At the end of the season, English clubs typically issue a compilation of highlight videos. But at the beginning of the 2019/2020 season, Liverpool felt they had a good chance to win the EPL. So they recruited James Erskine to follow the club season-long and work on a documentary, somewhat along the lines of the Sunderland and All or Nothing series.
We just started subscribing to Paramount+, and I was delighted to see that one of the movies available was Sir Alex Ferguson – Never Give In. It’s a delightful documentary that shows the depths and roots of the man, and how his environment shaped his coaching career.
What does it mean to be Greek? King Otto shows us through a grating between and then a melding of German and Greek cultures on a football pitch. Combining ambitious German discipline with Greek passion and spirit, the result is an improbable underdog run through the 2004 Euros. Like Morocco’s recent run through WC 2022, where fans found head scarves (ghutra) fashionable, this uplifting film makes you want to be a little bit Greek.
The USA is not a world power in football, ostensibly because our best athletes play where the money is: football, basketball, and baseball. For years, American fans have lamented, “What if our best athletes played soccer?” In a delightful and amusing series, The Gentlemen’s League provides an answer from South Korea.
Like its predecessor All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspurs, which focused on José Mourinho, the Arsenal series focuses on the equally good-looking manager Mikel Arteta during the 2021-2022 season. I’m not sure why anyone other than an Arsenal fan would want to watch this series.
Having reviewed so many Maradona films and series, I was sorely confused when I began to watch the Argentine docuseries Bilardo, el doctor del fútbol. In all the Maradona shows I’ve seen, coach Carlos Bilardo is portrayed as a very minor but unpleasant character, someone who calls the shots for the Argentina NT but otherwise is buried in the background. So for me, this 4-episode HBOMax docuseries is a soccer revelation that thoroughly describes the man behind Maradona’s success.
Greg Clark’s documentary Real Kashmir FC makes you wonder if being a football coach is a career, a calling, or a sheer act of stubbornness. In the case of former Rangers player David Robertson, it appears to be a tasty stew of all three.
If we study the Great Ones of sport, we find there are many contributing factors to their success: motivation, competitiveness, mentors, resilience, discipline, talent, and luck. Writer-Director Gabe Polsky gives us examples of all that and adds one more trait, creativity, that extends across music, art, and other disciplines.
Feature length sports documentaries about real high school teams commonly focus on a theme of social good. In contrast, The El Paso Conquest covers the boys soccer team at Del Valle High School in El Paso, Texas in it ups and downs, but it avoids social themes.
The Year of the Pandemic has been wickedly bloodthirsty as it feasted on the faltering FC Barcelona. Internal scandals led to Barcelona’s crunching 2-8 exit in the 2019-2020 Champions League quarter-finals, the messy Messi situation, and the attempt of Barça’s fans to expel the board. Even if you’re not a Barça fan, it’s hard to watch such an admired club implode so quickly.
I enjoyed Lee Hicken’s Take Us Home: Leeds United series so much, I was compelled to watch his earlier documentary on Leeds. Both are on Amazon Prime. Do You Want to Win covers Leeds’ last successful seasons in the early 1990s, when they won promotion to the top division and 2 years later won that division in the last season before it became the EPL.
Sport Psychologist Courtney Carroll Levinsohn found out that SFSU coach Tracy Hamm was working on her UEFA A-license. Only 1% of such coaching licenses are held by women. Why not put this story on the screen and thereby normalize it? The result is Coach, 25 minutes of inspiration that tell women and girls, you can do this.
Bobby Robson: More than a Manager is an extraordinary compilation of Robson archive footage interspersed with A-list interviews of coaches and players he influenced. Before this film, I didn’t know who Robson was, but in his prime, he is so alive and captivating that I could have watched him for another 2 hours. It is only towards the end, when he finally succumbs to cancer, that I realized he is literally communicating from the grave.
With his bald head and authoritative, gnarly New York accent, I sometimes thought I was watching former US soccer coach Bob Bradley. But no, Coach Jake is about Martin Jacobson, an American high school soccer coach who is, in many ways, much more successful.