History of Soccer (2001) - History of Football: The Beautiful Game

Guy Oliver covers ‘History of Soccer’ (2001) up to the year 2000

The History of Soccer is a terrific compilation of facts and videos. I originally got the first disk from Netflix, and then I found the whole 7-disk set at my library. I’ve often felt clueless when soccer commentator Christopher Sullivan rhapsodized about some historical player during a game, e.g. comparing someone to a Garrincha or a Di Stefano. So now I finally understand the meaning of those names and what they accomplished.

Guy Oliver is the wellspring of this set, which was apparently a 13-episode series for British TV and possibly FIFA. Oliver had previously compiled the Encyclopedia of Soccer. Unfortunately, the disks end at around the year 2000. After that, he produced an annual Oliver’s Almanack of World Football at harpastumpublishing, but that website is no longer active.

Each disk but the 7th has 2 episodes; each episode is ~53 minutes. Each disk has Extras that are archival film clips and additional interviews of key players and coaches. The episodes are individually produced and directed by several different people. I found the most compelling episodes were “Produced Written & Directed” by Hereward Pelling.

The best disks in the set

So if you’re able to stream or obtain just a few disks, I recommend:

  • Disk 1 – How soccer first started in England and Scotland and how the half-Saturday workweek helped make football the game of the working class.
  • Disk 3 – How Brazil established its greatness back in 1938 and why it and other South American countries struggle because of administrative ineptness.
  • Disk 4 – The Dark Side. If you like calamities, this episode covers stadium and airplane disasters, hooliganism, and the truth behind the Nazi-Kiev “Death Match” (which was a partial basis for the soccer movie Victory).
  • Disk 6 – Perhaps even more relevant today, the Game For All episode covers the history of FIFA. Once big money from sponsorship and TV rights came into the picture, it is easy to see how FIFA became corrupt. However, this is only alluded to; there are no outright accusations. Interesting in 2000 that FIFA had 15 more countries than the UN.

Strangely, it’s kind of hard to find info about this DVD set; the best place to read about it may be on Amazon. The series covers every big star and club since football’s inception, and the key countries on every continent. Since I only came into soccer in 1990, I feel very educated now. And the next time I listen to Christopher Sullivan or Eric Wynalda make a historical reference, I will nod sagely and double-check my personal set. It’s one of the few soccer DVDs that I’ve added to my collection.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8


  • Release Date: 2001 (UK)
  • Not in IMDB
  • Director: Guy Oliver