Most musicians would give anything to have global football stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham appear on screen accompanied by their songs, but Swedish pop star Hakan Hellstrom has done something possibly even better.
Rather than lure some of the most famous faces in the game to star in a new film featuring his music, Hellstrom got creative by assembling a team of lookalikes (with some more convincing than others) for the 11-minute short titled “Who Wants To Be Your Friend When Your Star Fades.”
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The inspiration for the video was a concept originally suggested by friend and director Filip Nilsson, who Hellstrom jokes is “obsessed” with lookalikes.
In the film, Hellstrom is the coach of a five-a-side team made up of players called “Ronalda,” “Mezzi,” “Zlaatan” and two “Baeckhams.” The 49-year-old multi-instrumentalist is seen driving the team around in a minivan, teaching them about tactics over dinner and drilling them into match fitness despite one or two being visibly beyond their peak as they prepare for a big match against a team of Hellstrom lookalikes.
The film depicts the relentless nature of life as a footballer and the obstacles players of all levels and ages routinely face: self-doubt, boredom, loneliness, lack of form, being under constant critique and, most fittingly of all, impostor syndrome. Thankfully, by banding together and facing problems in unison, Hellstrom’s plucky clan of clones eventually overcome their various hardships and form a strong unit.
While a couple of the lookalikes do the job in a professional capacity (‘Ronalda’ is played by football freestyler and Ronaldo double Saki, and one of the Beckhams, Mark Woodward, has the Instagram handle “davidbeckhamlookalike,”) Hellstrom made sure his team of superstar impersonators weren’t overly lifelike to give what is otherwise a fairly realistic portrayal of the world of amateur football a light-hearted and surreal quality.
“I have always loved football and music, and he [Nilsson] knew I wanted to coach a team of misfit kids in a music video,” Hellstrom tells ESPN. “So when he presented the idea to do some sort of sport musical with me as a coach for Zlatan, a pair of Beckhams, Messi and Ronaldo, it was impossible to say no.”
Hellstrom, who has had two No. 1 singles and eight albums go gold or platinum in his homeland, has real-world experience of football coaching, having played and managed in an amateur capacity.
“I started playing soccer and drums at the same time when I was 10 years old,” he says. “I quickly noticed that I would mix up the two activities. In both cases, it required 100% dedication. It was the same kind of struggle, in a strange way. Both things involve rhythm, dedication, teamwork, passion and struggle.”
As a real-life coach, Hellstrom does what he can to inspire his players’ imagination as well as train them and pick the team.
“I contemplate a lot about the mental aspect,” he says. “Strengthening the players. The importance of building goals, even when one feels their time is over. Finding new objectives and continuing to fight for something. I played the ‘Rocky’ theme before every match to remind the players that there’s a lot that’s possible. It’s a fictional story. But some of the players seemed to believe it was a documentary. That was good.”
The musician also revealed that he attempted to source a few more lookalikes to pad out his squad but was unable to successfully track down doppelgangers for a couple of the game’s biggest idols.
“We looked at [Diego] Maradona and Pele, but their lookalikes were also dead, unfortunately. We also had a long conversation with a [Kylian] Mbappe lookalike, but there was something with the younger players that wasn’t as interesting as with the more senior ones.”
“I wanted to make a warm and fun portrait of a team of superstars when the peak of their careers has passed. To do that, we hired the second-best we could find — their lookalikes — and all these guys turned out to be the most wonderful people.”
His version of Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pierre Luchtenveld, hails from Germany, but Hellstrom really hit it off with the stand-in for his national footballing hero.
“For me as a Swede, it was surreal to be next to fake Zlatan, a player I followed throughout his career,” Hellstrom said. “Maybe one day I will meet the real one, but until then it’s great to know that I can chat with the German one from time to time. He is actually coming to my show in Stockholm in August.
“All players touched my heart. They are wonderful in different ways. I am happy to have the opportunity to coach these fragile boys.”
Hellstrom has been pleased with the reaction to “Who Wants To Be Your Friend When Your Star Fades” as many people have chimed with the message his story aims to tell.
“[It’s been] very positive,” he says. “I believe people understand the idea and the feeling behind it. I also assume that some were very surprised, but it’s just fun to do unexpected things.”