Last week’s Hillsborough documentary was the first of eight films that ESPN will show over the next few months as part of its ESPN’s 30 For 30 Soccer Series. Films two and three will air tonight at 7pm ET on ESPN with the debut of Maradona ’86 and The Opposition.
While Hillsborough was a feature-length film, Maradona ’86 and The Opposition are closer to the lengths of films that many viewers are accustomed to watching in the 30 For 30 Series by ESPN.
Maradona ’86, directed by Sam Blair, tells the story of former football great Diego Maradona. In the 1986 World Cup, Maradona reached his apotheosis, redefining what is possible for one man to accomplish on a football pitch; his ability to take control of the ball, the game and an entire tournament split the world in two. Constructed from archival material, Maradona ’86 is an ode to this ultimate footballing idol as he wrote his name in soccer history forever.
The Opposition, directed by Ezra Edelman and Jeffrey Plunkett, focuses on Chile in the wake of the 1973 military coup. American-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet transformed Santiago’s National Stadium into a concentration camp where political opponents were tortured and assassinated. Only months later, that same stadium was scheduled to host a decisive World Cup qualifier between Chile and the Soviet Union. Despite protests, FIFA’s own investigation and the Soviets’ eventual boycott, the Chilean team still played the game as planned, qualifying for the 1974 World Cup on a goal scored against no one.
While both films focus on soccer topics related to South America, that’s where the similarity ends. The Opposition is a spellbinding true story of how FIFA and the US-led Chile dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet ignored the fact that the National Stadium was being used as a concentration camp before, during and after an important World Cup qualifier, and by doing so they used the players as pawns to pretend that everything was going smoothly in Chile while the opposite was true as people were tortured, raped and killed in the same soccer stadium where Chile played its games.
The Opposition is a fascinating glimpse at what happened to the players on the Chile national team, as well as a history lesson on what happened during a dark period of that country’s history (as well as the influence of the US in overthrowing a leftist leader).
Maradona ’86, meanwhile, is a work of art, showing in vivid detail how incredible Diego Maradona was as a footballer. We’ve all seen the same highlights of Maradona scoring incredible goals, but some of the footage in the short film shows up-close how gifted Maradona was with the ball at his feet. The footage is magical to watch. And whether you’re a fan of Argentina or not, you simply have to see the footage from World Cup 1986.
Maradona ’86 is more poetic than hard hitting like The Opposition and Hillsborough are. But deservedly so since Maradona ’86 is more of a celebration of one of the best players to have ever graced the earth. The film includes passages from Soccer in Sun And Shadows, a beautiful book of prose about the history of world soccer. The combination of the words from the book and the wonderful imagery from Diego Maradona are a perfect marriage.
On a day when one person of note gets fired from his job, the story is of so little significance when compared to the true stories that are shown on these two new films by ESPN. Both Maradona ’86 and The Opposition are well worth your time.
Maradona ’86 will air at 7pm ET on ESPN, and will be followed by The Opposition.