The unforgettable story of two Somali National Football Team friends chasing their dreams in the face of impossible odds.

It’s a survival story, a human rights story, and a rare sports journey principally shot and produced in Kenya, Somalia, and the United States. For three years, we have worked to capture the Somali story through the eyes of footballing friends bound by a shared dream to inspire their countrymen. What happens to them is nothing short of miraculous. Our hope is that this film will begin to illuminate the power the dreamers have to inspire a generation.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…”

― Theodore Roosevelt



Saadiq is currently working as an academy coach at The St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club. In December 2020, he graduated from Bradley University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. He transferred to Bradley University for his junior and senior seasons following after a coaching change at St. Louis University his sophomore season – a story chronicled by ESPN the Magazine titled, From fear to freedom: The soccer journey of Saadiq Mohammed. In 2016, he was named to the A10 all-rookie team in his freshman season at St. Louis University. He was also awarded the Jack Buck Amateur Athlete Award by the Missouri Athletic Club. Prior to SLU, he played for FC Dallas Academy in Frisco,Texas during the 2014-15 season.


Saadiq was first called up to the Somali National Team in 2012 after three months with Somalia’s Banadir Sports Club and the U-17 Somali National Team. He returned to Kenya in December 2012 and played with Kenya’s AFC Leopard’s the following summer. Saadiq was born in Nakuru, Kenya in 1996 – his mother left Mogadishu in 1993.



Sa’ad is settled in America, speaking fluent English, and playing soccer any chance he can get. He and Saadiq are roommates and talk every day. On Dec. 18, 2020, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch updated readers on Sa’ad’s journey in a story titled, Immigrant fled war to come to the U.S. Now he’s delivering life saving vaccine  – a follow up to a Sunday cover story that ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in April 2016 and Sports Illustrated in March 2016. Sa’ad played for Elman FC until 2015, he twice earned top scorer in the league and won the Super Cup Championship in 2013. Sa’ad entered the US Refugee Resettlement program in 2015 and entered the US on March 21, 2016 where he hopes to pursue a professional career.


An Elman FC club official discovered Sa’ad when the team traveled to his village for a friendly match in 2010. He was called up to the Somali National Team prior to the first round of regional World Cup qualifying in 2011. Sa’ad was born in April 1993, less than six months before the Battle of Mogadishu.

Support Men In The Arena

We embarked on this journey three years ago to humanize a people and a place long viewed through a single story of fear. Sa’ad and Saadiq’s journey is a powerful testament to the power of hard work and hope. Thanks to our Malibu based fiscal sponsor (501c-3), Creative Visions, all contributions are tax deductible and will go directly to social impact efforts.





Men In The Arena was J.R. Biersmith’s first feature length film. Prior to creating 2728 Pictures and releasing Men In The Arena, he was a content creator across platforms for over 10 years. He began his broadcast journalism career at The Miami Herald. He graduated with a B.A. in International Business from Bradley University and a M.A. in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Miami (Coral Gables).



Brian is a filmmaker and creative director, owner of Selects Media. Prior to Selects Media he as was the head of production at Media Meld Studios, a production and management company based in NY and LA. His love for documentary film-making started at the University of Miami where he met J.R. Brian has helped produce two previous feature documentaries, one narrative horror feature, and is currently an executive-producer on the reality show “LogHeads.”



Gary Lionelli composed a dynamic original score for Men In The Arena on the heels of his masterful work on the 2015 Academy Award nominated film, Last Days in Vietnam. He also scored ESPN’s OJ: Made In America, Bird & Magic: A Courtship of Rivals, HBO’s Luck, and Emmy awards for The Ghosts of Flatbush and Ted Williams.


Village Voice 

Around The World in 51 Soccer Movies

11mm Film Festival Jury Prize 

Jury Prize to Somalia Documentary

Africa is a Country 

 Somalia – People of Football


Maria Tsikalas- From Somalia to SLU…

Quartz (Africa)  

Abdi Latif – American Docu Captures Odds…

Answers Africa  

Staff – American Docu Shines Light on Somali Soccer

The Guardian  

Bryan Kaye – Soccer Refugees

The Library of Congress  

J.R. Biersmith – Somalia: A First Rough Draft of History

BBC Sportshour 

Caroline Baker – The Land that Banned Football

CBS Local (KMOX) Radio  Missouri Athletic Club – Jack Buck Awards- Saadiq Mohammed 

Atlantic 10 Network 

Mark Kwolek – From Africa to St. Louis 

Hilltopics Magazine 

Sandra Guthrie –  The Man In The Arena

Herald Times 

Jeremy Price – SLU freshman on pitch at IU tonight, on screen Wednesday

Limestone Post 

TJ Jaeger – B-town ‘Champion’ Brings Somali Soccer Film to Bus-Chum

NBC Channel 5 Sports

Frank Cusumano-  Somali soccer player shines at SLU

 Fans 590 – Press Box

Director J.R. Biersmith with Frank Cusumano


St. Louis Post Dispatch 

Kristen Taketa –  Sunday Cover Story: For Somali Soccer stars, life in America is a whole new game


The Daily Circuit – How Soccer Survived War in Somalia

Riverfront Times 

Sarah Fenske – Two Somali Soccer Stars Now Live in St. Louis 

Sports Illustrated 

Joan Niesen – Salvation in Soccer: Dream- seeking Somali Refugees Reunited In US

BBC Outlook  

Matthew Bannister and Sue Waldman – Saadiq fulfilled his childhood dream of playing for his country. 

BBC Sportshour 

Steve Crossman – When football Was Outlawed

Kickstarter Staff Pick

Men In The Arena by J.R. Biersmith

St. Louis Public Radio 

Don Marsh –  This city is really special: Documentary tracks Somali soccer stars who find home in St. Louis

Available Now

Digital HD

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TVoD Platform (US): Dish Network, Cox, Charter, Verizon, SuddenLink, Mediacom, Insight, Wow

TVoD Platform (Canada) Eastlink TV, Bell, Rogers on Demand, Shaw

Host A Screening

If you’re interested in screening Men In The Arena in a theatre or you would like to host an event in your city please send us a message. Here’s a glimpse of the theatre experience from Minneapolis, MN