EDITORIAL – The 2021 Major League Soccer season is less than two months away. It’s been a long offseason and 2020 had lots of soccer-less weekends in North America. I watched almost 50 soccer themed movies, documentaries, and series last year. So I decided to compile a list of ten soccer movies that MLS Twitter might be interested in to pass the time with the league starting later this year.
Ten Soccer Movies to Watch While you Wait for MLS to Kickoff
Firstly, let me lay out some criteria. I’m not doing any series or shorter films. There’s eight Saturdays between now and the start of the MLS season on April 17. My goal is to find ten 90-ish minute long works that can fill that hole in your Saturday night plus a double weekend or midweek night.
Second, I tried to pick works that most of you wouldn’t have seen before. If you’re a soccer fan who’s plugged in, you’ve seen the 30 For 30 Hillsborough and the second season of Sunderland Till I Die. So, I’m picking relatively new and/or less well known stuff.
Everything I’ve selected has to be accessible. My list is viewable in the United States without a VPN. No torrents or pirated clips that are put on YouTube in a series of three minute videos. It’s got to be streamable in the U.S. legally right now today. Sorry, not sorry.
Some of these films have some content that might not be appropriate for some audiences, including foul language, substances, and adult content. Check the rating before watching.
With that, here’s my list in no particular order:
This is a recent ESPN+ exclusive (not sure if it technically counts as a 30 For 30). It follows the career to date of Ada Hegerberg, taking a look at her life playing for Lyon. She shares stories of growing up and training in Norway, her move to France, becoming a global superstar, and her protest decision to stop playing internationally.
For fans still learning about the women’s game outside the USWNT/NWSL, this is a great education on one of the best women’s soccer players in the world and her significance when it comes to gender equality in the international game. Plus, the film trolls Alexi Lalas and Steven Goff.
Just to clarify, this is the 1997 OG Fever Pitch, not the 2005 baseball adaptation. Colin Firth and Ruth Gemmell star in the romantic comedy about two school teachers who fall in love and the football tension around their relationship. Paul (Firth) is a rabid Arsenal fan while Sarah (Gemmell) doesn’t care for the sport or the supporters culture around it. Their relationship comes to a crossroad right with the Gunners are in a title chase on Championship Sunday.
I can’t remember watching another movie in the last two years that had me laughing out loud so often. It’s well written for both football lovers and neophytes. The acting and plot pacing are great. Plus there’s a memorable line in a scene with young Paul and his dad in the car that will resonate with any sports fan.
Istanbul, Turkey is a three club city. Galatasaray, Beşiktaş, and Fenerbahçe have intense rivalries on the pitch and in the stands. Class, local geography, and political views play a role, as do hooliganism and ultra culture. But when a political protest at the Taksim Gezi Park is met with violent oppression, the supporters come together to unite Istanbul.
They use their numbers, organizational skills, and flare supply networks to protest Erdoğan and the government police actions against peaceful protest and the anti-democratic stances behind those uses of force. Given what America has gone through the last 10 months with political protests and police-to-citizen relations, this is a chilling and profound watch.
The first low budget film on my list stars Sean Bean as Jimmy Muir, a non-league footballer who works at a brewery during the week in Sheffield. Like his character, Bean is 100% Blades. Jimmy’s play for his local Sunday team earns him a tryout with Sheffield United.
Trouble with his family, a budding romance, and the finances around his day job and potentially becoming a professional make a mess of things. Can he get things sorted out to fulfill his dream of joining and scoring a goal with his beloved boyhood club? Watch and find out.
Just a heads up: This one has some nudity without much foreshadow or warning.
Sir Bobby Robson used his passport about as much as Bob Bradley has a manager. This posthumous biographical documentary follows the career and achievements of Robson. He managed England in two of their craziest (and more successful) World Cup appearances. He went abroad when most British coaches would have stayed within the football league.
He had ups and downs at PSV, Barcelona, Newcastle, and even in Portugal. This film shows his managerial prowess, humanity, and charitability in sickness and retirement. Plus it’s fascinating to see a young Jose Mourinho (with all his hair) talk about someone other than himself with reverence and respect.
This biopic follows the story of Dassler brothers, Adolf (Adi) and Rudolf (Rudi). Living in the German countryside in the 1930s, they start an athletic shoe company. Tensions grow as Adi focuses on quality and design while Rudi focuses on the business and marking aspects. World War II puts the business on hold as Rudi gets drafted and Adi pivots the shoe factory into making weapons for the Nazi war machine. The brothers go their separates ways after the war, as Adidas and Pumas are formed.
The movie does fill in some gaps with speculative sensationalism, but on the whole, they do the story justice. Soccer 101 put out a great episode on the history behind Dassler brothers, a family and sporting brand feud that lives on in Herzogenaurach to this day.
If you want to feel better about your MLS team’s egomaniacal owner and want to watch some English Championship madness, buckle up! The Four Year Plan follows Queens Park Rangers in the early 2010s as new owners mount an effort to get promoted to the Premiership.
This is a great behind the curtains look at how a football club is run, both on the sporting side and as a business. Drama, a revolving door of managers and players, and a financial fair play scandal while QPR is vying for automatic promotion. Oh, and one of the owners asks for a list of names of supporters chanting obscenities about him so he can ban them from Loftus Road. What more could you ask for?
I love satire. This mocumentary follows Mike Bassett, who leaves second division Norwich City for the England job ahead of a Brazil-hosted World Cup. A stereotyped motley crew of players play his old school 4-4-2 formation. His staff get in bar fights the night before games. He looks like a used car salesman. The press conferences and run ins with the fans are hilarious parody. With England needing a win, his pre-match press conference ends with him quoting Rudyard Kipling and saying “England will be playing 4-4-f***ing-2.”
This might be the best soccer-specific 30 For 30, other than Hillsborough. All By Himself looks at the career of George Best, from his time at the Manchester United academy, to European glory, and through his substance abuse issues. It’s a sad and introspective watch at one of the greatest players ever who achieved what he wanted to too early in life and turned to alcohol, drugs, and infidelity to keep the high going. There’s plenty of classic NASL footage as well.
Last but not least is a recent release from Amazon Prime. Steve Zakuani stars and produces an autobiographical documentary on his career, the worst tackle in MLS history, and how he overcame the resulting injury as a player and a person. This is basically his book 500 Days in video form, so it might be redundant content for those who’ve read it. Still it’s a great look into his psychology, his humanity, and achieving peace with his shortened soccer career, himself, and Brian Mullan.