History of Football: The Beautiful Game (2002)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Stuart Hall on Football's Unlikely Origins
Featurette-Football is an Old Italian Custom
Featurette-The Old Ashbourne Folk Game;Early Football Match Archive(12)
Featurette-The North American Soccer League (3)
Featurette-Real Madrid's European Cup Victories (4)
Interviews-Cast-A Di Stefano (6); P Bican; B Charlton (2); K Miura
Featurette-World Cup Finals (30,34,38,50,54,58,62,66)
Featurette-World Cup Finals (70,74,78,82,86,90,94,98)
Interviews-Cast-J Klinsmann (2); P Rossi; Pele; A Shearer; Zico; K Dalglish
Featurette-The European Championship (1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976)
Featurette-Hillsborough (4); Heysel Remembered
Featurette-Trouble On The Terraces (7); Paolo Rossi (2)
Featurette-Pele (3); Ronaldo (2); George Best (3); Dino Zoff (3)
Featurette-Paolo Rossi (4); Jurgen Klinsmann (2); Diego Maradona (9)
Featurette-The African Cup Of Nations (23)
Featurette-The Golden Era Of The World Cup Championship (10)
Featurette-The Asian Cup (6); Sudan
|Year Of Production||2002|
|Running Time||679:55 (Case: 676)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (7)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Hereward Pelling|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Those immortal words can often be seen to encapsulate one of the few truly world sports, football. Often known as soccer where alternate codes are played, the game is truly a world game, played in more countries than any other sport, attracting crowds that are the envy of all other sports and commanding monies that are often seen as obscene. The game itself is said to have come about in any one of a number of fashions, but there is no doubt that the modern game of football has its original home in England, which during its Empire and colonising days exported the game as a means of distracting the local populations with a modicum of entertainment in an otherwise work-oriented society.
This documentary series traces not only the rise of the popularity of football throughout the various continents of Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and even North America, but the way in which it has developed independently and evolved, how it has been subverted for political gains and even some of the disasters and darker sides that have inevitably plagued the game. It is by no means a divisive series, nor is it an expose but over the nearly 12 hours of footage and interviews it presents a complete picture of the game from its earliest inceptions and possible origins, all the way to the beginning of the last World Cup and the internal squabbling by its largest organisation and nominal head FIFA.
The series details the rise of both domestic and club competition as well as that of the national teams. It compares the different continents and their continuing fortunes both on and off the field. It delves into the competitions that have taken place and been subverted for political point scoring as well as how players and coaches have been treated or mistreated as part of this inevitable growth. It doesn't attempt to criticise or delve too deeply into any one issue, but accords equal weight to the entire history of the game as a whole. This could be seen as a shortcoming to some, since many famous as well as infamous incidents are not covered or glossed over with nothing more than a word, yet other material which might appear less than fulfilling is covered in depth, although that is the inevitable problem with something so massive that even 12 hours simply isn't enough time.
Disc 1, Episode 1 - Origins - 52:13
The first episode in the series attempts to trace the origins of football as we know it today. It draws upon the first games played with a pig's bladder, the apocryphal head-in-a-bag or any other form of ball. Jumping from continent to continent and nation to nation, it shows that ball games were played as far back as the Mexicans and Mayans almost 3000 years ago. Over in China a similar game spread to Japan, Kumari, and even the Romans used ball sports as war game exercises. Who ever did invent football, though, it is certain that every culture has its claim. Various ancient game re-enactments are shown like the Calcio Fiorentino in Italy that involves two teams in a brutal all-out game involving a ball. Also shown is the old English game played on Shrove Tuesday where entire villages play to move a ball in an all-out tussle. From here the episode then shows how the first league was formed in England, the movement of the game via religion or muscular Christianity and the spread of the game aided by technology, like railway. Details on the F.A., the first professional players and how the original league was structured are also mentioned.
Disc 1, Episode 2 - Football Cultures - 52:22
This episode concentrates on how different cultures create different formats of the same game using their own cultural identity. Following one of the most successful teams in Africa in the 1950's, Ghana, it explores why politics took hold of the game and how an unsuccessful attempt at creating a United States of Africa, in football terms, failed to materialise. It follows the game in Ghana and also in the United States, as a parallel, contrasting the differences in finances and why neither game thrived. In the USA, the cultural shock of soccer can be seen as a major reason for its initial failure, even though it imported many major stars and the NASL was a huge success when it first started. Only by adapting to the local culture has soccer survived in the USA. Next on the agenda is Iran, where the overthrow of the Shah saw soccer fall into disrepair as it was considered a sin to the fundamentalist regime. Finally we end up in Spain and the Basque country where Athletic Bilbao have a policy in place only to use Basque players, and still do to this day although it is Barcelona who have become the pre-eminent team from the region.
Disc 2, Episode 3 - Evolution of the European Game - 52:24
Like many things in this world, it is the Scottish who have been one of the major innovators in the game of football, especially during the early years. The first English Champions were Preston North End, a team made up of predominately Scottish players and many Scottish players were lured to England to play professionally in the early days. Over in Europe FIFA was founded, but the British declined to join initially and new innovations were taking place along the Danube (known as the Danubites School) in Prague, Vienna and Budapest. In the early part of the century teams like Slavia, Sparta Prague, Rapid Vienna and MTK Budapest were dominant in both their domestic competitions and considered the finest teams of their times. In the 1920's politics began entering into sports and teams like the 1931 Wunder Team from Austria or the highly politicised Italian national team, sponsored by Mussolini, held sway. After World War II, the Hungarians were the dominant force, to the extent of being the first team to beat England on home soil with the magnificent Puskas. Finally we see the 1954 World Cup where West Germany, a nation almost totally annihilated by war, win over the more fancied Hungarians.
Disc 2, Episode 4 - European Superpowers - 52:24
Russia's emergence in the 1960's saw new concerns about another Hungary, but this failed to materialise. After the war Southern Europe becomes the pre-eminent force, especially teams like Real Madrid, A.C. Milan and Inter Milan. Inter bring a new form of football to the world, catenaccio (no risk), where results are more important than the style. The shift of power from Southern to Northern Europe can be seen in England's 1966 World Cup win and Celtic's win over Inter Milan in 1967 to become the first British team to win the European Championship. Due to poor results both in the local competition and nationally, Italy bans all foreign players in 1968. Dutch football emerges from the doldrums with another brand of football, total football, which allow teams like Feyenoord and Ajax to dominate the early 70's. During this period Ajax wins 3 European Cup titles. In England, Liverpool begins to dominate the game with their own brand of professionalism ensuring both domestic and 4 European Cup titles over the next 10 years. Nationally, Germany, Holland and Italy are the powerhouses until the French finally break through with the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000.
Disc 3, Episode 5 - Brazil - 52:10
Apart from being the most successful World Cup team of all time the Brazilians are easily the most stylish, flamboyant and elegant practitioners of the game to date. With a mixed nationality and racial background they have dominated world football since the end of WWII. Brazil's footballing heritage began with the European immigrants, especially Charles Miller who is considered the father of football in Brazil. Although initially segregated, teams like Rio and Vasco da Gama dropped that policy in 1916 and became the powerhouses of Brazilian local competition during the 1920s. The discussion of the formation of Brazilian style, its background and ethnicity is discussed leading up to the 1950 World Cup, hosted in Brazil, which was the only World Cup not to have a final, only a round robin series of matches where Brazil was beaten by another South American team, Uruguay, in a stunning upset. After this, conspiracy theories reigned and black players were singled out. It wasn't until the 1958 cup final and Pele that all that changed. Discussion about who was the greatest player in Brazil, Garrincha or Pele, the military coup in 1964 and the state of administration in the Brazilian game are all covered in this episode.
Disc 3, Episode 6 - South American Superpowers - 52:19
The opening of this episode was a little less than tactful. A much thinner looking Maradona unrepentantly taunts ex-England goalkeeper Peter Shilton about his hand of God goal in the 1986 World Cup. This episode is about the supremacy of the River Plate area of South America, specifically the two teams Boca Juniors and River Plate. Covered in some detail are Uruguay's World Cup wins in 1924 (unofficial) against Switzerland, in the Olympics in 1928 (which was seen as the unofficial World Cup back then), 1932 in the first officially recognised World Cup and in 1950. Uruguay had what they called garra charria or intrinsic fortitude to carry them through and secure their place in football history. Argentina had its initial golden period during the Peron era (46-50) until their emergence as a football power back in the days of the military junta in the later 1970's when they hosted the world cup. Details are also offered on Chile, the poor neighbours of the continent, as well as Penarol, one of the biggest teams of the 1960. The hatred between Europe and South America also gets a mention. Estudientes are offered up as anti-football at its worse and Columbia's Escobar and the own goal he scored shows the insanity that football can bring to people.
Disc 4, Episode 7 - For Club and Country - 52:13
Ex-players reminisce about their best memories, be it for club or country. France becomes a footballing power in the late 1990's, despite being where football first became integrated in 1904 with the formation of FIFA. Even so, France didn't have its own league until 1933, but teams like Lille, Riems and St. Etienne are still remembered for their quality of football. St. Etienne won the French national title 10 times in 20 years. French national football begins to find its feet in 1984 when they win the European Championship under the leadership of Michel Platini. Discussion ensues about the formation of UEFA and the G14 plus Berlusconi's attempt to create a super league. Juventus, owned by Fiat, are one of the most powerful of the G14. FIFA's attempt to gain a foothold in club football with their World Club competition (which this writer must admit is a pale shadow of the European Cup) is given coverage. It is said too many games are now being played, ruining the game, and players are beginning to suffer from the constant grind. Details are given on Jimmy Hill, the Players Association and the removal of the salary cap in the 1960's which sees the death of small town football as a consequence. Finally, we hear how Manchester United have risen from World War II and the destruction of their ground, the theatre of dreams, to become the richest club in the world.
Disc 4, Episode 8 - The Dark Side - 52:13
No matter where you go, or what sport you play, there are always some elements that simply want to make up their own rules or spoil the game for everyone else. Nowhere is that more true than football, which over the past 3-4 decades has become a substitute for racial and national hatred. The Dark Side probes some of the more interesting incidents that have occurred in world football over the past 100 years, what caused them, their ramifications to both the sport and in politics as well as the effect it has had on the public at large. The incidents covered are the Scotland versus England stand collapse in 1902 (25 dead), and the hijacking of football pre World War II for political purposes. Also mentioned is the infamous Death Match in the Ukraine in 1941 and the real truth about it. The deaths of the entire Torino football team of the late 1940's in a plane crash as well as the 1968 Munich air disaster involving Manchester United (8 players dead out of 23 passengers) are given coverage. The war fought over football between El Salvador and Honduras in 1970, known as the Soccer War, is mentioned. We hear of Peru in 1964, where 364 die in a crush in the stadium, and Heysel in 1985, with 39 dead after hooligans panic the crowd and a wall collapses. This becomes known as the English Disease, although hooliganism is already rampant throughout Europe. Also covered is the infamous Hillsborough FA cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, where 96 died and 400 were hospitalised when a crowd surged into the ground and crushed the people at the front onto the barriers. After this incident, Lord Taylor slams organisers and his report revolutionises football. Finally, we cover the death of the entire Zambian when an ancient Buffalo aircraft crashes off Gabon. The Zambian FA tried to save $25,000 by reusing an unairworthy craft.
Disc 5, Episode 9 - Superstars - 52:35
Apart from the game itself, it is the players that make the game the spectacle it is. Names such as Ronaldo, Maradona, Pele, Garrincha, Shearer, Zidane, Maldine and Kanu are known to most people who follow the game and this episode follows the rise of the superstars of the game from its earliest days. At the beginning of the 20th century, players' wages were capped at a miniscule level. Players who were traded received nothing except what they could earn outside of the game. Billy Meredith of Manchester United helped form the first players union but it wasn't until Guiseppe Meazza came along that the first real superstar emerged. Players like Sindelar of Austria, Puskas of Hungary and of course Pele helped push the image of the players to new heights. Also explored is the darker side of fame and glory like Garrincha and George Best, two of the biggest stars of their day destroyed by alcohol. In Garrincha's case, it ultimately cost him his life. In recent years other big names have come forward; Johann Cruijff, Franz Beckenbauer, Maradona, Zidane, Ronaldo and others, who now command massive salaries and transfer fees.
Disc 5, Episode 10 - Media - 52:02
Johann Cruijff once said "if you play football well you'll be a 1st division player. Understand the game and you'll be an international. If you are a bad player you'll be a 2nd division player. Otherwise you'll be a journalist". When Aime Jacquet won the World Cup with France in 1998 he quit immediately afterwards because of the criticism by the media. This episode follows the love-hate relationship between the media and the players as well as how the media helped grow the sport as well as the profiles of its top players. George Best was one of the first professional media superstars until his fall from grace. An old debate has always been who was the better of Garrincha or Pele, but the media love Pele so he's always gotten the attention and Garrincha was all but forgotten. Maradona has been in the media spotlight all his life and it finally brought him undone. One of the oldest sports papers is the La Gazetto dello Sports in Italy and the first ever sports report appeared in the Glasgow Evening News in 1878. In the old days, the reporters used pigeons to send messages and the advent of movies and cinemas saw the first great explosion of self-promotion. The 1928 Olympics were the first fully covered football event and the 1936 Italy versus Germany game is the first ever televised football game (delayed and processed naturally). In the early days radio was the most important form of media, but now television has taken over with people like Berlusconi, an Italian media mogul playing a huge part in the growth of the sport.
Disc 6, Episode 11 - Africa - 52:28
As with South America, football was taken to the black continent by colonialism, mostly in the form of missionaries spreading their gospel by the use of muscular Christianity. Also spreading the game are the French Legionnaires in Morocco and various other military formations. In Cameroon, segregation was practised as it was in other parts of the continent. It wasn't until Ethiopia was overrun by Italy that a revolution took place on the football field. The late 1940's saw the birth of the North African Cup involving Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and others. In 1957 CAF is born but it travels a very rocky road for many years. Discussion of Zaire and the Congo, politics and football dominate Africa and the apartheid regime of South Africa has far-reaching effects when Sir Stanley Rous, president of FIFA, refuses to ban them and Havelange, with the aid of the African block of votes manages to oust him for the presidency and finally exclude South Africa from world football. Also highlighted in this episode is the very personable Roger Milla who was the hero of Cameroon in 1982 and 1990 World Cup Finals and the eventual reintegration of South Africa in 1996 into CAF.
Disc 6, Episode 12 - A Game for All - 52:21
A prisoner talks about football and its escapist properties. In the early days, the Olympic Games were the unofficial world title. FIFA ran world football since its inception in 1904 although the English refuse to join initially. The English FA banned women's football in 1924 and it wasn't until the 1980's that it again became a viable sport with the Norwegians being the predominant force. In 1921, Jules Rimet is elected president of FIFA and rules over the game until 1962 when Sir Stanley Rous is elected to replace him. Rous' rise is helped by a gift of £30,000 and being able to reintegrate the British into FIFA again. Rous' presidency is undermined by his determination not to ban South Africa and when Havelange is elected in 1974, FIFA entices big business to get into bed with it and begins a period of unprecedented growth and evolution in the game. Much of the politics of FIFA are discussed although not much is mentioned of any dissention or opposition to the main players.
Disc 7, Episode 13 - Futures - 52:11
Here we have discussion of who will challenge the domination of Europe and South America, lists of past winners and what made them winners, and how they won. Details are presented on China's emergence into world football with its billion plus inhabitants. Discussion also turns to India, another virtual football wilderness and its attempt to hoist itself up. We then move on to the Middle East and Saudi Arabia's attempt to become a footballing nation, initially by hiring Jimmy Hill, then switching to Kuwait and hiring Brazilians for their style. Other emerging nations include Japan and Korea even with their politics and history. Much is made of the J-League and the 2002 World Cup. Even after all this, it can still be said that it's only a game....
The series is well made and the narration is interesting. The use of Terrence Stamp takes some time to get used to, since he doesn't have the most mellifluous voice, but once you get used to his rasping tones he's actually very good. The material, as I've said, glosses over a lot of things, but there is so much here that it's hard to be critical of what's on show. Any more would be too much, any less too little, but there is still so much left unsaid. This is a great series, well worth watching, especially considering the time taken to make this look as good as it does and it is simply something that should be in any serious collection. Good documentaries are always worth revisiting, and this one is up there with the best in all respects.
The video for this set of discs can be broken into four distinct groupings and each one should be commented on separately. First there are the backgrounds, the skyline shots, the busy city streets, the fly-pasts of the stadiums and the everyday life of the people. Quite obviously these were shot on superior quality film stock because they are immaculate and quite superb. Second comes the interviews. These vary quite a bit but most are excellent with only the odd one being a problem. The major problems stem from too much lighting or bad camera positioning with flaring occurring. The third type is the old archival footage used throughout the series. Some of it is so badly degenerated that it's almost unwatchable, and the rest varies massively in quality. Because of its age, though, some tolerance must be shown since its use is essential to the series as a whole. The last type of footage used is television video coverage which suffers from all the usual video problems; ghosting, bleed, dropouts. It is fair to say that the best is used, but in some cases it just doesn't come up to scratch.
One truly remarkable thing to note about the aspect ratio is that the entire series is displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Although this might not seem that amazing, that means that every piece of archival or TV/video footage used has been reformatted to suit the series. Of itself that is enough for me to give it top marks, but add to this the fact that if you watch closely, none of the really old material seems to suffer from cut off heads or appears to lose any detail and you can begin to appreciate the time taken throughout the whole series. (Ed. Many would have preferred that the 1.33:1 material was presented in its original ratio and "mail-slotted" into the 1.78:1 frame.)
Sharpness is excellent with few problems of note. No edge enhancement was noted, or if it was there it was so insignificant as to be almost invisible. Older footage and video of course was blurry and badly focussed, but this is due to source material only. Grain was mostly insignificant in the interviews and background footage. The only place grain was of any consequence was the really early film stock and even then it was relatively unobtrusive. Low level noise was very visible in much of the old black and white film stock footage but mostly irrelevant at any other time during the series.
The colour was excellent except for the video/television footage where bleed was very evident, especially with anything red. For the rest of the series, the palette in use was magnificent with a great diversity of colours on offer. No colour bleed was noted during the non-video portions and saturation was excellent without missing a beat, including skintones, which looked very natural.
Film artefacts abound on the old film footage as you'd expect with hairs, missing pieces of emulsion causing complete white-outs in parts, scratches, burn marks, dirt and every other conceivable problem. Video artefacts were evident in the television footage from various eras also. For the rest of the series there were moments of compression artefacts including pixelization, moiré, aliasing, some telecine wobble here and there, and so on. For the most part these are on every disc, mainly in minor form or visible in a single scene so rather than detail every single instance you can take it as read that all discs have most of these minor inconveniences, but none of the discs are diminished in any but the most minimal of fashions by their appearance.
The only part of this whole series that was a disaster were the subtitles. Note that the subtitles only translate the non-English dialogue. Terrence Stamp's narration isn't translated. More importantly, though, is the difficulty in reading the subtitles. They are well placed in the bottom 1/8th of the screen so as to minimally intrude onto the video, but they have an excessively heavy black border and suffer from something similar to the Gibb Effect making them appear to shimmer just slightly, but enough to force you to concentrate on them, thus missing what is being shown on the screen. It's a great pity since this was the only real fault I found with the entire series.
These are dual layered discs only.
There is only one soundtrack on this disc, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack at a bitrate of 448 kilobits per second. Since the vast majority of the series revolves around the voice of Terrence Stamp, your concentration is focussed on the centre channel. The background music often consists of nothing more than a piano playing softly or single notes, but then occasionally it will break out into the full roar of a crowd at a game playing their traditional music. At those times, you'll get excellent separation across the fronts, occasionally you'll hear some activity from the rear channels and on the odd occasion the subwoofer will jump in and add to the overall beat with some chunky sounds, but this is more the exception than the rule. Much of the series is taken up with the single piano and either Stamp or one of the interviewees talking. Still, you expect little more from a documentary series and it's all well put together.
There were no obvious syncing problems during the 13 episodes although some of the extras did suffer from being out of sync. Stamp's rasping voice was very easy to understand and there was no problem with the dialogue. Foreign dialects were translated by subtitles so there were no dramas there.
The theme music for the series was credited to Paul Englishby and was mainly present during the opening and closing credits although it was interspersed between the episodes. It's a good piece - simple and melodious, but nothing spectacular.
Both the surrounds and the subwoofer are in use on occasion, but as you'd expect they aren't called on consistently because of the nature of the material. They add an element of immersion here and there with some nice subterranean beats but for the most part they let the front and centre channels do most of the work.
|Surround Channel Use|
The extras for this disc set are quite massive, mostly made up of small snippets of film, interviews and informational text pages. The way the menus are nested can actually be quite tedious and difficult to navigate through at times, not being truly intuitive, but worth the effort for the most part. In order to do justice to the sheer volume of extras I've detailed each disc and what's available on it.
Disc 1, Episode 1 - Origins
Disc 1, Episode 2 - Football Cultures
Disc 2, Episode 3 - Evolution of the European Game
Disc 2, Episode 4 - European Superpowers
Disc 3, Episode 5 - Brazil
Disc 3, Episode 6 - South American Superpowers
Disc 4, Episode 7 - For Club and Country
Disc 4, Episode 8 - The Dark Side
Disc 5, Episode 9 - Superstars
Disc 5, Episode 10 - Media
Disc 6, Episode 11 - Africa
Disc 6, Episode 12 - A Game For All
Disc 7, Episode 13 - Futures
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The only mention I can find of another review of this series is from Region 2 and that was only for the first disc. The boxed set is available in Region 2 but I've only seen a price of £90 (approx $225) and without any further information the reviewer who did the first disc placed the video in 1.33:1 format which would make the R4 boxed set the winner by a large margin on that score alone.
Another fine documentary series comes to DVD and looks magnificent. This is probably the best documentary of its type so far and it shows when they take the time to make all the footage to suit the more advanced formats available currently. Visually this is quite stunning in parts and only the older film footage drags it back a peg, but that's to be expected.
Aurally this is another fine effort with nothing too notable to report except that the audio does its job beautifully. There are no major dramas with the soundtrack.
The extras are amazing in their number and some of them are absolute beauties. It's a pity the menu structure wasn't a little simpler to navigate, but apart from that there is real value on every disc.
|DVD||Toshiba SD5300, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Rotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Rotel RB 985 MkII|
|Speakers||JBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer|