From the poverty-stricken streets of Rwanda through to the glitzy, sun-kissed beaches of Barcelona, Football is a universal language loved and shared the world over. In England, many people live, breathe and bleed football with Saturday afternoons awash with fans of all stripes, hordes of people dancing and singing their way to the stadiums. It’s an exciting, unpredictable and incredibly emotional sport and as Amazon’s new series shows us, a sport that’s continuously diversifying and spreading its joy across the globe.
With a profound message of unity, love and equality throughout the series, those looking for something that examines the financial corruption and crippling effect money has had on the sport will be left wanting. For everyone else though, This Is Football is one of the best sport documentaries of the year. From a look at the history of Women’s football through the eyes of Japanese and American female players, through to an emotionally charged journey one boy has to become the youngest African referee, every episode is meaningful and serves a purpose. If I have one gripe though, the final episode that looks solely at Messi feels a little out of place here, only mentioning Ronaldo and other legends briefly before exclusively examining his aspects on the pitch.
Each episode is set up in much the same way. The episode titles depict the theme of each episode before we dive into the stories being woven through the shared love of football. Between archival footage, face to face interviews and stock, informative text, the episodes are chock full of match commentary and highlights from games, predominantly done through the favoured broadcast angle we see on TV. All of this builds up an emotionally charged picture, with the final games depicted showing extended highlights and doing well to encapsulate everything that’s been spoken about up until that point.
Stylistically, there’s some really slick editing and camera work too. Seeing sharp edits as Japanese females struggle to carry the weight of their Tsunami-struck country on their backs or seeing the split-screen of people’s reactions to Messi’s geometry on the pitch, help to make each episode unique in their own right. There’s a good use of music too and this is laid perfectly over some breathtaking establishing shots of different locations around the world.
With 6 episodes each clocking in at a little under an hour each, This Is Football essentially splits its series into 6 mini-films. You can jump into each of these at any time but if I’m honest all of the episodes are pretty strong, even the episode focusing exclusively on Messi.
If you’re looking for a celebratory documentary that looks at just why football is such a beloved sport the world over, you really don’t need to look much further than this. Seeing Japan score to bring home the glory or learning the role football had in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide really bring home how passionate fans are regarding this sport. Football is one of the most beloved sports the world over and the positivity it can bring to a community is something that’s perfectly captured here making it well worth checking out.