‘This Is Football’ Explores How the Game Relates to the Universal Human Experience

Argentina v Chile: Third Place Match - Copa America Brazil 2019
Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

Just to clarify, This Is Football is about soccer, not that other football. (Sorry, NFL fans.)

Even so, don’t let that deter you from checking out this wide-ranging collection of stories about the beautiful game and what it means to billions of people around the globe. Each of the six episodes explores football as it relates to the universal human experience.

“Redemption” shows how the sport helped rebuild Rwanda after its brutal 1994 civil war. (As one person notes in the series, “You don’t refuse to pass the ball to someone because someone comes from a certain place. You are going to pass the ball because you want to win.”)

“Belief” celebrates the pioneers of women’s football, including the victorious U.S. team from the 1999 World Cup. “Chance” revisits the improbable tale of Branislav Ivanovic and Chelsea beating Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League.

“Wonder” highlights the impressive career of Argentinian Lionel Messi, widely considered the greatest player of all time. “Love,” meanwhile, is about people overcoming adversity to experience the joy of the game, like teenage cancer survivor Fezile Hlophe, South Africa’s youngest pro referee.

The series is a collaboration among the UK’s October Films, Spain’s Brutal Media and Starbucks, the very same omnipresent purveyors of coffee. Starbucks Productions has focused on creating uplifting video content, such as the Upstanders series and the short documentary film Hingakawa, about women who united through a coffee co-op in the mountains of Rwanda.

John Carlin, whose book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation inspired the 2009 film Invictus, is among the filmmakers. “Nelson Mandela said to me once, ‘If you really want to convince people, don’t bother so much appealing to their brains; appeal to their hearts,'” Carlin says. “My hope is that we’ve done a good series that will reach the hearts and minds of a lot of people.”

This Is Football, New Docuseries, Streaming Now, Amazon Prime Video