Elijo Creer (2023) - Soccer Soul

‘Elijo Creer’ (2023) disappoints as Soccer Soul

For me, Elijo Creer (Soccer Soul on HBOMax) started off on the wrong foot, with a flowery travelogue about Qatar and the beautiful, sustainable, stadiums in the desert. I probably should have stopped right there.

Yes, architecturally the stadiums are beautiful, but environmentally speaking, building these in the desert was not sustainable and cost thousands of lives. And the bid was not won, but was bought and paid for, as shown in The Men Who Sold the World Cup.

I suppose the message from FIFA and Qatar is, see, you had a great time, Messi achieved his life goal, and we should just relive Argentina’s success. But then the filmmakers make that message even less palatable by presenting a terribly boring film.  This is the official film of the Argentine Football Association. That the AFA can take their team’s pathway to the WC 2022 trophy and make it so tiresome is, well, it’s an example of cruel incompetence.

The highlights

Documentaries like this are meant to relive a tournament or a league’s season. But the better documentaries tell us something we didn’t know, usually something that is heartfelt. With the omnipresence of social media, maybe that’s getting too hard to accomplish, but this film did impart a few nuggets. The guys I most liked listening to were Dibu Martinez and Rodrigo de Paul.

I learned that “Dibu” is the nickname for goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez. In the film, Martinez says he never dances, but he did so spontaneously after  saving one particular PK in the tournament. (Sorry, I didn’t note which game that was.) The film shows quite a few clips of his petulant clowning, which are funny in retrospect, but as a referee I would definitely want to card in a youth game. 🙂  And truthfully, Martinez was the guy making pelvic thrusts during the celebrations. Maybe Martínez just has a very expressive face and body that readily offends. At least he is funny.

The other thing I learned was that midfielder Rodrigo de Paul pushed the coaching staff to allow him to play in the quarterfinals, despite a torn muscle. They show how he proved to the staff that he was fit enough to play, and went 66 minutes in the game against Netherlands. He continued to start through the Semi and Final. While not specifically mentioned in the film, Rodrigo is recognized as having been an important enforcer and Messi’s “bodyguard” in the tournament. Rodrigo does mention in the film that Messi asked him why he is hated by everyone they play.

De Maria talks about how much he loves being able to hold and polish the trophy. Messi is relieved to finally have the one trophy that had eluded him for so long over so many World Cups.

Otherwise, the rest of the film is soporific. The flowery narration is meant to be poetic, but it strikes me as simply inappropriate for a sports documentary. The footage of the celebration on the streets of Buenos Aires redeems the film a little, but otherwise I almost resented this show for failing to be as exciting as the team’s performance.

Better to watch Episode 6 of Captains of the World.

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6


  • Released: 2023-12-07 (Argentina)
  • Spanish title is Elijo Creer (literally, I choose to believe)
  • English title is Soccer Soul or Soccer Soul: Elijo Creer
  • In English and Spanish with English sub-titles
  • I watched this on HBOMax
  • The Spanish version might be only 80 mins, but the HBOMax version is 1 hr 37 mins
  • IMDB
  • Directors: Gonzalo Arias , Martín Méndez
  • Stars: Leo Messi and the Argentina NT
  • Watch the Trailer in Spanish