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"I didn’t become a professional footballer. There was no reason for it. It had nothing to do with football."

In Mercenary a group of footballers of Asian-heritage attempt to put themselves in the bodies of the migrant workers building the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, to explore the century-old tradition of indentured labour in the Gulf Region, and wrestle with the ghosts of their ancestors.

Beyond the traditions, abuse and the hysteria surrounding the 2022 World Cup, this troupe of Asian footballers arrive at a more fundamental starting point: the Asian body; as the body of a worker, a migrant, a thinker, but never an  athlete. Through an unrelenting, football choreography the performers attempt to shred the layers of their existence as Asians in the West. Can they ever be migrant workers? Can they ever be footballers?

Mercenary is a collaboration between Ahilan Ratnamohan, a Sri Lankan-Australian footballer-artist now based in Antwerp, and a number of people with disparate skills and histories: Nipat Thollebeek, an KAA Gent academy footballer who now coaches; Rabina Miya a Nepali street-dancer convinced, during the project, to pursue acting; Imanuel Dado, an Indonesian-Australian an athlete and b-boy turned contemporary dancer and; Mahy Nambiar a member of the Tamil Eelam Football team, a national team for the unrecognised state of Tamil Eelam, who stepped into the process 10 days before the premiere. 

 The performance unfolds through three important layers: Ratnamohan’s distinctive football-dance movement, muscian Mutamassik’s trademark first-generation, punk jaw, electronic pan-African derivatives and Anne-Catherine Kunz's costumes that add a further performative layer, and act as one more agent, against (and with) which the performers must identify themselves.   


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Choreographer-Performer | Ahilan Ratnamohan Musician-Composer | Giulia Loli aka Mutamassik Performer-Devisors | Nipat Thollebeek, Rabina Khatun, Imanuel Dado, Mahy Nambiar Dramaturg | Sodja Lotker Lighting Design | Timme Afschrift Costume Design | Anne-Catherine Kunz Research Consultant | Roslyn Oades Producer | Ahilan Ratnamohan, Jon Davis [LIFT], Hari Prasad Adhikari Sacré

Commissioned by LIFT and presented by LIFT and Battersea Arts Centre. Supported by FARE Network, Australian Government through the Australia Council and the City of Antwerp, the Government of Flanders.

A BespectACTive project, supported by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.


19-23 June 2018 LIFT/Battersea Arts Centre, London UK  PREMIERE
29 June 2018 Beursschouwburg, Brussels BE    
21 July 2018 Kilowatt Festival, Sansepolcro IT
28,29 September 2018 Monty Kultuurfaktorij, Antwerp BE

7,8 May 2019 . Brakkegrond, Amsterdam