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Got some time to kill? Can’t decide what to watch on Netflix? These documentaries tell football’s greatest stories 

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Sometimes it feels like football only exists game to game, from pre-match interview to post-match tactical analysis. These documentaries are reminders of the bigger picture: the human beings who play the game, why they play it, and what it means to the fans singing their hearts out in the home end. This list is adapted from an extensive roundup of football documentaries created by Eight by Eight contributor Adrian North.

The Two Escobars

Not just a great football film, The Two Escobars is one of (if not) the best installment of ESPN’s lauded 30 for 30 series. Built on candid interviews with stars of the ‘94 Colombian national team, Escobar cartel lieutenants, journalists, and family members, the film is a riveting tale of great talent trying to flourish in a dark time for Colombia.

Watch it now on Youtube and Netflix.

Keane and Vieira: The Best of Enemies

Two titans of the English game, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira’s battles on the pitch (and in the tunnel) are the stuff of legend. The highlight of this film is undoubtedly Keane and Vieira reminiscing together about the good old days when dedication and passion meant leaving blood on the pitch. In between steely gazes, the film covers the successful careers of both players and at times becomes a meditation on the way football has changed since the advent of the Premier League. But seriously, the one-on-one is like watching two venerable tigers circling to see if the other has gotten weak in their dotage.

Watch it now on Vimeo.

20 Goals That Shook the World

Stunning volleys, bullet headers, World Cup winners. It’s the point of the game to put the ball in the net and here are twenty times a player managed it that are well worth watching. World-shaking? Maybe not, but a fun 45 minutes none the less.

Watch it now on YouTube.

Hillsborough

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlsPjNcga78

It’s rare that a single word can conjure such deep and complex emotions. In this painstaking and heartbreaking film, Daniel Gordon traces every thread across almost 25 years of grief, cover-ups, and excruciating legal proceedings. It’s a tough watch, but crucial to understanding one of the pivotal events in the history of the English game.

Watch it now on Netflix.

White, Blue and White

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUQRdZZu7JA

Tottenham Hotspur legend Ossie Ardiles takes us through his career, from his highs on the pitch with Argentina and Spurs, to the low of the Falklands war. A great portrait of a man caught between the suspicions of the two nations he loves.

Watch it now on Netflix.

Socrates and the Corinthians’ Democracy

As true an exemplar of “jogo bonito” as any Brazilian, Socrates possessed that rarest footballing trait, a university degree. The film documents Socrates’ efforts to engage his Corinthians teammates in a campaign for democracy during the military dictatorship that ran Brazil for the majority of his playing career. It’s dubbed in English but that’s because it’s in the native French of presenter (and philosopher king) ERIC CANTONA!

Watch it now on Vimeo.

Once in a Lifetime

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHER3I_57Vg

For American viewers the sight of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, George Best, and even Johan Cruyff appearing on fields across the country is as astonishing now as it was then. A 70’s tale through and through, money, flash, and hubris fuel the meteoric rise and ultimate demise of the NASL and the New York Cosmos. A strange and exuberant piece of U.S. Soccer history.

Watch it now on Netflix.

Next Goal Wins

A feel good film about the biggest underdogs in the world game, American Samoa. Hearts will warm watching the players battle to raise themselves from the foot of the FIFA rankings.

Watch it now on PutLocker.

Kicking It

The Champions League is great and all, but this film is a timely reminder that football can be put to better use than as an endless orgy of cash. Follow the struggles of six players trying to get into squads for the Homeless World Cup while battling addiction, poverty, and homelessness. FIFA hasn’t sucked all the idealism out of the game yet and this film is the proof.

Watch it now on Netflix.

One Night in Turin

The Magna Carta. The Spanish Armada. World War I and II. The ‘66 World Cup. Italia ‘90. At least we’re pretty sure that’s how English history books go. Revel in all the drama, the grit, and the eventual valiant defeat. One Night in Turin is excellently constructed from archival footage, reenactments, and stills, all tied together with the dulcet tones of quintessential Englishman Gary Oldman. This one’s always enjoyable for the clips of a young, promising, and impish Paul Gascoigne, and the granddad you wish you had, Sir Bobby Robson. And Nessun Dorma. Obviously.

Sadly the film is not available on Netflix anymore, but surely it’s on YouTube—somewhere.

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Stoffers says:

    I also enjoyed watching “Peladão – Soccer Teams and Beauty Queens”, a film about the world’s biggest amateur tournament in the Amazonas region of Brazil. Not sure if it’s available to watch online but here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Jme6S8uSlo

  • Perrier Maxime says:

    Great list, i know a doc named “The other final”, it’s good too 😉

  • Freddie says:

    The Five Year Plan is also superb. Probably one of the most detailed insights into the running of a club in existence. Centred around QPR, you see everything from owner Briatore trying to influence team selection and flippantly asking whether they could just sack each and every manager they optimistically brought in to players sarcastically thanking the management staff for selling their best players. Not necessarily the best documentary, but for a modern football fan it is a fascinating expose of a club in search of the top level. By the end, it almost plays like a satirical comedy, which makes it all the more entertaining and, to some extent, disturbing.

  • Pablo Mills says:

    Another great football movie is The Barefoot Dream about a Korean guy who coaches a youth squad in Timor- Leste.

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