Suggestive Consumptions: The Best Football Documentaries Easily Accessed Online

by Dylan AmirioJun 15, 2021

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Suggestive Consumptions is a column that showcases various recommendations — on whatever medium — that are worth to consume. For this edition, we have Dylan Amirio — the dude behind the experimental electronic act, Logic Lost, and also Printscreen’s translator-in-residence — with his pick of football documentaries that can be watched online.

Photo by Raka Syahreza

To be honest, I’ve just been following football for roughly about three years. Before that I held an indifference towards it throughout my life. I didn’t grasp what was so fun about it and as a result, I couldn’t really join in in my friends’ conversations. I guess that made me feel like an outlier, preferring to just stay in my isolating bubble of interests like music and other artsy shit.

But three years ago, I wanted to dive into a new world, completely away from what I usually consumed. Music and other artsy shit were getting a bit boring anyway (and it still kind of is) so I took on football, trying to learn mostly everything about it from scratch.

Now I feel that I’m obsessed with it, albeit very belatedly: trying to keep up every English Premier League game every week, reading updates from the five major European leagues, at one point spending hours on Football Manager, and even finding myself supporting a club (Arsenal, who are the very definition of ‘highs and lows’).

For me, watching a match is akin to watching a David Attenborough documentary where the natural behaviour of living things are presented in a raw form.

Part of this obsession meant immersing myself in documentaries that would make me know more about certain clubs and figures. There’s a lot of good series and films easily accessible online that offer both entertainment and insight. Here are ten of them that made an impression on me, good and bad.

Six Dreams (Amazon Prime)

The best football documentary series I’ve watched. Pointing the lens at various levels of clubs in Spain’s La Liga, Six Dreams provides honesty and rawness through six different angles: a club president, a manager, two young players, a senior player, and a sports director of a promoted club.

It eschews most of the glamour of football (also the PR side) and shows us the unglamorous activities and thoughts that happen behind the scenes, from the personal to the financial. When the figures in this series cry, you actually feel for them. When they laugh, they do so while taking us into the fun with them. Six Dreams is a lesson in thoughtful presentation.

Best scene: most of the segments following the life of Athletic Bilbao striker Inaki Williams.

Sunderland ‘Til I Die (Netflix)

A story about a small-town club and what they mean to its inhabitants. The series dives deep into the socio-economic struggles of the working-class town, the bleakness of life and how their main point of happiness comes from Sunderland AFC.

Except, Sunderland AFC don’t do well at all (and they haven’t done well since). People on the outside tend to be blinded by the stereotypes of a life in football: the riches, the glory, the grace on the field. At Sunderland, none of that happens.

It’s an amazing look at the club’s relationships and struggles through the supporters, the board, and the manager in their role to keep together the spirit of a dismal city. It poignantly shows the realities of running and supporting an unsuccessful club and could be one of the most depressing things you’ll ever watch. Skip the second season though.

Best scene: from the first season, when midfielder Jonny Williams talks to his psychiatrist about his fears of failure.

Anelka: Misunderstood (Netflix)

I never liked Nicolas Anelka and after watching this film, I do not like him even more. The film is just him defending his history of displeasing behaviours and childish tantrums without a singular moment of reflection or honesty (and there’s also far too many unnecessary ‘artistic’ shots of him posing).

Granted, his personality was a result of things getting too big too fast: a boy who grew up in the lens of the savage media at such a young age, with only his ego as his main defense mechanism. There’s sympathy for him in that sense, but in the end, the film just tries to portray him as flawless. It doesn’t work.

Best scene: one thing I like about him is when he stuck it to France manager Raymond Domenech at the 2010 World Cup. A manager who chooses not to play William Gallas “because he’s a Leo” should have his ass kicked.

All or Nothing: Manchester City (Amazon Prime)

While this series is a PR exercise by the club, at least it is one that is presented well. It’s entertaining and fascinating to see the players open up about their anxieties, their expectations and their inner lives, during a season where they actually won it all (except for Champions League).

Some points are still cringe though, like the episode dedicated to their rich, rich Abu Dhabi owner and the fact that Pep Guardiola’s dialogue seems very tailored to present a kind of Hollywood-style feel-goodness. It doesn’t matter though, Pep’s still one of the best managers in the game. It’s a shame that they didn’t go deeper into Pep’s tactical decision-making. I would have loved to see more of that.

Best scene: star striker Sergio Aguero shows us his big, empty apartment and talks about the loneliness at the top.

An Alternative Reality: The Football Manager Documentary (YouTube)

This lighthearted film takes us into the world of the popular video game Football Manager, from its creation to how they assemble their impressive database, and most importantly, the experiences of the people who play it. It’s a game where anyone could write their own romantic football stories, away from the bleak realities of their own football-related problems.

Personally, I’ve learned a lot about South Korean football through this game after spending 10 “years” managing in the K-League. Go, FC Anyang!

Best scene: that player who tells us about the time the cops knocked on his apartment door because his neighbour heard him scream loudly. Turns out he was living out his fantasy managing his favourite club play in the Champions League final via Football Manager… all while wearing a suit and tie to mark the occasion.

All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur (Amazon Prime)

Overall, it’s a fun watch, but it’s even more of a PR stunt than All or Nothing: Manchester City. For one, I don’t think the NFL segment is necessary, but hey, pulling in investors is important too, right?

What you immediately get from this series is the fact that Tottenham are made up of “nice guys” who have their personalities in check. This makes them look likeable and drama-free, which they probably are. Their dressing room is rarely as lively or as braggadocious as Manchester City’s.

However, nobody, except for Danny Rose, manages to steal the show away from the series’ main star Jose Mourinho, whose eccentric personality saves every scene that is in danger from being dull. It’s a delight to see Mourinho being Mourinho, be it his brutal honesty or his shithousery.

Best scene: when left-back Danny Rose confronts Jose Mourinho in his office about his playtime.

Inside Borussia Dortmund (Amazon Prime)

What struck me most about this series is that it gives off an almost ASMR atmosphere: the figures talk softly, the sound design is brilliant, and there is no hyperbole in its depictions. It’s an effective document for those who want to learn about Borussia Dortmund, although I believe that they could have pushed a bit deeper in its presentation.

Best scene: when former Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp talks about what happened to him after he celebrated their 2011 Bundesliga win, presented in his usually jovial way.

This is Football (Amazon Prime)

A broad, thoughtful look at how football impacts the lives of many around the world, presented in a very impactful and visceral way. This series treats the subjects it highlights with respect, letting the subjects have complete control in the telling of their stories, from the Rwandan Reds community who tell us about how football helped them overcome the trauma of genocide to the humble Japanese team who won the 2011 Women’s World Cup months after Tohoku earthquake.

Best scene: when an Icelandic commentator says, “Boo all you want, England. We’re the ones going forward!,” with the passion of an excited little boy after Iceland kicked England out of Euro 2016.

Maradona in Mexico (Netflix)

If you want to see prime Diego Maradona, go for the wonderful Asif Kapadia documentary. Maradona in Mexico is not a celebration of Maradona’s greatness, but rather, an insight towards the power of his legendary status. When you’re a god, you can do anything you want. If Maradona decides to spend his elder years managing very little, grassroots teams in Argentina and, shown in this series, Mexico, then so fucking be it.

Maradona is at his memeable, silly best here, from his little dances, his profanity, to his cool demeanour. But no matter how he acts, it’s clear that everyone around him validates every action and misstep he does due to his status, which can be a bit worrying.

As a manager, Maradona is shown as sensible but also prone to his famous outbursts, even though its usually directed at match officials (who are probably the only people in the series that dare to challenge him). But the series also shows how he devotes 100% of his love and commitment to anything that he takes on.

Best scene: forced to watch a game from the stands following a clash with the referee in a previous match, Maradona yells commands at his assistant manager through a walkie-talkie with the vein-popping tone of a gangster boss ordering a kill.

The Other Final (YouTube)

As the 2002 World Cup final was taking place between the two “best” countries in football, a pair of Dutch filmmakers set out to help organize a match between the two “worst” countries: Montserrat and Bhutan.

It’s a fascinating look at the conditions that make these two countries were considered “the worst” countries in football and also highlights how the differing cultures of these two countries shape the way they see the game. The Montserrat team emphasize victory while the Bhutan team emphasize having a good time, together. It’s later clear which of these mentalities would prevail.

Best scene: the match itself, and afterwards when Bhutan striker Wangay Dorji tells us of his dream to play for Arsenal (while showing us his rare, vintage Arsenal jersey).

About the Author

Dylan Amirio
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Writer, translator, and musician behind the experimental electronic act Logic Lost. He tries to live life with very low expectations to prevent any disappointment from impacting him in ways that shouldn't.
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