6 Timeless Documentaries About the Beautiful Game
Football, the beautiful game. A compelling mix of sublime and also sub-par skill played out in a 90 minute pitch based drama, that when great, competes with any blockbuster movie or great spectacle the world has to offer. But the drama isn’t just contained to the field of play, as behind the scenes there’s often boardroom bust ups and bad behaviour that’s makes for amazing viewing, if we’re allowed to watch of course.
Luckily for us there have been some great documentaries that offer up a fascinating window into the footballing world on and off the pitch. Here The MALESTROM brings you six brilliant football documentaries that you may never have heard of, but you’ll want to watch as soon as possible now you have.
The Four Year Plan
A documentary that says so much about the state of the modern game and the role of billionaire owners and their dabbles with the money spinning world of top tier English football. A consortium headed up by Italian businessman Flavio Briatore and pocket sized F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone took control of a beleaguered Queens Park Rangers with the ultimate goal of reaching the Premier League within four years. This documentary offers a fascinating insight to the consequences of when rich entitled owners collide with old school football brains.
There’s boardroom battles and changing room spats, ‘The four year plan’ is an expertly woven tale, that appeals on so many levels. The brash Briatore is a perfect documentary antagonist and an infuriating example of the what happens when impatient owners interfere with on the pitch matters. Quite how QPR ultimately achieved Premier League status in spite of the bonkers billionaire Briatore is anyone’s guess.
An Impossible Job
The late, great Graham Taylor was a true gentleman of the game. His success at Watford and latterly Aston Villa underlined his status as an astute manager with the tactical nous to compete with the big boys, but it was this career defining fly-on-the-wall doc that illustrated the power of the bloodthirsty media, and why the much vaunted England manager’s job really is the most poisoned of chalices. It’s a fascinating behind the scenes look at the management game, and in many ways at times underlines the simplicity of football and the significance of positive or negative momentum in sport. Taylor was cruelly exposed, and his infamous “do I not like that” catchphrase became fodder for the baying media scrum that accompanied his every move. A stark lesson in why you might not want to invite cameras behind closed doors, with fans watching on as England spectacularly failed to qualify for the World Cup.
The positioning of the camera on the touchline offers a fascinating insight to the thankless task of management at the highest level, and at times as you watch Taylor, McMenemy and Clemence in the dugout, you feel like you could be watching a play in the West End. Thankfully Taylor’s status as one of football’s nice guys was restored over the ensuing years, however managerial reputations are harder to turn around.
Having floated their shares on the stock market, a buoyant Wearside looked forward to a first season in the Premier League under the hard work pays off tutelage of Peter Reid. Sunderland allowed access all areas for a whole season as camera’s were allowed into the changing room, the training ground – you name it, it was fair game, but what transpired was a throwback to a time when footballers were men, nay lads, managers told it how it was and tactics revolved around “keeping your f***king work rate up and you’ll get what you deserve.” Money has usurped everything all football fans love about the game, which is what makes this docu-series so fascinating. It encompasses a time when money was starting to really change the game, Sunderland were making the move from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light and looking to build the number 1 stadium in the country.
To watch Peter Reid sat in his office sporting some tracky keks and a pair of Asics trainers – feet on desk negotiating transfers and questioning the value of players, is a stark reminder of how the game has changed at the highest level. Post match press conferences were done in the corner of the players lounge where a gaggle of sport journos with Dictaphones and a notepad, barked questions. It’ll either make you feel very old or very young, but there’s no doubt nostalgia is a beautiful mistress. Another reminder as to why you might not want to allow the cameras over the hallowed threshold of the football dressing room.
The Brian Clough Story
The greatest manager England never had, Brian Clough was the charismatic, at times controversial, trailblazing manager who was loved by football fans the length of breadth of Britain. Many documentaries have been produced in the years since his passing, but ‘The Brian Clough Story’ perfectly encapsulates the wit and humour of the man, while paying due respect to his undoubted managerial talents. Made in recognition of the 30th anniversary since Clough’s Forest team marched across Europe, the most unlikely of Champions, there’s some fantastic archive footage and interviews. It’s truly remarkable to think the England job never came his way, as is the case with sport, politics and keeping up appearances so often win the day. Old ‘Big Head’ truly was a revolutionary, a man never afraid to speak his mind, this documentary is an absolute must for all football fans.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I wasn’t on that particular job.” – Brian Clough
The Two Escobars
A superbly crafted documentary that looks at two of Colombia’s most famous sons, one a national hero and role model, the other a billionaire drug lord who presided over the global cocaine market. Pablo Escobar’s love of the beautiful game invited the perfect opportunity for him to launder his ill gotten gains, whilst rejuvenating the game in his homeland. Andres Escobar no relation of Pablo was the national captain that led Columbia to the 1994 World Cup (yes the very same one Taylor’s England failed to reach) and key performer for Atletico National, the club that Escobar had invested so heavily in.
On one fateful afternoon in the blazing heat of the USA, Andres contrived to score an own goal against the hosts that led to a heavily fancied Columbia team being knocked out of the tournament, an incident that would go onto to have truly tragic consequences. It’s a sad and alarming documentary that unravels the fragile nature of sport in South America, where football is more than just a game, and politics and corruption go hand in hand with athletic achievement.
One Night in Turin
Prior to Graham Taylor’s fateful reign as England manager another legend of the game Bobby Robson led a spirited group of Englishmen to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Italia 90, which culminated in an agonising two hours of football and ultimate defeat to our German nemesis’ on penalties. Prior to this time English footballing headlines were the reserve of the football hooligan as travelling rampaged through away trips, assaulting all who stepped in their path.
However for the first time in a long time it was the pitch matters that were back in vogue. It was the tournament that announced the flair and frailty of a certain Paul Gascoigne as a nation was both gripped and united by this unlikely band of brothers. Featuring previously unseen footage, we are transported back to the pre-Premier League era, when tight shorts were the order of the day and shell suits were in their pomp. Pavarotti’s ‘Nessum Dorma’ adds rhythm to the nostalgia as English football’s greatest ever performance on away soil climaxes on ‘One Night in Turin’.