‘Matthews’ (2017) admire the man but skip the film

The career of Sir Stanley Matthews is so long — he retired at age 50 — and the footage so slim that it is hard to understand why Gary Lineker calls Stanley “the Messi of his day”. 

It’s a difficult mission for the documentary Matthews – The Original No. 7. How do you make a 78-minute film more compelling than Tifo Football’s 5-minute animation “A Brief History of Stanley Matthews”? 

The telling of the tale

Director Ryan Scott Warren tackles the problem by including 2 distinct parts about South Africa. The film launches with scenic footage of a little boy in Soweto South Africa dribbling his homemade ball to a stadium locker room. It appears that students are preparing for an exhibition match, and a local coach explains the importance of wearing the jerseys of Sir Stans Men. You can watch a version of this segment as an 11-minute short film on the work webpage of Imagination Factory Studio. 

Matthews spent a number of years coaching youth players in South Africa during apartheid, even taking one team to Brazil. The final part of the film thus returns to South Africa to interview those players and how they were impacted by their experience.

In-between, the documentary covers Matthews’ long career, how he maintained his fitness to be able to play so long, and his repeated attempts to win the FA Cup in honor of his father. In 1956 at age 41, he became the inaugural recipient of the Ballon d’Or, and he was knighted in 1965. He had appearances with 2 lackluster World Cup squads in 1950 and 1954, at the ages of 35 and 39, respectively.

His life story includes interviews of his adult children (now grandparents themselves) and a mention of his second wife as the love of his life. That part reminded me of the film about Dennis Viollet. As with the director of that film, Stanley Matthews Jr became a tennis pro, having won Wimbledon as Boys’ Champion. 

In conclusion

I was glad to learn about Sir Stanley Matthews, as I had no idea who he was. It is also inspiring to learn about an athlete who remained so fit for so long. In one article I found, he joked that an injury in a testimonial game cut short his career at 70. But otherwise, this was one of those biographical documentaries where I kept falling asleep. So if you want a quick visual review of his career, the Tifo Football video may be a better option.

BTW, one reason I watched this film was because a guy who publishes a lot of click bait articles listed this film as one of the best soccer movies. I knew from the rest of his list that this guy hadn’t seen many. I don’t know why articles like that get promoted by google alerts but my articles never do. Makes me so sad.

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6

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