There are endless soccer documentaries you can get your teeth into on various platforms. Here are the Top 10 soccer documentaries that can help you fill your days in the coming months:
Top 10 soccer documentaries
It felt as though Manchester City were prepared for the arrival of Pep Guardiola as their manager long before he set foot in the Etihad Stadium. The result of that preparation was the 2017-18 season, when the Manchester outfit set new benchmarks in the Premier League.
While the documentary is underpinned by an inevitable sense of success, the footage gives fans a window into how a superclub is run in the modern age and how one of the best coaches of all time gets his message across to young men who have it all.
Never has a Premier League club provided such candid access to a film crew before and with a similar documentary on the way featuring Tottenham Hotspur, All or Nothing and City look set to be trailblazers in the genre.
Hillsborough’s producer John Battsek and director Daniel Gordon teamed up again in 2016 to focus on the life of one of football’s most charismatic and tragic figures—George Best.
There have been thousands of words said about Best’s tale, where his incredible footballing talent was eventually ruined by his chronic fight with alcoholism.
George Best: All By Himself captures the essence of the Manchester United great. In the film, there is raw footage of Northern Irishman, in which his charm permeates the screen and his natural footballing ability makes you gasp.
It’s easy to see how such vibrant personality and genial talent propelled Best’s rise into one of the most recognizable men on the planet. It makes the inevitable fall, which is spoken about with sensitivity and sincerity by those who feature in the documentary, all the more galling.
Somebody else must have tried this, mustn’t they? Picking the worst team in the game on Football Manager or FIFA and try to trigger a change of fortunes? Thomas Rongen tried it for real with American Samoa in 2011.
Next Goal Wins chronicles the Dutchman’s attempts at turning American Samoa—who suffered a FIFA record 31-0 loss to Australia in 2001—into outside contenders to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
While many football documentaries lift the lid on the lavish facilities available to teams at the top of the game and we gaze on with envy, this feature shows off the challenges that managers at this level face and how much of a challenge it can be to bridge the gap to the best sides on the planet.
In the history of United States soccer, there arguably isn’t a franchise that has had a bigger influence on the country’s football scene than the New York Cosmos. In the latter days of their career, the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia headed to New York for a stint with the outfit.
The documentary offers a behind-the-scenes look at a the Cosmos during their days in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s and 80s.
While Pele, who arrived in 1975 and helped the Cosmos pierce the general sporting consciousness in NYC, doesn’t feature on the film, a number of the high-profile figures who represented the club offer their say on a chaotic time for the sport in the States.
Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona are considered by many to be the best team in the history of the game. Not only did they have success, they conquered Spanish and European football with a swagger and with arguably the greatest player of all time in his pomp.
Take the Ball, Pass the Ball is the definitive account of how this fluid footballing machine came to be. The examination of Lionel Messi’s staggering rise to prominence is captivating, as is the look at Eric Abidal’s fight back from a liver transplant to lifting the European Cup.
While those tales in themselves are worth your time, the documentary has an edge to it too. The rivalry between Guardiola and then Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho is examined, with the latter taking extraordinary measures in an attempt to derail the Blaugrana.
Seventeen different cameras zone in on the most elegant and gifted footballer of his generation. What’s not to love?
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait is exactly that. For 90 minutes, he is the focus, with every step, touch, tackle and pass documented during Real Madrid’s clash with Villarreal on April 23, 2005, with the melancholic chords of Scottish rock band Mogwai providing an uplifting backdrop.
Any skepticism about watching one man on a football field for 90 minutes is understandable. But the film draws you in, partly due to the high-class production and stimulating score, although mainly due to Zidane himself.
Following 90 minutes of mastery, Zidane is given a red card due to a mass brawl at the end of the game. Given what transpired at the World Cup the following summer, this film turned into a perfect metaphor for the great man’s distinguished career.
“Can we not knock it?”
Aside from being depicted as a vegetable on the front page of a national newspaper, those words came to epitomize Graham Taylor’s tenure as England boss. A man exasperated by what he saw in front of him and who was left bemused by the pressure of one of football’s biggest roles.
This documentary encapsulates how the rigors of being an international manager can effect a person. When Taylor and his team agreed to be subjects of this fly-on-the-wall documentary in 1992, few would have anticipated the story would be quite so calamitous.
It includes awkward meetings with players, rants at the press and visits to prisons. The Impossible Job is still a standard-setter in the football documentary world and the comedic inspiration for the riotous Mike Bassett: England Manager film too.
Following their embarrassing relegation from English football’s top flight in 2017, Sunderland allowed the Netflix cameras behind the scenes for their next campaign back in the Championship.
The Black Cats hierarchy would have no doubt hoped that the series would serve as an uplifting portrayal of a football club getting back on track after such a blow. What follows is quite the opposite, as the cameras get a glimpse of what happens to a football club on its knees.
Away from the field, Sunderland ‘Til I Die also examines the team’s significance in the working-class north-east city and how the bonds of affection have been forged to their supporters, despite the persistent problems the team have faced in recent years.
While All or Nothing showcases what can be achieved by a footballing juggernaut when all of the pieces are in place, this portrayal of Sunderland is a more accurate illustration of life for the general football supporter and player.
The Hillsborough documentary from ESPN’s 30 for 30 series will be one of the most difficult things you ever watch. But’s it’s necessary for any football supporter.
While the events of April 15, 1989—a day when 96 Liverpool supporters died on the terraces of the Leppings Lane end—are well known, never have the raw emotions of that afternoon and the aftermath been captured as strikingly as in ESPN’s film.
The documentary speaks to those who were there and those who lost loved ones on the day. There’s also a painstaking focus on the warnings that were present prior to the disaster, what could have been done to save lives on the day, the smears from The Sun newspaper and the relentless fight put up by the families in the pursuit of justice.
An extended version of the documentary has been released following the government inquests in 2016, where it was deemed that the Liverpool supporters at Hillsborough were unlawfully killed.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 programs have gripped fans from all sporting backgrounds, with the production, research and storytelling always to a sky-high standard. When they moved into the football world, those standards were preserved with The Two Escobars.
Unsurprisingly, the film examines two Escobars, who are not related despite sharing the same surname. Drug kingpin Pablo Escobar owned the team Andres Escobar, a Colombia international, played for. The two earned huge popularity in their homeland, albeit their routes to resonance could not have been more polarizing.
The documentary looks at how the worlds of both Escobars intertwined in the 90s and how a mistake from Andres at the 1994 World Cup against the United States would ultimately result in tragic circumstances.
Did we miss any must-see films in our list of the Top 10 soccer documentaries? Share your recommendations in the comments section below.
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