Roberto Santiago returns to AS with Los Futbolísimos in The Mystery of the World Cup in Africa. This writer from Madrid, who is also a film director, screenwriter and playwright, says that he found his true vocation in Los Futbolísimos, that of writing interactive novels. A year ago he embarked with AS, hand in hand with Kimitec and the MAAVi Foundation, on a totally innovative adventure with The Mystery of the Golden Mask, where the Soto Alto FC team played (and won) the European Championship in Venice during Carnival . He now aspires to win the World Cup in Africa. The Futbolísimos have become a phenomenon of children’s literature. After 21 novels (AS will be number 22) they have sold almost 4 million copies and have been translated into 15 languages. The new interactive adventure of Los Futbolísimos is about to begin. It will be this Friday, starting at 6:00 p.m., with the publication of the first chapter. Readers will have 48 hours, until Sunday at 6:00 p.m., to decide where they want the story to continue. And so for 18 weeks, every Friday at 6:00 p.m. a new chapter will be published. Ready for excitement and suspense? The Futbolísimos return to AS ready to continue surprising us.
A year later Los Futbolísimos return to AS. The Soto Alto FC team does so as brand-new European champions and ready to face a new challenge, the most difficult yet, that of the World Cup in Africa.
Well yes. The Fútbolísimos until book 18 were characterized by being a team that lost a lot, but then they were champions of Spain; in the 20th, European champions, against all odds; and now, on the 22nd, they are going to play the Children’s World Cup on behalf of Europe. Six teams participate, one for each continent, and the title is very descriptive, The Mystery of the World Cup in Africa.
Does this confirm that Los Futbolísimos have no limits?
In the first book of Los Futbolísimos, The Mystery of the Sleeping Referees, the team was downgraded and in danger of disappearing and in 22 books they have had a considerable evolution. They have gone from almost disappearing to playing in the club world championship. The Futbolísimos have no limits in any sense. From the outset, I did not imagine that it would reach 22 novels, I did not imagine that so many things would happen around Los Futbolísimos: a movie, a musical, interactive novels… And much more that could happen. The Futbolísimos continue to surprise me all the time.
What do you think is more difficult: the challenge of Los Futbolísimos to play a World Cup or the new challenge of Roberto Santiago to write again waiting for the readers to decide?
With number 20, The Mystery of the Golden Mask, I was excited, but at the same time very scared. It is true that from the first chapter I was surprised by the readers. What they decided I did not expect at all. So much so that the editor and I always bet and we were never right and I loved that because it put me as a writer in a continuous challenge. I was so surprised that the novel entitled The Mystery of the Golden Mask, took place in Venice, during the Carnival… And in the second chapter the readers voted to leave Venice! In my head the whole novel was going to take place in Venice and in the end I had to take them by boat, they went through a shipwreck, they ended up on an island… What will happen this year? I don’t know, I haven’t the faintest idea. I am prepared for everything and I love writing like this. It amuses me and tests me.
Between The Mystery of the Golden Mask and The Mystery of the World Cup in Africa there is a novel that has just been published on May 20, The Mystery of Cerro de Las Águilas. Is this a transitional novel?
Each book of Los Futbolísimos is independent, but at the same time there are winks that go from novel to novel. In The Mystery of the Golden Mask appears the MAAVi foundation, which returns to sponsor the new interactive novel. I met her as a result of that first collaboration and I fell in love with what they do. It operates in Almería and welcomes boys and girls who are in danger of social exclusion. They help them with education, sports and football. I was with them for a few days and I said to myself: The Futbolísimos have to come to MAAVi. And said and done. Novel 21, The Mystery of Cerro de las Águilas, is titled that way because the foundation is located on that hill, in Almería, and it is a novel where there is a lot of mystery and a lot of football. It is also the most supportive because there is a lot of talk about these boys and girls who come from Africa to Europe looking for an opportunity. It’s a great song that Los Futbolísimos couldn’t turn their back on. It is one of the most emotional and exciting novels I have ever written.
Returning to The mystery of the World Cup in Africa, what do you think that, as a novelty, readers can know at once how the vote is going?
I always like novelties and this is one regarding last year’s interactive novel. But I am afraid that I am going to be constantly watching how the vote is going, with the curiosity of knowing what is going to happen. Seeing the result can also influence you when voting. It can produce a drag effect, if one option is winning, or, on the contrary, that one is winning and encourages you to vote for the opposite option. In any case, it is a great addition to the novel.
Will there be any more news?
This time there will be 18 chapters (in the previous novel there were 23). But the dynamic is going to be the same because it was a success. The new chapter will be published on Fridays at 6:00 p.m. and readers will have 48 hours to decide and vote.
What did you learn from the first interactive novel?
The most important thing is that the children surprised me. They never stop doing it. I have tried to look for a pattern in the options they were choosing and I couldn’t find it because there isn’t one. Sometimes they chose the option that messed everything up the most; but others wanted Los Futbolisimnos to win. I reaffirm my idea that children constantly surprise me and also that they want you to surprise them.
What does it mean for Roberto Santiago to repeat the experience of the interactive novel in AS?
I finished so excited, I thought it was so funny that when I finished it I already wanted to do another one. Now I know that I was born to write interactive novels. I am passionate about this challenge of not knowing what is going to happen. This year I am going to try to fine-tune both the chapters and the possibilities that I will offer to the readers. I want to listen to them even more, read what they write to me on the networks and on Instagram. This year I am going to be even more attentive because I want to incorporate the maximum of everything that they suggest to me. In addition, the contact will be even greater, since they will be able to post comments on AS, on the Los Futbolísimos website, on social networks…
Have you thought about Los Futbolísimos being the cover of AS in some chapter?
Yes. This kind of nods to reality amuse me a lot. What I write are novels, it’s fiction, but it’s a fiction very close to reality. I like to see people, places, newspapers, that are real. I do not rule out that this year the AS appears and that there are some more surprises.
The mystery of the golden mask brought signings on the fly in the rival teams, will there be them now in Los Futbolísimos?
At the moment, in chapter 1 there is no signing. The nine original Futbolísimos arrive. In the European championship there were signings on the fly and now I don’t rule it out either. However, it is very difficult for me to think of a definitive signing in the Soto Alto team. Throughout the novels there have been specific signings, but introducing a signing to stay until now has cost me. I don’t rule out anything. That there may be a signing on the fly? I’m almost sure there will be. What stays on the team? This i do not know.
Can you tell us something about the first chapter?
Yes. The Futbolísimos arrive in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. It is a fairly unknown African country. It is one of the few African countries that does not have a sea, but instead has Victoria Falls, which are the largest in the world. The falls are not in Lusaka, but I would be very surprised if Los Futbolísimos did not end up in the falls or in some photographic safari surrounded by tigers and zebras… The possibilities are endless because I really like that chaotic mix that African cities have, that the same you get into incredible traffic jams as you can come across an antelope or a giraffe.
Until now, the main values of Los Futbolísimos were teamwork and equality, but in recent books others have appeared, such as respect for the environment, sustainability and now also solidarity. Is not the appearance of new values by chance?
When you write children’s literature you have the obligation to hook the reader, but also the responsibility to transmit values that make them think about things. It is true that there has been an evolution in the plots of novels and also in values. The Futbolísimos cannot live with their backs to society and what is happening in it. The Futbolísimos are totally topical books and they could not be shown with their backs to that reality. It is true that every time Los Futbolísimos have a greater social commitment. It has not been something deliberate, I get carried away a lot in this aspect. It was very clear to me that teamwork and equality were two fundamental values, but then others more attached to the current situation we are experiencing have been added.
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