FIFA Uncovered is a sports documentary available on Netflix. It is directed and produced by Daniel Gordon. This is an investigative documentary on the history of FIFA, focusing on corruption and power struggles within one of the world’s most powerful companies.
On the eve of a World Cup, the timing of this documentary couldn’t be more pertinent, especially when one of the documentary’s most significant talking points is how the Qatar World Cup was awarded. But this series is about more than that, stretching decades into the past to reveal an extended period of bribery, corruption, and controversy. Historical footage of the inner workings and football matches is interspersed with interviews of insiders. These are enormously influential figures in politics, law, and football, from Sepp Blatter and Gianni Infantino to journalists, news anchors, prosecutors, and FBI agents. These individuals include those involved in World Cups in the 1970s and FIFA’s evolution into this bureaucratic, rich, non-profit organization. This amount of depth that the storytelling takes is phenomenal and extensive. Sometimes this means that some episodes are very wordy, but that is necessary for the in-depth quality that makes the documentary shine in other ways. The storytelling and structure are superb, spinning the tale like an intense crime story.
FIFA Uncovered has a specific perspective, supporting those who believe the organization was corrupt for a long time, using the evidence provided to almost definitively state that the World Cup was bought. But it is important to note that the documentary includes dissenting voices from those accused of corruption or at least within FIFA when the scandals were happening. Sepp Blatter was the most powerful man in football and was embroiled in scandals for almost the entirety of his reign. The same with the representatives of the Qatari delegates for the World Cup or any of Blatter’s advisors. The variety in opinions and viewpoints are crucial as it demonstrates how history can be skewed. There are times when some contributors could be considered dishonest or at least brilliant at PR, but letting that line be said can either strengthen an argument or weaken it.
The level of seniority and prominence of those interviewed is alarming. They are the people that were literally in the room when events happened. Each episode of the four-episode limited series focuses on a different era and the length of time that (allegedly) corrupt figures have been influencing football and politics. Both a small picture and a much larger one are captured. These people are the characters that serve as the focal points of the documentary, including CONCACAF President Jack Warner. Some stories step away from a larger plot, for example, the topic of Trinidad and Tobago going to the World Cup. But it very quickly becomes clear that the stories are part of a gigantic web of lies and corruption. Personally, getting testimonies from people hit hard by the situations grounds the documentary, not letting it get too tied up in power struggles. However, those manipulations of systems and backstabbing between the highest-ranking members of FIFA is something straight out of Game of Thrones.
In regards to the editing and the camerawork, it is simple but effective. It flits between footage of the past and the interviews, with more modern clips of the FIFA building and the Qatar World Cup that is arriving imminently. The transition in the quality of the footage is an excellent demonstration of the passage of time, connecting the past and present. Perhaps the clips of the FIFA Congress or repeated shots of the quarters get repetitive, but it is often used while the interviewees’ voices play over. The visuals aren’t always the critical part of the documentary.
FIFA Uncovered reveals it all. This documentary casts a net over everything. Making it a series, not a feature-length film, allows a vast story to be told while not missing a single thing. It shows how the corruption in FIFA was sowed years ago and grew over decades. There may be inaccuracies or downright falsehoods, but the journalists and the officials especially do a brilliant job of keeping a straight narrative. Viewers should remember that everyone involved has an agenda or an image to preserve. FIFA Uncovered is an important documentary, as many quotes demonstrate football’s sheer power, influencing politics and nations in a way no other sport can. It can leave a bad taste in the mouth just before a World Cup that has already left some uneasy.
FIFA Uncovered is streaming now on Netflix.
- Rating - 8/108/10
FIFA Uncovered reveals it all. This documentary casts a net over everything. Making it a series, not a feature-length film, allows a vast story to be told while not missing a single thing. It shows how the corruption in FIFA was sowed years ago and grew over decades.
Screenwriter with a love of comics and movies. Once referred to Wuthering Heights as “the one with the Rabbits.”