From Johan Cruyff Institute to the YouTube showcase

The YouTube channel Copa90, with more than one million subscribers, selects Igal Albala, a student of the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute, as a finalist in its competition for a South America presenter

“The mind is like a parachute; it only works when it opens”. With an open mind and a big suitcase to spend nine months away from home, Igal Albala came to Barcelona last year. A 24 year-old Chilean who had studied Business Management and Administration, he says it was “one of those degrees that you sign up for when you don’t know exactly what to specialize in, but that gave me a great foundation and enriched me a lot”. After finishing he decided it was time to open the parachute and fly to another continent in search of his dream.

Today, a year after that trip chasing the experience of his life, and having completed the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute, he still doesn’t want to land completely, letting his imagination fly. He will need it because he has a real project in his hands, one related to his big passion…football, the sport in which he wants to grow professionally and devote all his knowledge.


Igal Albala is one of three finalists in South America of the competition that Copa90 has launched to expand its business on YouTube. It is the largest independent football channel in the world made by fans for fans, launched in September 2012 by the British company Bigballs Films to tell what happens beyond the 90 minutes in play.

Copa90 has surpassed one million subscribers on YouTube, with nearly 3.6 million visits and nearly 14 million minutes watched per month in more than 200 countries. This channel, a real social phenomenon in Europe, wants to be in the five continents and is in the middle of a selection process for presenters in Asia, Africa, Oceania and South America. Igal is competing, along with two other applicants from Colombia and Brazil, to be the face of Copa90 in South America.

“We intend to reach each and every one of our young football fans aged between 16 and 24 in Great Britain”, said Tom Thirlwall, CEO of Bigballs Films, at the launch of Copa90. A platform like YouTube helped him in his promotion campaign, repeating the pattern that launched Zoella, Vice News and SlowMoGuys to stardom in 2014. Three products as diverse as a beauty, fashion and ‘lifestyle’ video blog (6.7 million subscribers on YouTube), a news channel made for young people (more than 1.6 million followers) or a ‘slow motion’ video channel with over 6.5 million subscriptions.

In 2015, it’s the turn for football and Copa90 is giving its full attention to the beautiful game and its millions of fans born of a generation that wants to be a protagonist in everything it does. Big brands such as Nissan, HTC or Adidas are Copa90 sponsors. “The brands have understood perfectly that they can be the story, not just sponsors of a story,” explains Thirwall. “We have to offer a different tone and attitude, with content that will ensure a real connection with the fans. We are not going to ask for money from the brands just so they pay for a channel”.

Igal has been convinced he can give that different tone from Chile ever since he learned, by one of those coincidences of life, that Copa90 were looking for new talents. “I was in the middle of a trip with my family after spending the whole year in Barcelona and I read a tweet from a specialist football magazine, called Panenka, retweeting a Copa90 video which said: ‘Our partners at Copa90 are looking for presenters around the world. It’s your chance.’ I watched the video of the campaign, called ‘In Search Of’, and responded to the tweet immediately. Almost instantly I received an answer from the global presenter of Copa90, Eli Mengem, saying that I had the right profile and I could participate in the selection process until 9 August”.


From then on, everything happened at a breakneck pace. “I arrived in Chile on 2 August and within a week I had to think of, prepare and mount a presentation video to draw attention to Copa90. I managed to condense into two minutes my passion for football, how I’ve lived it throughout my life, even the commitment to travel to Barcelona to do a Master in Sports Management that will help me forge a professional future in the world of the sport that is my passion,” says Igal.

He passes the first round: he is among the top six in South America, from 99 participants. A couple of Skype interviews with judges from the campaign and he’s still going. They inform him that is one of the three finalists and that the presenter of ‘In Search Of’, the director and two cameramen will go to visit him in Santiago de Chile. At this point, he has to prepare well.

“I get started and begin to call on all the resources I learned at the Johan Cruyff Institute….setting objectives, seeking relations, planning the event and finding sponsors. I had to put all that into practice to get the presenter’s attention, to create an experience for someone who, after all, is a football lover like me. I sent letters to institutions in order to be able to film in the Estadio Nacional, a stadium that says a lot about my country because where football is played today and where Chile won the Copa America in 2010, was a concentration camp in 1973. I contacted the Instituto Nacional de Deportes, training centers, and related charitable institutions that are linked to football and that I wanted to be a part of my story. A very famous football shop in Chile, 100% football, sponsored me with some shirts and, with the help of 25 friends, we went to the airport early in the morning to welcome the Copa90 team”.

Eli Mengem, the presenter, was impressed. So much so that, in an interview he did recently about the experience on their journey around the world, he said: “I’m not going to be able to pick a select moment from a trip that encompassed 17 cities and 15 countries. But when I look back on the past two months, cheering and bouncing amongst a 50-man army that was awaiting upon our arrival in Santiago at 1am was probably it. I remember turning to one of the cameramen who five minutes earlier was talking about looking forward to bed, and the next I know he is on a random Chilean’s shoulders singing in Spanish”.

That was Igal and his people. He now just waits to cross those big doors of YouTube to make himself known to the general public, which in the end has the last word with their votes for the best presenter in South America. “The Copa90 message is in my DNA. For me, football dies a death without people”, says Igal. “I want to join this project to express that football is a social phenomenon and it is worth highlighting fans’ values and to do it with a project like this”.

It is time for the popular vote, until 11 January. For Igal, the feeling of seeing himself up there promises to be as dizzying and exciting as a parachute jump.

Click here to vote.

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