Football is king for a reason: it brings hope, meaning and changes to regular people. The only requirement is 'you need to try'. That’s the only thing you need. Here are the 14 best documentaries out there that tell us what it’s all about. Deeply engaging, inspiring and thoughtful and in no particular order, have a read:
1. Maradona, Director: Emir Kusturica, 2008
When thinking of Maradona, most of us remember a diminutive man slaloming through players like Alberto Tomba. He was also rather sarcastically branded the Hand of God. But the director of the cult film Black Cat, White Cat, Emir Kusturica sheds a very different light on the man. He elevates Maradona above football, and tells us a story of his significance beyond the pitch – in politics, culture and his family life.
2. The Two Escobars, Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, 2010 (as part of the ESPN series 30 for 30)
This is a story of two unrelated Escobar men– one was Columbia’s drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, the other – Andres Escobar, the footballer murdered following the USA 94 World Cup. The fates of those men intertwine under the umbrella of lawlessness in Columbia.
3. Pelada, Luke Boughen and REbekah Fergusson, 2010
This is a fascinating football travelogue. Two former players travel 25 countries and ask regular people to play football with them on the streets. From South America to Japan and the Middle East, they discover that everywhere they go, football transcends the boundaries of culture and language by tapping onto a more primal need of humanity – to play.
4. The Referee, Mattias Low, 2010
There is a kit that referees can’t take off, even after the final whistle. This is what this documentary is about. It depicts the responsibility that referees carry to make the right decisions and the consequences to their lives if they fail to do so. Watch this film if you’d like to change your view about often the most abused men in football.
5. The Class of '92, Benjamin and Gabe Turner, 2013
You needn’t be a Manchester United fan to apreaciate and know that the success of the Red Devils in the 90s was down to six home-grown players – Beckham, Scholes, Butt, Giggs, and the Neville brothers. This is a well-crafted documentary following their rise from talented youngsters to winning the treble seven years later in 1999.
6. North Korea: The game of their lives, Daniel Gordon, 2002
The documentary explores North Korea’s exploits in the 1966 World Cup. North Korea had just waddled a decade into their rebuilding process following the Korean War and was still struggling for international recognition. It came down to football and heart.
7. George Best: All by Himself, Daniel Gordon, 2016
This new documentary about George Best includes archive footage and interviews from himself, the family, Matt Busby and even Elton John. It’s a brilliant portrayal of the footballer, man and icon.
8. Football Fables, Baff Akoto, 2010
From the award-winning director Baff Akoto comes the African ‘Football Fables’. The film delves in the intricacies of the Africa-Europe migration of football talent, and it is centred around a young football star trying to secure a move to a top European club.
9. Once in a lifetime: The Extraordinary story of the News York Cosmos, Paul Crowder and John Dower, 2006
This documentary explores the inception of the New York Cosmos and the owners' attempts to spread football (or soccer) in the United States. In the space of a few years, the audiences rose from tens of fans to tens of thousands. Cosmos came to be known as the first Galacticos – having drawn into its ranks players like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto.
10. Ginga: The soul of Brazilian Football, Tocha Alves and Hank Levine, 2005
Ginga is the rhythm – the swinging of the body from one side to other in order to deceive the opponent. It’s the dance, emotion, and the soul. This is a must watch documentary for footballer lovers. It explores the dreams of ordinary young men and follows them around in often the poorest regions of Brazil where the love for the game usurps money.
11. Next Goal Wins, Mike Brett and Steve Jamison, 2014
If Roy Keane watched this, he would get a heart-attack and die and then roll over in his grave, a hundred times. I mean we are talking about a national team who are well to familiar with the bottom place in FIFA rankings. They are holders of the world’s biggest defeat record – 31-0 to Australia in 2001. But guess what, they get to score a goal and even win in the end. All because of HEART.
12. Puskas Hungary, Tamas Almasi, 2009
Before Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, there was Zidane, before him- Cruyff. At the beginning of it all, there was Puskas, the chubby Hungarian wizard. This documentary tells his enthralling story.
13. Keane and Vieira: Best of Enemies, Tim MacKenzie-Smith, 2013
Seven years after their retirement, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira sit opposite each other to discuss their rivalry and careers. With the same explosive spark in their eyes, they get to talk about their pitch clashes and choose the best combined Arsenal and Manchester United eleven.
14. White, Blue and White, Camilo Antolini, 2014
“The Falklands war was an equivalent of a tall guy fighting a midget at an arm’s length” Ricky Gervais. However stupid the war was, it had pretty serious consequences for people. On the forefront of feeling its effects were the two Argentineans playing for Tottenham Hotspur – Osvaldo Ardilles and Ricardo Villa.
We are well aware that there might be other great documentaries out there. If you think we've missed one, please let us know at support[at]theballissquare.co.uk. If you also found it useful, please don't forget to share with your friends.