‘Take Us Home: Leeds United’ (2019) leaves you longing for Season 2

Take Us Home: Leeds United (2019)

As we all struggle on with the pandemic, one of the things we miss most is sporting events — the hot dogs, the beer, the chance to be with like-minded souls and scream in unison at a goal or a bad foul. For some, streaming sports documentary series at home is a modest substitute. Writer-Director Lee Hicken’s series Take Us Home: Leeds United does more than substitute for sports; it creates a sporting legend.

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‘Still Defending’ (2020) after a life-threatening illness

Still Defending (2020)
Still Defending: Drew Beckie’s Road to Recovery (2019)

We never know what can take us down: accidents, cancer, our own bad habits. Today, coronavirus is foremost in our minds. But in 2017, Canadian soccer player Drew Beckie contracted myocarditis, an infection in his heart. The standard medical advice was absolute rest for 6-8 months and the warning that he might never play again. 

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‘The Rhino Cup’ (2019) – can football reduce poaching?

The Rhino Cup (2019)

When anti-poachers asked a village how to help, the answer was a football league.

As a child, Matt Bracken developed a love for Africa’s wildlife, which lead to his becoming a safari travel specialist. From there, he became an anti-poaching ranger for ProTrack in South Africa. Protrack has 300 rangers in Mozambique who fight rhinoceros poachers.

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‘Muerte o Gloria: The Rise of the American Soccer Fan’ (2015)

Muerte o Gloria: The Rise of the American Soccer Fan (2015)

As a soccer fan who rarely watches any other sport these days, I tend to forget that basketball, baseball and pointy football don’t have fans like soccer football does. Following the European and Latin American traditions, soccer is the only pro sport in the USA where, pre-pandemic, supporters groups show up with songs, drums, banners, flags, TIFOs and a s**tload of enthusiasm.

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Sunderland ’Til I Die (2018) takes your eye off the truth

Sunderland 'Til I Die (2018-2019)

Football clubs used to publish just a single documentary film about themselves every so often, but now they’ve migrated to massive streaming series. Usually I avoid football club and player movies because I know they are going to amount to a very long marketing video. I made an exception for the Netflix series Sunderland ’Til I Die. And here’s why.

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‘Alive & Kicking: The Soccer Grannies of South Africa’ (2016)

Alive & Kicking: The Soccer Grannies of South Africa (2016)

In this charming documentary, community organizer and radio show presenter Beka Ntsanwisi explains how and why she started Vakhegula Vakhegula, a soccer club for grannies in the region of Limpopo, South Africa. Suffering from chronic diseases or traumas, these Vakhegula (grannies, also called gogos) found football made them healthier and lifted their focus away from pain.

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‘Soccertown USA’ (2018) the Jersey Boys of soccer

Soccertown USA (2018)

Soccertown USA is a treasure of painstaking research conducted by Writers Tom McCabe and Kirk Rudell. For years, I had wondered why so many US National Team players and referees came from New Jersey. This documentary explains how the Town of Kearny, a suburb of Newark, NJ, was a working class neighborhood of immigrants who brought their love of the game to their new country. The town became an oasis of excellence that developed American champions.

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‘Footeuses’ (2020) add women and football to your lexicon

In France, Footeuses is what female footballers call themselves, the feminine form of Footballeur. Until recently, to be a female footballer was largely an oxymoron: to be female and a football player was not accepted. This changed with the Womens World Cup 2019 in France and the hope that the hosting country’s women would repeat the French mens’ success at WC 2018. 

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‘Streetball’ (2010) best Homeless World Cup soccer movie

Streetball (2010)

Streetball is not just another homeless world cup film, it is the best of its genre. Despite being 10 years old, this documentary is fresh, vibrant, and still relevant in its reflection of the world today. Streetball also stands out as one of the few homeless world cup (HWC) films where the soccer is as engaging as the stories of the people.

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‘The 99ers’ (2013) a unique insider view of 1999 USWNT

ESPN Nine for IX logo

I almost passed up watching The 99ers on my ESPN+ subscription, because I thought I had already ‘seen it all’ about the 1999 USWNT. But what a mistake if you miss watching this episode of the espnW Nine for IX series. IX in this case refers to Title IX, which required that colleges provide equal funding for womens and mens sports. 

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ESPN falls flat with ‘Mysteries of the Jules Rimet Trophy’ (2014)

ESPN 30 for 30 logo

It’s hard to believe that Brett Ratner, director of the Rush Hour franchise, put together the worst ESPN 30 for 30 segment that I have seen. Mysteries of the Jules Rimet Trophy covers all the facts, but the production is flat, and the importance of the artifact is blown way out of proportion. It’s almost facetious. It’s not the Holy Grail, it’s a small piece of metal of a woman holding up a cup. It’s not even gold.

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