Soccer Shrines is a series that covers fans and their football stadiums across 3 continents, selecting the better-known clubs in a country. Produced for the Canadian market in 2010, it’s a sort of travelogue. I say “sort of”, because you don’t really see much of the country that is visited, so you aren’t inspired to travel there.
The format for each episode is: 3-4 fervent supporters describe the club, you’re invited to their home, pub, or business to see their memorabilia. The supporters visit the empty stadium and reminisce about their favorite memory. On game day, the camera follows them all the way to the stadium, as this is the Pilgrimage. In a few episodes, cameras are allowed into a game. But there is very little game footage.
In each episode, the fans individually explain why their club is the best club in the world, and how being a supporter is their life and like family or religion. All believe that their pre-game rituals affect the match result. The point of the series is to show how being a fan of undying loyalty is spiritual, and perhaps even replaces church with stadiums that serve as shrines.
Currently the series is available on Peacock and Amazon Freevee, although Peacock has 13 episodes while Amazon has 12 episodes. The difference is that Peacock has an episode at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Johannesburg, where the Kaizer Chiefs were playing at the time. Perhaps this episode was removed because Kaizer Chiefs have not really had a home stadium since 2008. Even in this episode, they appeared to have only a few thousand people at the game.
The stadiums and clubs visited include:
- Manchester United at Old Trafford (74k)
- Kaizer Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa (52k)
- Olympique Marseille at the Velodrome (60k)
- Celtic at Celtic Park in Glasgow (60k)
- AC Milan at the San Siro (80k)
- Ajax at Amsterdam Arena (52k)
- Boca Juniors at La Bombanera in Buenos Aires (49k)
- Barcelona at Camp Nou (99k), the largest stadium in Europe
- Olympiacos at Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens (33.5k)
- PSG at Parc des Princes in Paris (49k)
- FC Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena (69k)
- Flamengo at the Maracanã in Rio de Janerio (90k)
- Arsenal at the Emirates (60k)
In 2010-2015, Eric Cantona developed a similar travelogue series called Looking For… where he went to 8 countries and attended games that were big derbies between big rivals. His series was more about him and the locale, and much less about the fans. His personality was so big, I found his series more interesting, but it too was quite formulaic.
The most annoying thing about this Canadian series directed by Mary Lewis? It is that both streaming platforms listed it as being from 2018, not 2010. To me, it is not that useful to watch a 13 year old travelogue about a stadium because the environs change so much so quickly. Had I realized how old the series was, I would not have watched it, but it took me too many episodes to realize it was filmed in 2009.
On the other hand, the obsessive behavior of football fans is probably timeless. If you like looking at other fans’ collections of trinkets, this is the content for you.
My overall conclusion is that watching films about stadiums is not a good substitute for actually going to a meaningful game in those stadiums. You only live once. Going to a stadium in another country is a real treat, and if you are a football/soccer fan, you should strive to do that. Experience the game in an international setting. Go to the World Cup. You’ll be glad you did.
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6