It’s hard to believe, but even though it was a World Cup year, 2022 was one of my worst years for soccer movie reviews. I can’t blame it on the COVID-19 pandemic, because by Year 3, most of the world developed pandemic fatigue and pretty much threw their masks and self-isolation to the wind.
The exception of course was China, who until Dec-2022 maintained a zero-covid policy until a mini-uprising occurred against the lockdowns. In response, China cast opened their doors and announced people could come in or leave, and no longer had to isolate, even though they were insufficiently vaccinated. As expected, China is now suffering its long-delayed pandemic, with thousands spreading the newest variant, overwhelming their healthcare system, and of course, the vulnerable and elderly are dying.
The other major event that happened in 2022 was that Putin led Russia into an invasion and war against the Ukraine, committing constant crimes against humanity.
With so much fear and dystopia in the world, perhaps people were not inspired to create soccer movies. Theaters are still a long way from pre-COVID attendance, inflation is zooming because of Putin’s War and COVID, and the era of Peak TV has ended as the bottom has fallen out of the streaming market.
Even the buildup to WC 2022 was muted because of the many controversies linked to hosts Qatar: the corruption by which they won the bid, human rights abuses of migrant workers, LGBTQ+ discrimination, fans forced to pay $200 per night to live in tents and steel storage sheds, and the sheer environmental folly and hubris in building so much infrastructure for a month of games. The esteemed journalist Grant Wahl, who championed so many of these issues, died from an aortic aneursym during a semi-final. The bad news was never-ending.
Had it not been for the stirring triumph of Argentina over France in the Final, and the subsequent deification of Lionel Messi, would anyone want to remember this World Cup? Well, other than fans of Morocco. Personally, I don’t want to remember WC 2022 except for the joy of Messi’s countrymen.
But I am sure there will be copious films and 20 episode docuseries about Argentina and the Final: Thai Cave Rescue on a pitch in Qatar.
20 films and series watched in 2022
I only reviewed 20 films and series in 2022. Half the shows I watched were series. There were almost no soccer films on the festival circuit. As in 2021, the changes brought by streaming and the Epic TV era meant that most content was released as a series specific to a platform.
So much of the content was bloated to increase bingeing. After watching some really terrible series such as the ones about Pogba and Neymar, I just couldn’t force myself to keep wasting 6-18 hours to watch a series that wasn’t much different from an infomercial. (See my 2021 rant about the decline in streaming soccer movies.) And unlike many other reviewers, with one exception, I won’t review a series where I haven’t watched all the episodes.
Even though I am complaining a lot, I scored over half of the films with a rating of 8 on a scale of 10. For entertainment and soccer value, I rated the Netflix series The Gentlemen’s League as a 10. Three films or 15%, received a Rating of 5 or less. Following is a quick summary of the top- and bottom-rated films.
2022 Best Soccer Films:
Here are the top 12 movies I reviewed this year as 8 or above:
- The Gentlemen’s League 2 (2021) – a variety show series where South Korean national athletes learn to play soccer.
- WeCan (2022) – a docuseries on the Canadian Mens National Team qualification for WC 2022.
- The Rescue (2021) – The best rendition of the Thai cave rescue
- The Holy Game (2021) – what it takes to become a priest and win the Vatican’s Clericus Cup
- Bilardo the Soccer Doctor (2022) – a series about the man without whom Maradona would not have won the WC
- Jaadugar (2022) – a creative Indian combo of romance, magic, and football
- Las Bravas FC (2022) – an entertaining fictional series about a complete narcissist who manages a struggling womens team in Mexico
- Anton Ferdinand Football, Racism and Me (2022) – a docu explaining the tremendous burden he’s suffered because of John Terry.
- The Figo Affair (2022) – years later, we learn the truth
- Good Rivals (2022) – a last product from Grant Wahl, covering the history of the USMNT rivalry with Mexico
- The Game of Their Lives (2002) – enjoyable because of the positive parallels with WC 2022.
- Africa United (2010) – a modern fairytale
2022 Worst Soccer Film:
The worst film I saw this past year was The Soccer Football Movie (2022). Sorry, Megan Rapinoe!