Tag Archives: Diego Maradona

SIX OF THE BEST #37 – FOOTBALL FILMS!

SIX OF THE BEST #37 – FOOTBALL FILMS!

With the World Cup beginning in Qatar on Sunday 20th November 2022, I thought it was the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and consider six of the best football films ever made.

Now, when I say “best” I say this cautiously. The relationship between football and cinema hasn’t always delivered the highest of cinematic art. However, there have been some highly entertaining films set in and around the world of this great game. A sport that involves human beings kicking a sphere into a net. A game I love!


ESCAPE TO VICTORY (1981) – Directed by John Huston

Wow! What a cast! This prisoner-of-war film starring Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Max Von Sydow, Pele, Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, John Wark and many more football stars of the era, shouldn’t really work. Yet, it somehow successfully combines football and WW2 prison break subgenres in a beat-the-Nazis-boy’s-own adventure of stirring derring do.


THE FIRM (1988) – Directed by Alan Clarke

An unflinching and gritty exploration of the football hooligan subculture so prevalent in the English game in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Gary Oldman and Phil Davis portray rival gang-leaders of opposing football teams, highlighting how football was used as a substitute for urban warfare up and down the cities and motorways of our green and pleasant land.


GRAHAM TAYLOR: AN IMPOSSIBLE JOB (1994)

Firstly, I must say that Graham Taylor was a great man and exceptional football manager at clubs teams including Watford and Aston Villa. This soul crushing fly-on-the-wall documentary covers in painful depth the ill-fated attempt by the England football team to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. Brutally honest, poignant, funny and embarrassing all at the same time, this is one of the most absorbing sports docs of all time.


SHAOLIN SOCCER (2001) – directed by Stephen Chow

Combining football and martial arts is a master stroke of the highest order. In the turbo-charged, Shaolin Soccer, we get both an underdog story and a litany of incredible kung-fu action set-pieces with scorching goals at the end of them. Brilliantly choreographed by Stephen Chow and his production team, this is a funny, kicking and net-busting classic!


THE DAMNED UNITED (2009) – directed by Tom Hooper

This exceptional adaptation of David Peace’s classic novel scores on many levels. None more so than Michael Sheen’s eloquent portrayal of top manager, Brian Clough and the excellent Timothy Spall as his assistant, Peter Taylor. Dramatically picking apart Clough’s disastrous tenure at premier football club, Leeds United, it shows even genius can get it utterly wrong. Clough would last 44 days at the damned United, but would later prove at Nottingham Forest what an incredible manager he was.


DIEGO MARADONA (2019)

Asif Kapadia’s documentary is arguably one of the finely crafted sports films of all time. Here he takes his razor-sharp filmmaking focus to the massive highs and eventual lows of Diego Maradona’s time at Napoli following his move from Barcelona in 1984. Maradona is regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, but had not hit expected heights at the Catalan Kings before moving to Naples. Here Maradona elevated a mostly unsuccessful team to the top of the Italian league. After becoming a footballing god to the Napoli fans, off and on-pitch behaviour would subsequently sour the romance in a powerfully thrilling documentary drama.

ALL 4 FILM REVIEW: DIEGO MARADONA (2019)

ALL 4 FILM REVIEW – DIEGO MARADONA (2019)

Directed by: Asif Kapadia

Produced by: James Gay-Rees, Paul Martin

Written by: Asif Kapadia

Music by: Antônio Pinto

Edited by: Chris King

Available platform: Channel 4 / All 4



Even if you’re not a fan of football, you cannot fail to have to heard of the Argentinian player that is Diego Maradona. If you don’t know him then he rose from the shantytowns of Buenos Aires to become one of the greatest footballers of all time. A wunderkind prodigy as a teenager, he became the most expensive footballer ever when he moved to Napoli from Barcelona. In Naples he would transform a club, normally in the shadows of giants from Milan and Rome, into a title winning team. Moreover, he famously led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, with one of the most scintillating individual footballing performances ever witnessed. I missed Asif Kapadia’s absorbing documentary when released at the cinema, however, with Maradona sadly passing away last week, I took the opportunity to watch it on Channel 4’s streaming platform.

Kapadia has shown himself as a master filmmaker in constructing narratives from archival footage. This engrossing style and expertly edited form is brilliantly demonstrated in Senna (2010) and Amy (2015), both winning several major awards. Once again Kapadia uses the same process. He combines interviews via voiceover with Maradona, his ex-wife Claudia, his trainer and many other people, with hundreds of hours of found film footage shot by Argentine cameramen in the 1980s. Moreover, further archival footage was discovered in the home of Maradona’s ex-wife in a trunk untouched for 30 years.



Kapadia and his editors weave such sources to create an absorbing portrait of an extremely complex personality. Indeed, many interviews comment on the football star having two distinct sides. One called Diego, a sweet-natured lad who became a phenomenon on the pitch and the other Maradona, a notorious, larger than life mega-star pursued by the media, football fans, women, gangsters and money people. Whether this schism contributed to Maradona’s battles with drug addiction and other controversies, it is difficult to say. What is clear though is, despite his flaws, love for partying, fiery temperament and questionable associations, the press in Italy and the rest of the world, were permanently in Maradona’s face, creating a pressure cooker atmosphere for him and his family.

Overall, I was totally transfixed by the documentary, Diego Maradona (2019). Having grown up as a teenager watching Maradona on the television, notably the infamous ‘Hand of God’ game against England at the 1986 World Cup, I was struck by huge waves of nostalgia. Even though Maradona’s Argentina defeated England, one could never fail to be in awe at his magical skills as a player. I love football and enjoyed many scenes showing the brutal and beautiful nature of the game. Lastly, Kapadia’s main narrative thrust involves Maradona’s rise and fall from grace during Napoli’s spectacular rise to the top of the Italian league. Yet, having scored the penalty that knocked Italy out of the 1990 World Cup, his once beloved Naples would turn on Maradona, leaving him friendless and without protection from the Italian law. Ultimately, the film stands as not only a complex tribute to a footballing genius, but also a cautionary tale of the trials and tribulations of worldwide fame and notoriety.

Mark: 9 out of 11