16 September 2020
‘I’d love to be a fly on the wall there’.
It’s a phrase we use when we’re fascinated by a situation; maybe an argument behind closed doors or a secret high-profile meeting — a conversation we’d love to listen to.
Reality TV has provided us with many fly-on-the-wall situations, of course. The whole concept of Big Brother is designed to give the viewer full access to the ups and downs of human life. For better or worse, sport has joined the party, with soccer leading the way in delivering close-ups of life at the biggest clubs in the world.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the trend has been a big success. Fans around the world like to tune in to find out what life is like in the dressing room of their favourite team, and even non soccer fans have watched them to see what all the fuss is about.
Here are five of the most successful soccer documentaries, and a look into why each one has been so popular.
Sunderland ‘Til I Die
When the documentary makers had the idea for the show, they thought they’d be filming Sunderland’s glorious return to the Premier League after one season away. After all, they had the money and fan base to blow the rest of the league out of the water and it would make great TV to see how success is achieved.
Unfortunately for Sunderland and their fans, it ended up being fantastic television for the opposite reason. The season was a disaster: the team never recovered from a terrible opening spell of games, the owners sacked the manager, and the English side were relegated for a second successive season.
The show was such a success that Netflix swiftly commissioned a second season in which Sunderland have a new owner, new manager and a new objective – to get out of the third tier.
Why so popular? The club’s grim demise makes for fascinating ‘car-crash’ viewing for many people. It has great drama as big personalities clash behind the scenes – and it’s something that wouldn’t happen if the team were winning every game.
All or Nothing: Brazil national team
The lure of Brazilian football can’t be denied. Famous for its galaxy of world-class players over the decades, its samba playing style and passionate fans, the yellow shirt has captured the imagination of football fans all over the world since Pele made his debut all those years ago.
All or Nothing: Brazil National Team follows the side during their triumphant Copa America tournament in 2019, where the likes of Everton Soares and Gabriel Jesús shine. It also marks the absence of Neymar, and how the team deal without their star man, who ranks alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi as one of the superstars of the decade.
It’s not all plain sailing, though: the media circus surrounding Neymar causes tension, while some of the players are criticised for poor fitness.
Why so popular? Aside from the obvious draw of the samba style, seeing the players cope with the pressure is a fascinating watch: the show is extremely well-made so that an entertaining scene is never too far away.
All or Nothing: Manchester City
Manchester City’s riches are well-known. Their Saudi owners have bankrolled the club to success since their takeover, leaving the club’s fans feeling like they’ve matched the winning lottery numbers.
Despite all this wealth, manager Pep Guardiola has managed to keep a down-to-earth feel to the club, which is something that shines through in this documentary. Some scenes, such as Sergio Aguero showing the cameras his small son’s bedroom for when he visits from Argentina, are touching, and Guardiola’s lively team talks feel like an insight into the mind of a genius.
Amazon’s showpiece contribution offers a look into the workings of one of the leading clubs in world football, with state-of-the-art training facilities and supremely gifted footballers.
Why so popular? Aside from City’s huge fanbase tuning in, Pep Guardiola management style has always intrigued the soccer world. Offering a glimpse into his methods, as well as the luxury facilities provided to City players and staff, makes the show an interesting watch.
Take Me Home: Leeds United
The spectacular fall of Leeds United is one of the biggest English soccer stories of the 2000s. From the heights of the Champions League to the despair of the third tier in just a few years, the descent was swift.
However, under Marcelo Bielsa they’ve started to reclaim some of their former glory. Take Me Home documents some of that as they battle at the top of The Championship in a bid to return to the promised land.
The story is told by the unmistakeable voice of Russell Crowe, adding gravitas to the occasion, while the fans’ passion for the club and the player stories are very well documented.
Why so popular? The show is filmed with more of a PR perspective than some of its rivals, but the people involved feel very real. Soccer fans will be able to relate to this documentary in a big way.
Inside Borussia Dortmund
When Jadon Sancho exploded onto the scene in 2018, the soccer world sat up and took notice. Here was a teenager who was taking one of the toughest leagues in the world by storm and he made it look so easy.
Inside Borussia Dortmund charts this incredible time and also takes us behind the scenes of one of Germany’s biggest clubs. It’s not all good news, either: the team blow a six-point lead at the top of the table and several questions are asked.
Why so popular? Seeing a hot young talent rip it up in his first season is always compelling viewing, but the programme also provides a well-rounded insight into Dortmund’s management setup. This is one that appeals to the more studious fan who is keen to find out what makes club tick behind the scenes.