Season One of Amazon Prime’s “This Is Football” six-part documentary is a perfect example of all that is actually beautiful with the beautiful game.
In a world where, on Amazon Prime or Netflix, a search for soccer or football will bring you to documentaries on the FIFA scandals, which is an example of everything that is wrong with the game, this series is about everything that is right with the game.
The six episodes; Redemption, Belief, Chance, Pride, Love, and Wonder, are about one thing, but each tells more than one story to drive that one thing home.
What are those episodes about?
Episode 1 Redemption: “This film explores the redemptive power of sport and the incredible stories of survival made possible through football. It is told through the fanatical Liverpool fans, the ‘Rwandan Reds’, who at first glance mirror fans from around the globe. But all are genocide survivors and behind their smiles are harrowing stories of pain and loss, and how they found a dream and a community again in football.”
Episode 2 Belief: “The story of the Japanese women’s football team’s remarkable World Cup triumph 3 months after a natural disaster killed 16,000 people in Japan. ‘Belief’ also charts the spread of the women’s game and how football conquered America in 1999. With incredible access to the winning Japanese and American teams, this film examines the obstacles, prejudices, and faith needed to inspire generations of women.”
Episode 3 Chance: “In Football, the Underdog Always Has its Day. Interweaving the stories of Frankfurt winning their first cup for 30 years, how Bayern Munich moved from amateur leagues to a multimillion-dollar world-dominating club, and how Chelsea and their new manager beat Bayern in the 2012 Champions League final. This film explores ‘chance’ in football and why it’s a key reason that billions love the game.”
Episode 4 Pride: “Iceland, with no professional league and a national team coached by a part-time dentist, are the smallest country to ever qualify for the FIFA World Cup Finals. With exclusive behind-the-scenes access, we follow the Iceland team and their coach Heimir Hallgrimsson as they head to Russia. A tale of pride, triumph over impossible odds, and hope. This is David v Goliath on Football’s biggest stage.”
Episode 5 Love: “A series of stunning vignettes paint a picture of the world’s global game, each one capturing a different portrait of the human condition. From England’s Blind football team to South Africa’s youngest professional referee to rooftop football in China, and slum football in India, this film takes us on a journey around the planet to show the unifying power of football.”
Episode 6 Wonder: “Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest living footballer. A 1 in 7.2 billion miracle. A genius in boots. This film is an immersion into the beauty of football and a quest to unveil the secret of Messi’s genius in the world’s biggest match. A glittering cast from legendary manager and mentor, Pep Guardiola, to the President of Argentina, to renowned statisticians, unveils why Messi is like no other.”
But the entire series can be summed up by Roy Turnham who in summing up episode five about Love also seemingly sums up the entire series; “I think football is a language in itself. It crosses all barriers. We see football played by so many different people from so many different backgrounds. In streets, in fields, in parks. You can play football anywhere!”
This series pulls no punches, it tells these stories, it tells them well, and it doesn’t edit out the passion or belittle it… It highlights it.
There is something very special about football (soccer here in the US). And this series doesn’t shine a spotlight on it, it shines a few flashlights at what makes the beautiful game the beautiful game. And for that reason, I urge fans and non-fans alike to watch this show, and I hope that Amazon is going to make more of “This Is Football” because great storytelling like this isn’t as normal in most mediums as it should be.
And for that alone, this series should be celebrated.