Genre: Sports Documentary/Comedy
Year Released: 2018
Distributor: Slash Football
Running Time: Webseries, 5 episodes, 5-6 minutes each
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Ballin Out, Baiteze FC, Kicking It, Copa 90 documentaries
-Finding Football is streaming for free on YouTube.
-One half of the Finding Football duo involves the German soccer player Lothar Matthaus. He was born in Erlangen, Germany. He was the inaugural FIFA World Player of the Year and he’s the only German to receive such an accomplishment. During his tenure as a soccer player, he was part of the West German team that won the 1990 World Cup, has played more World Cup matches than anyone, and is a multiple-time champion with Bayern Munich.
-One of the main cameramen was Anarfi. He has directed Baiteze FC, made several music videos for people like Kid Bracer and Dylan Williams, and even collaborated on a Lacoste ad. Outside of his filmmaking work, he’s also one of the core members of the Wresthings podcast crew.
-The first city that’s featured in Finding Football is Edinburgh, Scotland. It is the capital of Scotland, 2nd largest city in the country after Glasgow, and it’s actually the 7th most populated city in the entirety of the UK at over 488K strong. They are twinned with Munich, Germany (also featured in this docuseries), Vancouver, BC, Canada, and San Diego, CA. Some famous people from Edinburgh include Sean Connery, The Proclaimers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes), and Shirley Manson from the band Garbage.
-Henning Wehn is a stand-up comedian who indirectly got into that business due to soccer. When he moved from Germany to England, he worked in the marketing department for the Wycombe Wanderers soccer team and randomly went to an open mic night during that time working there.
Sunderland ’Til I Die might just be an unintentional influence on Iridium Eye Reviews. That was the first docuseries I’ve ever reviewed when I got to cover both seasons on this blog. Not only that, but I actually got to cover something soccer-related when it comes to sports documentaries. I haven’t seen too many other docuseries since I reviewed the second season involving Sunderland A. F. C., so I thought I would check out something else for the time being. Well, lo and behold, I review yet another UK-produced docuseries that also involves soccer. Unlike Sunderland ’Til I Die, this isn’t about a specific team, but rather the different types of soccer that exist across Europe during a World Cup year.
All it took was a couple of Germans having an adventure of sorts throughout multiple countries.
Finding Football is a short docuseries that involves the Hagen-born, London-based comedian Henning Wehn and the decorated soccer player Lothar Matthaus. Wehn is a hardcore soccer fan and wanted to know why people take joy in playing soccer of sorts. He thought he would find answers traveling around alongside the retired former World Cup winner much to his chagrin as he has never heard of his own compatriot before. They visit Scotland, their native Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Russia on a quest to find a meaning to soccer, have some wacky events, and even experience different ways of playing the game that they have never seen before.
I’m not that much of a soccer fan despite covering the STID series, but even I was quite intrigued with the premise of this particular docuseries. While I wasn’t familiar with either Wehn or Matthaus (cut me some slack, German soccer fans!), there was a very fascinating chemistry between the two and they certainly are characters. I could tell that Wehn was a comedian with his witty commentary as well as his timing on humor. Matthaus still has it as a soccer player despite being past his prime, but he still has this fierce competitive nature with everything like calling Wehn a loser in an understated tone every time they play. They eventually start a friendship during this international journey which felt surprisingly organic despite the shorter runtime as a whole. The production was on point with the cinematography, camera work, and some comedic effects. The handshake with the CGI confetti was hilarious and the spinning transitions had this 60s Adam West Batman TV show kind of vibe to it for humorous effects. The score was very quirky with jazzy and light rock pieces at different points of the series. There was an educational aspect that I thought was a lot stronger in hindsight. There were some regular soccer shots in the first and last episodes, but there were types of soccer I didn’t know existed. There was street soccer in Paris. It’s not just playing soccer in a park or the streets, but there were dribbling tricks and some straight-up b-boying going on which was very impressive. The virtual reality soccer in Amsterdam looked very cool how the people had VR goggles and stood on a green circle. The type of soccer that really opened my eyes (also being my favorite episode) was blind soccer. When they go to Munich, they visit a center for the blind and visually impaired where they actually have a local team set up for therapy and exercise. The players wear blindfolded glasses and play with a modified soccer ball that makes a loud rattling noise, so the players know where it is. Since there’s a legitimate hazard for visually impaired people being injured in such a sport as this, the players have to say “voy” (Spanish for “go”) to make sure the other players don’t run into them. Despite some of the comedic chemistry between Wehn and Matthaus, this oddly reminded me of Lorena Alvarado’s parasports documentaries Beatrice and Francesco because like those examples of wheelchair fencing and swimming despite having atrophied hands, I never thought the concept of blind soccer was even a thing. There was a heartwarming aspect of seeing actual blind players doing well and for this soccer/comedian duo having to be in a situation where they can’t see as they have a moment of empathy. The normal soccer stuff in the initial and final episodes respectively was tied to atypical elements. The first episode involved an all-LGBT soccer team called the Hot Scots FC and the last one involved the Girl Power FC team in Russia. I could definitely see the LGBT community supporting Hot Scots as they don’t play up any homophobic stereotypes and any random person watching them play a game wouldn’t even know about the players’ sexual orientations unless the team or manager told them. Girl Power FC was interesting as they played in freezing Moscow weather and they actually started out as a children’s league until the players grew up and it just happened to be mostly female. Both examples could be seen as positive representations. Those were some great positives there.
Finding Football doesn’t always nail the hat trick though. While this docuseries is a very quick binge to go through all five episodes in less than forty minutes, I do wish some of the episodes were just a bit longer. Even a minute or two wouldn’t have hurt in explaining some of the concepts or even getting some fun banter between the comedian and the veteran soccer player from Germany. There was definitely enough time with the lead subjects, but I also wanted some of the interviewees to shine a bit. In the first episode, I would’ve liked to know more about United Glasgow FC who were Hot Scots’ opponents. That team consisted of refugees and several of them were clearly ethnic minorities from a Scottish demographic standpoint. I get that [SPOILER ALERT] Hot Scots won the match in the inaugural episode, so it made sense to focus on this team, but I felt that the explanation of United Glasgow was blown in a matter of seconds and the players weren’t interviewed on that team. Maybe this is bias on my part, but I wanted to see some positive ethnic representation in that episode even though you do see some Black and Arab players talking in the France episode. There was also an error speaking of that episode. The film director of Concrete Football who made a cameo’s name is Jesse Adang and not Adangblenou. This might have been a typo fusion between him and co-director Syrine Boulanouar. The virtual reality soccer was cool, but it felt somewhat underdeveloped since you don’t see them play against each other and the VR footage was limited. Besides those things, I was annoyed by the product placement with Courtyard/Marriott. Their name mentioned in the opening credits didn’t bother me and the documentary is certainly not about their hotels, but the product namedropping wasn’t subtle. Every episode has at least one scene that takes place right outside of a Courtyard entrance as Henning Wehn walks in and out where the viewer can clearly see the logo (even the location in Moscow had the name written in both English and Russian Cyrillic script!). The last really episode couldn’t resist mentioning Courtyard and Marriott in the closing narration when everything discussed was just about soccer. This sounded like a commercial and the sponsors patting themselves on the back was distracting to an otherwise good docuseries. Say what you want about the anime short film Dareka no Manazashi, but no one would ever be able to tell that was a real estate commercial unless they really looked close and even then the company elements were very subtle. I wished Finding Football didn’t have to shoehorn Courtyard in obvious ways.
This docuseries was fun to watch despite not being familiar with either Henning Wehn or Lothar Matthaus. I can tell they had fun being a part of this soccer adventure while being exposed to so many types and scenes of this popular sport. The cinematography is great and the overall production was totally worth it. While there were some legitimately educational elements, some parts got hampered by the short run time and the Courtyard plugs (the last narration made me facepalm and the namedropping of the hotel chain felt irrelevant). Finding Football isn’t going to revolutionize soccer much less sports documentaries, but this was a good way to spend thirty-something minutes when one has free time.
Adjustable Point System:
-Add 1 point if you like soccer.
-Subtract 1-2 points if product placement bothers you.-Subtract 1 point if you don’t follow amateur soccer teams or clubs.
-Quality cinematography and videography
-Educational and fun in its presentation
-Positive representation for the visually impaired, female soccer players, and LGBT athletes
-The whole series is a bit short
-Lack of interview time with United Glasgow FC
-The Courtyard by Marriott plugs can be distracting with the set locations and ending narration in the final episode
Final Score: 7/10 points
Content Advisory: Finding Football is a tame watch. The worst thing said is “Where the hell is the ball?”, and there are no other issues with swearing or innuendo. There’s some drinking, but the scenes are extremely brief. The first episode features a team with open LGBT players, but their orientations are never objectified or play up homophobic stereotypes.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Finding Football is property of Slash Football. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of Slash Football.