It’s said that around 250 million people around the world play football, making it the most popular sport on the planet. This is largely why it makes for the perfect subject for filmmakers, as we’ve mentioned previously in our article on “The Best Football Movies of All Time”.
But while we love watching those cinematic classics, sometimes real life is even better than fiction.
There have been so many great stories that have unfolded on the football pitch –– such as rags-to-riches tales like that of Jamie Vardy, who went from playing non-league football and getting paid £30 per game to becoming a Premier League champion and England national team player. As an article at 90min put it, this was the journey of a lifetime.
Away from the limelight, meanwhile, there are also stories of how the game moves people to do extraordinary things. Jessica Malone, for instance, left her job to travel the world, visiting 13 countries and 44 grounds just because of her love of the beautiful game. Do you know any other sport that could inspire that kind of journey?
These are just two examples of how real football has touched people’s lives, and it proves that it isn’t just good for movies; football is an excellent topic for documentary makers too. With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of our favourites for you to peek behind the curtains of the game and get a fix of real-life football action.
One night in Turin
This 2010 feature-length documentary recalls the summer of 1990, when England travelled to Italy to take on the world’s best teams in the World Cup. It follows the story of how Bobby Robson’s Three Lions played their way through to the semi-final of the competition before losing on penalties to West Germany.
For those who remember the tournament, it’s a poignant reminder of a time when England had the exceptional talent of Paul Gascoigne, alongside the experience and goalscoring ability of Gary Lineker. One Night in Turin ignites the passion and recollects the first time that the whole country honestly thought football was “coming home.”
The End of the Storm
It’s almost unthinkable that Liverpool, one of England’s most historic and successful football clubs, had to wait 30 years to be crowned champions. But after winning the title in 1990, the club went on a slump that no one could have predicted; there were so many managers and players that tried, but they all ultimately failed. This documentary charts the journey of Jürgen Klopp and his players as they steered the Reds back to the top of English football in 2020.
And the feat feels all the more impressive in retrospect since we now know the success was sustainable. Liverpool are second favourites to repeat the feat this year in the latest Premier League odds from Coral, though the club are a long way behind Manchester City right now. Nevertheless, as The End of the Storm proves, the right mentality (and a lot of talent) mean the Reds are back in the mix.
The Class of ’92
While Liverpool were going through a tough time in the ’90s, another one of the English football powers stepped up. Manchester United was the team of the decade; from the birth of the Premier League, they were almost unstoppable. Even with the club already boasting some of the most recognisable names in the game in the early ’90s, however, it was the group of youngsters who stepped up in ’92 that took things to new heights.
David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, and Phil Neville were instrumental in the success. Some said they’d never win anything with a group so young. But many would undoubtedly love a group like those six on the modern-day team, as the current United side has fallen way down in the pecking order when it comes to Premier League glory. The Class of ’92 brings some of Manchester United’s best days back to life.