Football (or soccer, to our U.S. friends) is literally the most popular sport in the world, with over 4 billion fans globally. Football clubs are a source of immense pride for the nations and indeed cities they represent, so it’s no wonder that a plethora of clubs have been the subject matter of some truly great documentaries.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of football documentaries, but it’s a list of ones that fans of the beautiful game shouldn’t miss out on – not unlike some really good tips on betting to have a bit of extra fun during the football season.
Sunderland Til I Die (2018)
Netflix’s Sunderland Til I Die is an eight-part series that followed Sunderland A.F.C during their 2017 relegation from the Premier League to the English Championship, and further down to League One. What was supposed to be a glorious documentary following Sunderland’s triumphant rise back to the Premier League turned out to be a harrowing look into the team’s struggles with injuries, staff changes, and overall desperation to climb back to the top as they sunk even further down.
As of writing, Sunderland have yet to climb out of League One, and a second season of this documentary may be in the works.
All or Nothing: Manchester City (2018)
Amazon Prime hosts this documentary which chronicles the successes of Premier League team Manchester City, although it technically focuses on the strategic management of Pep Guardiola. Manchester City established historic new records during their 2017/18 campaign under Pep Guardiola’s leadership, and so the documentary really focuses on Guardiola’s person, more than Manchester City itself.
The documentary features interviews with players and staff, which set the backdrop for the documentary, but overall, All or Nothing: Manchester City is an intriguing peek into the mind and leadership style of one of the greatest managers of all time.
Kicking & Screaming (1995)
This six-part BBC documentary can be a little bit difficult to track down, but it’s worth it, as Kicking & Screaming is a fascinating historical documentary that focuses on the history of English football. From the days of unregulated village games, all the way up to the creation of the Premier League, with plenty of classic clips and rare footage.
Barça Dreams (2015)
FC Barcelona is without a doubt one of the most storied football clubs throughout history, and this documentary does a fine job of telling that story. More than just a standard documentary, Barça Dreams narrates Barcelona FC’s long road to stardom, from the clubs founding by Joan Gamper, and focusing on some of the legendary generations of players throughout the years like Leo Messi, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta.
Premier Passions (1998)
Another documentary that follows Sunderland AFC as they attempt to avoid being relegated? Well, yes, but this one was filmed during the 1996/97 Premier League season, shortly after the club was promoted to Premier League status. What makes this documentary so interesting is that the documentary crew basically had an all-access pass to the team, and then-manager Peter Reid’s constant barrage of F-bombs as half-time motivation.
An Impossible Job (1994)
This fly-on-the-wall documentary focuses on the England football team in the 18 months prior to the 1994 FIFA World Cup Finals, which they failed to qualify for, leading to manager Graham Taylor’s resignation. Well, let’s rewind that a bit.
This documentary was originally going to focus on the England national football team, but became a train wreck as the film’s focus shifted to the increasingly bereft team manager and the mounting pressures he faced during and after England’s failed qualifier. It didn’t help that almost nobody knew Graham had agreed for such a candid documentary to be filmed, capturing some of the team’s most stressful moments.
The Two Escobars (2010)
As an episode in ESPN’s 30 For 30 series, The Two Escobars is the true story of two men who share the surname Escobar, and are both entrenched in Colombian drug culture. Of course, we’re talking about Pablo Escobar, the infamous drug cartel lord, and Andrés Escobar, a centre-half for Atlético Nacional and the Colombian national team.
The documentary sees some amazing investigative journalism undertaken to establish a link between the two unrelated Escobars. Andrés Escobar was shot and killed on orders of a drug baron, who allegedly lost a ton of money when Colombia was eliminated from the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and partially blamed Andrés Escobar for scoring a self-goal.
Pablo Escobar was a massive supporter of Colombian football, and owned his own football team at one point – the Atletico Nacional, of which Andrés Escobar was a member.