months; I socialised a lot less because I had to write 3,500 words a week for nine months; and all my free time was dedicated to the book. I have 18 books on my ‘to read’ pile now and probably a couple hundred hours of TV I recorded. In short, something has to give, and it was when I realised I was easily able to give things up for this project that I knew I was passionate enough about this idea to take it through to completion.

CH: Finally, tell us how our readers can find out more about the project and where they can pre-order the book…

People can preorder a copy of the book through the Kickstarter website here where there is lots of information about the project, and you can find updates on Twitter. My handle is @TheFalseLibero. There are only 20 copies of the Limited First Edition copy left to preorder, which is a signed copy with the exclusive Salomón Rondón cover, free worldwide delivery, and 524 pages, with a 16-page glossy colour photo plate.

‘Red Wine and Arepas: How Football Is Becoming Venezuela’s Religion’ can be pre-ordered through the Kickstarter website. For further updates, you can find Jordan on Twitter here.

Further reading:

2019 guest piece – Red Wine and Arepas: How football is becoming Venezuela’s religion

Ganas: the miraculous comeback of Santi Cazorla

Lockdown TV: Return of football will save us from After Life

In Quotes: Johan Cruyff

Euro 1968: The Eye of a Political Thunderstorm

By |2020-07-06T12:03:02+00:00July 6th, 2020|

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