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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Sports > Soccer > Mini-Series > History Of Soccer - The Beautiful Game

History of Soccer – The Beautiful Game (boxed set)


Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: B     Episodes: A-



The idea of a boxed set of DVDs devoted to the history of the sport Soccer may seem odd to most in the United States, but it is one of the few things in the world that is excessively popular worldwide that it seems the U.S. has been missing out on some of the most important action in history.  Occasional lapses include the Olympics, the rise and fall of the NASL (North American Soccer League), the current MSL and the “Soccer Mom” phenomenon.


If all you know about current Soccer is that you can find it in funny (those are PAL and SECAM images, by the way) videotaped images on higher cable/satellite stations, then you need to see the outstanding History of Soccer – The Beautiful Game documentary mini-series.  This loaded, lush, thorough 7 DVD set of the mini-series that debuted in 2001 offers the following double episodes on each DVD:


1)     Origins & Soccer Cultures

2)     Evolution of the European Game & European Superpowers

3)     Brazil & South American Superpowers

4)     For Club and Country & The Dark Side

5)     Superstars & The Media

6)     Africa & A Game for All

7)     Futures


The sport known as Football in every country but the United States, but to be referred to as Soccer for the purposes of this review, did have a serious shot in the U.S. with the NASL.  After the USFL/NFL fiasco, one has to wonder if its demise in 1984 was more sinister that we know.  With a new kind of isolationism in the 1980s U.S., versus the openness of this world class sport, one has to wonder.


This critic cannot claim to be an expert on Soccer, but would imagine only the biggest scholars on the subject could find fault with such an outstanding set.  It not only counts as a TV title, sports title, and documentary title, but as a history title, especially done at this level.  The spirit of the game has weathered every event of the 20th Century, began centuries ago, and has a great future in the 21st century with so much renewed U.S. interest and its growth worldwide.


Each show runs for a commercial TV 90-minutes long slot, though they individually average 68 minutes a piece.  None of that time is wasted, as each show moves smoothly from event to event.  This is extremely well laid out and it shows that so many countries have had some of their greatest glory days through this sport, countries U.S. sports fans would know little about and in effect grossly underestimate.  This includes fascinating stories about Iran, The Dutch, The Germans, a lively Liverpool, England team in the 1980s, Milan, France, Argentina, Zaire, Japan, and South Korea.  It also looks at potential winners in the future and the infamous World War II “Death Match”. 


The 16 X 9/1.78 X 1 image is anamorphically enhanced, though subtitles will spill onto the lower black bar on 1.33 X 1 TVs.  Like many documentaries, it offers various footage, including a mix of 16mm, 35mm, color stocks, monochrome stocks, maybe some Super 8mm, analog video (in several formats), and what looks like digital High Definition video for the new interviews and location footage.  This is one of the best such mixes we have seen yet on DVD, exceptionally compiled and edited, making the subject come further alive.  It even sets a new high watermark for such programming.


The sound is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 AC-3 and lesser Dolby 2.0 Stereo with Pro Logic surrounds, but before you get to any of that, you get to choose between English and Spanish languages.  Either way, the voice over in the English version is a gem by the legendary actor Terence Stamp.  Not only is his voice exceptionally well recorded, sounding great in the center channel of the 5.1 mix, but he is in exceptional form reading off the facts and situation.  At his best, when something ridiculous is going on, the way he delivers the lines that go with those situations is classic.  He slightly raises his voice, yet stays “official” and delivers the words with an accentuated absurdity that the more knowing you are, the more you will love it!


The music is good and interview dialogue is very clear, in all the many languages that are spoken.  There are also extensive text, additional interviews, film, and video clips in the supplements of all seven DVDs.  The largest text section repeated on all seven DVDs is a list of a few hundred key names in the history of the sport that runs five small-print DVD text frames, and then you can click on to read all about them.  It is the epitome of the how thorough and exceptional the scholarship of this set is.


In some ways, Soccer is achieving what the Olympics were supposed to before they became so corrupt.  It feels funny to see all of this history, connected to so many serious social events, be so big and have the U.S. absent as if the country did not exist.  Soccer has not reached its maturity yet and has many countries to bring in.  With the MSL and Soccer Moms here, this set could not be timelier.  The History of Soccer – The Beautiful Game is the kind of set only DVD could offer, and in that, it is up there with the recent Alien Quadrilogy as one of the most elaborate and solid boxed sets yet.  It is an experience you will not forget.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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