Before watching this Netflix docuseries on Neymar, I knew little about the Brazilian who was supposed to be the next Pelé. I’ve probably seen more memes of Neymar than I’ve seen him play.
When creating a biopic about a footballer, who you claim to be one of the best that ever played, the rule is that the film must have some football in it. At least have enough soccer to show the viewer that the player’s greatness cannot be denied.
The Netflix documentary Pelé has all the makings of a prestige film: a man known as the greatest footballer in the world, the only player to have won 3 World Cups, and celebrity in the historical context of a brutal dictatorship. The twist in the story is that you see an aged man at his most physically vulnerable, who cries at remembering all the pressure he withstood to make his fans happy.
Celebrity documentaries and series have been streaming during the pandemic, flooding our devices and probably our psyches too. The problem is that, there are only so many best-in-the-world sport celebrities. After you get through the stories of what made Ronaldo or Messi great, you fall to the coulda-wouldas, the guys who “coulda been a contender” — if only, if only.