The World Cup has ended, and football fans have just begun to catch their breaths after the exhilarating final between France and Argentina. The World Cup often brings in newcomers to a sport that can be difficult to grasp the intricacies and atmosphere. With domestic football returning in many countries, here are 5 football documentaries that will help you understand the sport.
All or Nothing
All or Nothing is a franchise of documentaries, a fly-on-the-wall style show where a sports team is followed throughout the season as they fight for glory. NFL, Rugby, and ice hockey teams have also been followed, but a specific focus has been placed on football teams in recent years. English teams Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Manchester City have all had at least one season, as well as national teams and Juventus.
What is excellent about All or Nothing is how extensive its coverage is. It details the running of a football club from a boardroom level to the pitch. Every season brings unique circumstances, as clubs can either be clambering for a title or fighting for a place that cements success. You can go into it knowing nothing about football and leave feeling full of knowledge.
All seasons of All or Nothing are available on Amazon Prime.
Sunderland ‘Til I Die
Sunderland’ Til I Die is a similar, season-long documentary exclusive to Netflix. This show is focused entirely on the former Premier League team Sunderland AFC as they plummeted into the second tier of English Football. Instead of fighting for promotion back into the first division, Sunderland found themselves scrapping against a second straight relegation. This is a tragedy of a sports documentary, displaying how closely the football club and the community are tied together. It’s an example of how not to run a club, showing an iconic team’s downfall while excellently capturing what it is like in one of the most competitive football leagues in the world.
Sunderland’ Til I Die is available on Netflix.
Welcome to Wrexham
Welcome to Wrexham is a documentary series produced by Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, airing on FX while also available on Disney+. The show was created as Reynold and McElhenny purchased Wrexham AFC, a Welsh club sitting in the National League, out of the English Football League.
This documentary is a combination of a fascinating exploration of a community and its struggling football team, very similar to Sunderland Til’ I Die, infused with the comedy and celebrity Reynolds and McElhenny bring to the club. The absurdity of that situation is recognized at all points. It makes the show more entertaining than other series because it has some of the biggest names in comedy and Hollywood in general behind it. But the duo getting involved and learning the sport, as many audience members were doing the same, is very beneficial for newcomers wanting to understand football. With the National League considered a middle ground between semi-professional and professional football, there is a simplicity to that game level. However, still, immensely intoxicating matches filled with drama, amplified but the presence of movie (and TV) stars.
Welcome to Wrexham is available on Disney+.
Rooney is a documentary film produced by Amazon and available on Prime Video. The film is an autobiographical look back on the career of Wayne Rooney, both Manchester United and England’s record goal scorer. Where the previous three documentary series have a broad focus, reflecting on a whole team, Rooney is incredibly specific. The documentary delves deep into the intricacies of being a footballer by highlighting a man that covers so much. It details the highs of the career, with success, glory, and trophies. But there are also the negatives and the risks, from intense media pressure and the dangers of losing control. Rooney’s honesty about his addiction and struggle with anger during his career is an excellent insight into the mind of a footballer.
Rooney is available on Amazon Prime.
Other entries on this list reflect on the present and what football is today. However, this is a sport built from history, and it is also essential to understand those that helped cement what it became. That is what Pelé does, reliving the extraordinary career of Pelé, arguably the greatest player ever to grace the game. Through the documentary, Pelé’s actions for Brazil have immense historical significance in football and politics as he plays through the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. His mesmerizing style of play traverses not just four World Cups, but also a period where technology changes. His first World Cup was in black and white. His last World Cup was in color. This documentary is a fantastic example of how football can transcend the stadiums it is played in and have a much more significant role in nations and the wider world.
Pelé is available on Netflix.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are several other documentaries for European and American teams, with the success of the series above causing other teams and streaming services to consider the ventures. These are just a few examples of shows and movies that may be more welcoming to those that are new to the sport.
William is a screenwriter with a love of comics and movies. Once referred to Wuthering Heights as “the one with the Rabbits.”