Football is more than a match on a weekend afternoon, it is a significant part of millions (maybe even billions) of lives.
Transfer rumours are read as much as anything on the internet, football is the most popular sport on the planet by a considerable distance, and that demand generates a huge amount of additional ‘stuff’. Documentaries are just one example of this.
The way media is consumed has altered quickly. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have opened the market up for programmes that would previously not have found their way onto BBC Two or even the double-digit freeview channels.
Football has benefited from this. Those aforementioned streaming services are awash with brilliant watches. That’s not to disregard the pre-Netflix documentaries, of course.
Here are 10 of the best football documentaries…
Available on Netflix, Les Bleus – produced in 2016 – chronicles the glories and tribulations of the French National Team over the last couple of decades. The subtitles might put some off, but if you can get past that, it’s worth sticking with it.
Former prime minister Francois Hollande even makes an appearance alongside a star-studded cast, discussing the issues the team have had to overcome.
With arguments common and racial tensions increasing, the inside story of France’s ups and downs is well worth an evening of your time.
The Crazy Gang
Looking at that infamous Wimbledon side that beat Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final, The Crazy Gang talks to almost all of the team, including a surprisingly open and reflective Vinnie Jones.
John Fashanu gives some eerily cold responses about his brutal challenges, a stark contrast to Jones, who acknowledged his angry former self.
The way they won, rather than the victory itself, is the focus of The Crazy Gang, showing the outlook of the influential figures. Will we see a team defy the football odds in the same way this season?
An Impossible Job
England’s failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup was seen as a national disaster. Graham Taylor, at the centre of the crisis, was filmed throughout the qualification campaign in this fly-on-the-wall documentary.
Taylor’s fume at everything is revealing of a man under severe pressure. The swearing is at a rate that probably deserves some sort of award. There’s no pretence, no performance for the camera, this is a raw, and telling, documentary of the strain of the England job.
It might be a lot of fun when you’re Gareth Southgate, heading in the right direction, but it brings out some challenging emotions when it’s going wrong like it was for Taylor.
For a long time, corruption at FIFA, the world’s governing body, was suspected. Until the FBI got involved in 2015, it was unproven. That all changed, however, and the disclosed cases of corruption ultimately led to the end of Sepp Blatter’s long reign.
With power-driven people everywhere and vast amounts of money, this documentary uncovers just how deep-rooted the corruption was at FIFA. Crucially, the story is told not just of the investigation, but how it got to such a point.
I Believe In Miracles
Football fans lap up Nottingham Forest’s European glory under Brian Clough. The interest in Clough, the man, the manager, is understandably enormous. Books have been brilliant, his quotes are endlessly readable, but ‘I Believe In Miracles’ takes some topping.
The production of the documentary is superb, which just adds to some already brilliant content. Rather than a gooey-eyed tale of rags to riches, this answers the ‘how?’ as much as telling the story, it delves deeper than many similar documentaries have done.
Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager
A beloved figure in English football and further afield, Bobby Robson’s documentary on Netflix has never-before-seen footage throughout his managerial career.
All the way from the 1960s through to his final job with Newcastle United, the title is fitting of the story this film tells. Robson was as influential a figure in British football as anyone over the last 100 years.
His importance is obvious throughout the documentary, and he’s got a CV unrivalled by British managers past or present.
Class Of '92
If this list was covering all sports, the peerless ‘Senna’ documentary would be appearing shortly. We’re sticking to football, though, and up next it’s ‘Class of ‘92’, made by the same team that brought us the ‘Senna’ masterpiece.
Before they were owners of Salford and running a university, the Class of ’92 were the heart of Alex Ferguson’s dominant Manchester United side through the 1990s.
Getting to know the Neville brothers, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes from their childhood through to their integration into the first team and the treble in 1999, the documentary shows more to the six England international than their public personas.
Sunderland 'Till I Die
Sports Illustrated said Sunderland ‘Till I Die was ‘a cut above the rest’ and it’s impossible to disagree.
After relegation from the Premier League, this Netflix series gets to the core of the club. The disgruntled fans, the overpaid players and the chaos behind the scenes, gives an insight into the club that is a million miles from standard coverage of an elite-level football team.
The access given isn’t false, it isn’t an elongated PR video, this is real, this is Sunderland, and it’s captivating.
Reflecting on the darkest day in English football, and following the history-making court case in 2016, Hillsborough highlights the mistakes that were made on that tragic day.
The cover up is shown in its ugly true form, and the missed chances to improve the woeful safety at the stadium are uncovered. Hard to watch at times, interviews with families who lost loved ones and survivors show what this means to people involved.
North Korea - The Game Of Their Lives
North Korea is a mysterious place, particularly for the western world. Reclusive to the extreme, and with severe control over media coverage, this film gets a chance to have a good look at the nation from a footballing perspective.
The worldwide game might not be in-keeping with North Korea’s policy, but football is still a major part of their culture. Interviews give a real insight to what football is like in North Korea, and a chance to hear from some of their most famous players.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to AP Photo*