With the World Cup underway, die-hard fans are going to need something to plug the gaps between the live games and the highlights programmes. And there's no better way to fill the downtime than watching some of the finest football films ever made.
The beautiful game has been fascinating film-makers since the first flickers hit the screen in the 1890s. Based in Blackburn, James Kenyon and Sagar Mitchell found themselves in football's heartland and some of the earliest footie footage can be found on the BFI's Mitchell and Kenyon: Edwardian Sports compilation. So, if you missed the 1901 clash between Newcastle United and Liverpool or the 1903 encounter involving Bradford City and Gainsborough Trinity, now's your chance to catch up.
Cinema has sometimes struggled to recreate those moments of sublime skill and nailbiting drama that make football so addictive. So, documentary makers have something of an advantage, as they can string together iconic clips to tell their stories with an irresistible mix of insight and nostalgia. As Cinema Paradiso's First XI is restricted to fiction and dramatic reconstructions, we shall have to content ourself with flagging up a clutch of unmissable actualities. And where better to start than with four films focusing on classic World Cup exploits?
One nation seemingly starts each Mundial as favourites and Tocha Alves attempts to explain why in Ginga: The Soul of Brasilian Football (2005), which seeks to unlock the secrets of the Seleção's unparalleled success. Everyone knows that Diego Maradona got a little celestial help in guiding Argentina to victory in 1986 and Emir Kusturica considers his genius and demons in Maradona By Kusturica (2008). Four years later, England bounced back from 'the Hand of God' incident to reach the semi-finals of Italia 90 and James Erskine recalls the epic journey in One Night in Turin (2010). But, before anyone starts wallowing in 52 years of hurt, spare a thought for American Samoa, whose bid to qualify for the 2014 tournament - with the world's first transgender player, Jaiyah Saelua, in their ranks - is charted with touching charm in Mike Brett and Steve Jamison's Next Goal Wins (2014).
Infamously, Zinedine Zidane was sent off during the 2006 World Cup final and Douglas Gordon reveals that history was merely repeating itself in Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006), which follows Zizou around the pitch during a 2005 Real Madrid encounter with Villareal. Those seeking to relive the glory days closer to home, however, might want to check out Benjamin Turner's profile of the Fergie Fledglings, The Class of '92 (2013), Gabriel Clarke's self-explanatory Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager (2018) and two tributes to inspirational Liverpool bosses, Mike Todd's Shankly: Nature's Fire and Stewart Sugg's Kenny, which finds a curious companion piece in Dave Stewart's 89 (all 2017), which recalls the climax of a season marred by the Hillsborough Disaster.
Some poignant and probing films have been made about the events of 15 April 1989. But the names on our team sheet have been chosen solely to celebrate what's good about the world's favourite sport.
Football's a squad game these days, so it's always wise to have some decent replacements on the bench.
The undoubted highlight of Ken Loach's enduring adaptation of Barry Hines's rite of passage is the games lesson in which teacher Brian Glover imagines he's Bobby Charlton.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
Disney blended live-action and animation for the Royal Cup match between the jungle animals representing the Dirty Yellows and the True Blues in this flying visit to the Isle of Naboombu.
The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1972)
Sporting action's at a premium in Wim Wenders's provocative take on Peter Handke's novel. But it does provide insights that might prove valuable in the event of a penalty shootout.
Fever Pitch (1997)
Teacher Colin Firth finds himself torn between a romance with a new colleague and Arsenal's stuttering progress towards the league title in this engaging adaptation of Nick Hornby's bestseller.
Purely Belter (2000)
A couple of Geordie lads resort to stealing Alan Shearer's car in their increasingly desperate bid to raise money for a pair of Newcastle United season tickets.
Kuno Becker scored a hat-trick, as he played Mexican footballer Santiago Muñez in both this rags-to-riches saga and its sequels, Goal 2: Living the Dream (2007) and Goal 3: Taking on the World (2009).
One Night in Istanbul (2014)
Getting to the match proves more difficult than fighting back from 0-3 down in this riotous comedy set against Liverpool's 2005 Champions League triumph over AC Milan.
Football and Sports Films
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