Connect with us


Netflix’s ‘Cheer’ Returns After Team’s Major Highs and Lows




NEW YORK (AP) — When we last saw the cheerleading team from Navarro Community College on Netflix, it was in the final episode of the docuseries “ Cheer. ” They had just won the NCA National Championships in the junior college division and celebrated with a tradition where the champions run into the ocean.

Then came the fame. The main cast, including coach Monica Aldama, became overnight celebrities outside of the cheer community, where some of them were already known. They appeared on talk shows including “Ellen,” posed for photo shoots and Aldama was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Gabi Butler, a sometimes-Navarro student who returns to compete with the squad and was already famous in the cheer world before the series debuted, says they were all surprised by the show’s success.

“No one really expected the show to be so big, and I think that kind of caught everybody off guard. It was like, ‘Oh wow. We thought only cheerleaders would watch this.’”

The breakout star was Jerry Harris, a pudgy, cheer-obsessed, enthusiastic member of the squad known for his “mat talk,” where he would scream encouragement to his teammates. His mother had died of cancer when he was a teen and he was mothered by a group of cheer moms in suburban Illinois, where he’s from. A treasured member of the squad, Harris wasn’t quite good enough to compete in the Championship. In a surprise twist, Harris was called up to the mat after another teammate was injured. In cinematic gold, he helped lead the squad to their victory.

Cut to September 2020 and Harris was charged with federal child pornography sex charges. He’s accused of soliciting sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convincing teen boys to send sexual explicit photos and videos of themselves. Harris remains in jail awaiting trial. He has pleaded not guilty on all seven counts.

Little did we know at the time but cameras were rolling on the Navarro cheer squad since shortly after season one was released. They captured the sudden burst of notoriety, to the annoyance of teammates who were only visible essentially as background players.

Season two of “ Cheer,” is now playing on Netflix where we see what happened next, including a season abruptly cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, weeks before the championship. Cameras returned for the following 2020-2021 school year to continue where they left off.

A surprise in season two, the show doesn’t just follow Navarro but their main rival — the cheer squad at Trinity Valley Community College, less than one hour away.

Said “Cheer” creator, director Greg Whiteley, “We were fortunate in that it just so happens that two of the greatest college cheer teams in the history of cheer live just 30 miles apart from each other. It was just kind of a no brainer, I think, to go and spend time with Trinity Valley as well as the time we were already spending with Navarro.”

Each school had a designated film crew and Whiteley bounced in between. He hopes viewers are invested in both schools.

“I felt that the storytelling was going to be enhanced… where you weren’t bullied into rooting against one over the other or for one over the other, but instead, when you arrived at that moment in Daytona, when a judgment was going to be rendered, you felt torn.”

At this point in time, Trinity Valley’s head coach was Vontae Johnson, a former Trinity Valley cheerleader. His assistant coach was Khris Franklin, who was once Johnson’s coach. (They’ve since become co-head coaches.) The two are yin and yang and it’s best captured in their outlook toward Navarro. Where Johnson does not hold back about his vitriol towards Navarro, and especially coach Aldama, Franklin is more pragmatic. He likes Aldama and says they exchange pleasantries when they see one another at competitions.

Whiteley hopes viewers will try not to do an internet search on what happens when the school’s go head-to-head in Daytona.

“It’s so much better to be going into that eighth and ninth episode, not knowing what happened.”

Johnson says Trinity Valley was approached to film before season one but they weren’t interested because they worried it would be a distraction to the team. After “Cheer” debuted on Netflix, they reconsidered for season two. “We thought it would be a good opportunity because the way they portrayed the athletes in the first season, capturing the athleticism and all the things that are great about our sport.”

Adds Franklin: “Since a college down the street got to have this opportunity, I think it was really nice for us to be able to give our kids the same opportunity.”

Although there is an episode in season two dedicated to the allegations against Harris, one thing viewers don’t see is the Navarro team as a whole reacting to the news. Whiteley says this wasn’t a creative decision but COVID-19 protocols at that time wouldn’t let them film.

“I hate that we weren’t there to film,” said Whiteley. “We get their accounts later where they tell us about what happened and how Monica broke that news and how those meetings went down and how difficult it was for those kids. But we were unable to see it because we just simply were not allowed to film for obvious reasons.”

In an email, Aldama adds that any pain the team felt in reaction to Harris’ arrest “pales in comparison to what his victims went through and my heart continues to go out to them. I was proud of the team for giving their all at practice every day and doing what we needed to do physically because emotionally it was difficult.”

Aldama says overall, viewers will see how the Navarro team was able to stay focused in the gym despite all the challenges they faced.

“We filmed during a time that was extremely hard for everyone — certainly one of the hardest years of my career — so there are moments in the series that are raw and rough because you’re seeing it in real time. But we learn through challenging times in life, and in the series you also see the strong character and resilience of our athletes. As a coach and leader, I’m not always perfect, but I believe it’s important to stay positive and take every challenge as an opportunity to grow.

Johnson is apprehensive about the idea of becoming well-known because of the show, and wants to turn the attention back to the team.

“I don’t want it to be about me,” said Johnson. “I want it to be about the team. I was just going to do my job regardless.”

Credit: Source link

Read More



Is Mourinho Running Out of Time at Roma?




Mourinho’s appointment on a 7.5m euros per year contract for three years was greeted with much talk by club and manager of “the project”.

When Jose Mourinho was named Roma manager last May, it was considered a major coup for the Italian club and the city gripped by a fervour and belief that he was the man to take them to the next level.

His appointment came almost exactly 20 years since Roma’s last Serie A triumph and, while there have been two Coppa Italia successes since, it was 2008 when fans last had any silverware to celebrate — and there was a sense things were about to change.

But things have not gone smoothly. The 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League (ECL) three months ago was the low point and their domestic form has also been patchy.

Roma are seventh in Serie A – the same position they finished last season and one that led to predecessor Paulo Fonseca’s departure — and on 9 January were 3-1 up at home to Juventus, only to concede three late goals and lose 4-3.

Mourinho said afterwards his players had suffered a “psychological collapse” — the kind of criticism familiar to those who have followed the Portuguese in his recent spells in charge of Manchester United and Tottenham. But despite those difficulties, he retains support from the club’s fans and owners. He has credit in the bank, for now at least.

‘If Mourinho can’t succeed at Roma, no-one can’

Mourinho’s appointment on a 7.5m euros per year contract for three years was greeted with much talk by club and manager of “the project”.

There was the promise of the necessary time required to build something new and long-lasting and of generous transfer funds available.

And Mourinho has been backed. In the summer, Roma signed Matias Vina, Rui Patricio, Marash Kumbulla, Eldor Shomurodov and Tammy Abraham for a total investment of 100m euros.

Things began well with seven wins from his first eight games in charge. But as winter set in, so results became gloomier. They lost the Rome derby to Lazio, were beaten by Juventus and AC Milan, suffered surprise losses to Venezia and Bologna and, of course, that embarrassment at Bodo/Glimt.

In fact, Roma have only really won one league game this season against a club considered to be at their level — a December victory at Atalanta.

Yes there have been other victories and their recent form has been OK — they have overcome Cagliari and Spezia in their past six matches — but the man who was supposed to help the club compete with the division’s stronger sides is not doing that yet.

It should be noted Mourinho did not inherit an easy situation.

Roma’s squad is unbalanced. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lorenzo Pellegrini are not contributing much to defensive work in midfield, forcing Jordan Veretout to play out of position, while defenders frequently suffer lapses in concentration.

Mourinho has forged a reputation as a master of building a strong, stubborn unit, yet issues around leadership and mentality — which pre-dated him — appear to have remained untouched.

So far, there are no signs of his trademark football. Where is the typical defensive solidity and cynicism of his teams? Roma tend to be caught off balance and concede easily, so will midfielder Sergio Oliveira, a decisive figure in last weekend’s win against Cagliari, be a new key for balance in front of the defence?

“Roma fans consider Mourinho the final chance — if he can’t succeed, no-one can,” said Matteo De Santis, a journalist with La Stampa in Rome. “It’s romantic to imagine he will finally bring a trophy to the club as it was him who talked about Roma’s ‘zero titles’ in 2009 when he was at Inter.

“He’s one of the most successful managers ever. Moreover, people love his attitude. He’s not scared to take on referees and journalists and to make specific requests to the club. Fans are with him unconditionally.”

‘Coppa Italia & Europa Conference League will define his season’

There was always a sense this was a gamble on the part of the club and Mourinho himself.

In some ways it is paying off for Roma. The manager, 59 next week, has added value to the club and its owners and there is a greater interest in them now. There are increased commercial opportunities, he is popular with fans and great for the media.

But, ultimately, what matters is how he shapes the team on the pitch. This is among the most difficult challenges Mourinho has ever faced and, having previously managed clubs of the stature of Chelsea and Inter Milan, there is a sense he will not get many more opportunities among Europe’s biggest clubs if the “failures” at Manchester United and Tottenham are not soon followed by notable success.

Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atalanta and Napoli are simply stronger in the league than Roma, and Juventus, albeit enduring a difficult season, are still Juventus.

So it is the Coppa Italia and Europa Conference League which represent two great opportunities for Mourinho in this campaign. Roma host Lecce on Thursday in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia and are into the knockout stages of the ECL, winning their group despite their defeat in Norway.

The path to a European trophy is a relatively clear one with his former club Tottenham, the other highest-ranked team involved in the group stages, eliminated. It is not so long ago Mourinho was dismissive of the second-tier Europa League. But now that he finds himself in European football’s new third-tier competition, it is one he must pursue.

The two cup competitions will define his season and go a long way to deciding how he is judged in Rome.

It is 61 years since the club’s only European trophy — the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup — and ending that barren run would only strengthen the view that Mourinho is the man to bring long-term glory to Rome.

Credit: Source link

Read More

Original Post:

Continue Reading


Sudanese Barricade Streets After 7 Killed in Anti-coup Protests




Sudanese shuttered shops and barricaded streets with burning tyres and rocks Tuesday, staging angry rallies to protest against one of the bloodiest days since a coup derailed the country’s democratic transition.

Security forces on Monday opened fire killing at least seven people as thousands marched against the army’s October 25 takeover, taking the total number killed in a crackdown since the coup to 71, according to medics.

“No, no to military rule,” protesters chanted Tuesday in southern Blue Nile state, where some carried banners daubed with the slogan “No to killing peaceful protesters”, said witness Omar Eissa.

The protests come as Washington ramps up pressure in a bid to broker an end to the months-long crisis in the northeast African nation, with top US diplomats expected to arrive in the capital Khartoum for talks.

Sudan’s main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change, called for two days of civil disobedience to begin on Tuesday.

Fragile transition

“Shop closed for mourning,” signs read at Khartoum’s sprawling Sajane construction supplies market. One of the merchants, Othman el-Sherif, was among those shot dead on Monday.

Protesters — sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands — have regularly taken to the streets since the coup led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan nearly three months ago.

The military power grab derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule following the April 2019 ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, with prime minister Abdalla Hamdok resigning earlier this month warning that Sudan was at a “dangerous crossroads threatening its very survival”.

The United Nations special representative Volker Perthes condemned the use of live ammunition on Monday, while the US embassy criticised the “violent tactics of Sudanese security forces,” the latest such appeals by world powers.

On Tuesday, police fired tear gas at dozens of protesters setting up roadblocks in east Khartoum, an AFP correspondent said.

“We took to the streets to express our opinion peacefully but the military forces confronted us with live bullets,” said protester Tarek Hassan.

“We call on all the Sudanese people, and to all the free revolutionaries, to barricade all the streets to announce the civil disobedience until the putschists fall.”

Outside the capital, hundreds of protesters also staged demonstrations in other cities, including in the states of Blue Nile and Kassala in the east, witnesses said.


Burhan on Tuesday formed a fact-finding committee to probe Monday’s violence, with its findings to be submitted within 72 hours, Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council said in a statement.

It comes as US Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee and special envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, were expected in Khartoum, where they would “reiterate our call for security forces to end violence and respect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Sudan’s authorities have repeatedly denied using live ammunition against demonstrators, and insist scores of security personnel have been wounded during protests. A police general was stabbed to death last week.

Police on Monday said they had used “the least force” to counter the protests, in which about 50 police personnel were also wounded.

On Tuesday the “Friends of Sudan” — a group of Western and Arab nations calling for the restoration of the country’s transitional government, and which includes the US, European Union, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the UN — held talks in Saudi Arabia.

“Deep concern about yesterday’s violence,” Perthes, the UN envoy, said on Twitter, after attending the meeting via video link.

“International support and leverage is needed. Support for political process needs to go along with active support to stop violence.”

Credit: Source link

Read More


Continue Reading


Novak Djokovic Could Be Barred From French Open As France Passes New Vaccine Law




Novak Djokovic could be barred from playing in the French Open as things stand now after the Sports Ministry said Monday there would be no exemption from France’s new vaccine law.

World No. 1 Djokovic arrived in his native Serbia on Monday after being deported from Australia on Sunday because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused the Australian government of “harassing” the top-ranked tennis star, who lost a legal battle to overturn the decision to revoke his visa.

Vucic urged Djokovic to return where he would be welcomed.

But even as he flew home, doubts arose over whether Djokovic would be allowed to play at Roland Garros.

France’s vaccine pass law, approved by parliament on Sunday, will require people to have a certificate of vaccination to enter public places such as sports venues, restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains.

“The rule is simple. The vaccine pass will be imposed, as soon as the law is promulgated, in establishments that were already subject to the health pass,” the ministry said.

“This will apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson. And this until further notice.

“Now, as far as Roland Garros is concerned, it’s in May. The situation may change between now and then and we hope that it will be more favourable. So we’ll see, but clearly there’s no exemption.”

Djokovic, who was barred from his bid to win a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, has refused to get vaccinated and was criticized for attending public events last month after testing positive for the coronavirus.

He is also the defending champion at Wimbledon, which begins in late June. But so far, England has allowed exemptions from various coronavirus regulations for visiting athletes, if they remain at their accommodation when not competing or training. The U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the US Open, has said it will follow government rules on vaccination status.

More than 95% of all of the top 100 men and women in their tours’ respective rankings are vaccinated. At least two other men — American Tennys Sandgren and Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert — skipped the first major tournament of the year — the Australian Open — due to the vaccine requirement.

Asked if Djokovic would face any penalties for flouting his isolation while being infected when he returns to Serbia, Serbian officials said he would not because the country is not in a state of emergency.

Djokovic is a national hero in Serbia, whose president had called the court hearing in Australia “a farce with a lot of lies.”

Said Snezana Jankovic, a Belgrade resident: “Novak, welcome home, you know that we all support you here. They can take away your visa, but they cannot take away your Serbian pride.”

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Credit: Source link

Read More


Continue Reading