History of Soccer – The Beautiful Game (boxed set)
B- Sound: B Extras: B Episodes: A-
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”
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:
Origins & Soccer Cultures
Evolution of the European Game
& European Superpowers
Brazil & South American
For Club and Country & The
Superstars & The Media
Africa & A Game for All
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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