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With the 2018 World Cup heating up in Russia and international fans heating up around the globe, it seems like everyone is obsessed with soccer. The beautiful game has been dominating the media for what feels like forever, but unfortunately for soccer fanatics, it will soon be over. For those of us not lucky enough to score tickets to the coveted event, there are a wide variety of amazing soccer documentaries on Netflix that bring viewers up close and personal to the action on the field. While the World Cup may only come around every four years, these documentaries keep the action going year round.
First Team: Juventus
First Team: Juventus is one of the newest soccer documentaries on Netflix on this list, with its first three episodes airing in February and the next three in July. This Netflix original follows Juventus F.C., a member of the Serie A Italian football association. As the series covers the most recent football season, fans can relive iconic moments from the past year as the team secured a record-breaking seventh straight Italian league championship title. This unique documentary was produced simultaneously in Italian and English, enabling a wide variety of viewers to enjoy the film without the need for subtitles. First Team: Juventus covers the club both on and off the field, allowing fans into the personal lives of some of their favorite players, such as Federico Bernardeschi, Giorgio Chiellini, Douglas Costa, and Gonzalo Higuaín.
Class of '92: Out of Their League
In 1992, six young footballers were signed to Manchester United, unknowingly marking the beginning of a decade of dominance for the British football association. Years later, some of the greatest Man U players of all time, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, and Paul Scholes decide to buy and coach a local non-league team to revive the program. Class of ‘92: Out of Their League spotlights the unique brotherhood of the lads in addition to their success on the pitch. The series watches as these former pros tackle the challenge of a semi-professional league, making it both heartwarming and hilarious. Class of ‘92: Out of Their League is truly a holistic soccer series that studies the game from all angles, making it perfect for the true Man U fan.
Sons of Ben
Everyone remembers the brief American soccer frenzy in the early 2000s during the creation of the Major League Soccer franchise, but very few know the tale of some of the sport's craziest fans. In 2007, a group of three best friends, Bryan James, Andrew Dillon, and David Flagler, decided to create a fan league to bring a soccer club to Pennsylvania when the city had been passed over for a new club. In only two years, the fan club grew from only 100 members to over 4,500, forcing the MLS to create the Philadelphia Union soccer team. The documentary additionally highlights the profound impact of the Sons of Ben on the local soccer community, as their petition for the new stadium completely revived the local community of Chester, Pennsylvania. This heartwarming tale of inspiring fans truly demonstrates the profound loyalty Americans exhibit towards their athletics.
Like most sports organizations, FIFA has its fair share of skeletons in the closet, as revealed amidst the 2016 corruption scandals. Planet FIFA takes an in-depth look at the history of FIFA corruption within the organization, using a variety of interviews and investigative journalism to dissect the root of the scandal to reveal the major role of bribery and unprecedented control of Swiss banks. Unlike many of the films on this list, Planet FIFA is not a heartwarming documentary, but rather a bluntly honest depiction of the truth. This film is perfect for anyone seeking more information regarding the recent scandal, as it tears apart FIFA in a refreshingly unprecedented way.
Everyone knows who Zlatan Ibrahimović is, but very few actually understand the player off the pitch. Becoming Zlatan combines a classic sports documentary with a coming-of-age film, cutting between his formative years as a rookie professional to his astounding 2005 breakthrough and international acclaim. Swedish filmmakers Fredrik and Magnus Gertten utilize never before seen interview footage from his early years to highlight the brooding genius, building a complex character profile of the soccer star. With adversaries both at home and on his own team, it is no wonder Zlatan closed off his personal life once achieving stardom in Italy. Becoming Zlatan is truly a three-dimensional portrayal of the secretive superstar, allowing fans into the brain of one of the most reclusive public figures of this generation.
Most soccer documentaries focus on the rise of young players, but very few actually take an in-depth look at the men behind the scenes. Trainer! follows the rise of three young coaches in the German Football Association: Frank Schmidt, André Schubert, and Stephan Schmidt. The film takes place over an entire playing season, enabling viewers to immerse themselves in the trials and tribulations of young coaches. German filmmaker Aljoscha Pause artfully intertwined their tales with interviews with more senior coaches and footage of live coaching action, giving viewers an unprecedented look into the German Football Association.
In 2010, South Africa hosted Africa’s first World Cup, bringing attention to the power the sport holds on the continent. Soccer City follows the story of five individuals in Alexandria, South Africa, where soccer is more of a lifestyle than a game. Ranging from young children to former and current professional players, the documentary illuminates the universal passion for the game found in this small town by intertwining it with the revival of the South African state. Running at only 60 minutes, this documentary is one of the shortest on this list, making it the perfect quick flick.
Premier League Legends
For those seeking purely biographical documentaries, check out Premier League Legends. Combing in-depth interviews and game film analysis, each episode of this docuseries dives deep into the players that made the Premier League so uniquely powerful and influential. This series is perfect for those looking for a quick taste of a documentary without wanting to commit to an entire film. Watch a few episodes or binge the whole thing, the choice is yours!
Le K Benzema
One of the Champion's Leagues most infamous players, Karim Benzema was one of the most prolific players prior to his sex tape scandal. Le K Benzema traces the harsh reality of Benzema's life, following his rise to stardom despite abusive childhood friends to his heartbreaking downfall in 2016. This film analyzes both sides of the story in a unique way, taking on Benzema's media critics to bring light to a blinding truth.
Pele: Birth of a Legend
Although Pele: Birth of a Legend is not technically one of the best soccer documentaries on Netflix, because it's not a documentary per se, it felt silly to ignore a biographical drama about one of the best soccer forwards of all time. Filmed in Pele's actual hometown of Sao Paulo, Brazil, the film follows the young soccer player through his rocky adolescence in the Brazilian slums. The movie does an excellent job at capturing the zeitgeist of the era, seamlessly transitioning from Pele's first games in the ghettos to leading the Brazilian national team to its first World Cup victory at only 17 years old. Pele: Birth of a Legend is the perfect film for viewers looking for the educational experience of a documentary with a little more dramatic action.