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  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • 60 Cast/crew biographies
  • 79 Featurette
  • Animated menus
  • 33 Interviews

History of Football - The Beautiful Game

Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 680 mins . E . PAL


Football is known as the world game and for good reason, it is watched and played by millions around the world throughout the year and is growing stronger day by day. To try to fit the history of football into a mere 13 hours is a big ask, but this wonderful documentary series makes a very admirable effort to do so. It would be impossible to please everyone, but this documentary series should make most fans happy.

"People think football is a matter of life and death, it is much more important than that!"

This series is full of footage and interviews covering every aspect of the game, but what it does do is focus quite strongly on the true history. What this means is that it looks at the origins of the game right through to how this popular sport has affected history in general. The impact the game has had on the world's history is quite astounding, from being responsible for starting a war to being used as a political tool for many of the world's most historical figures.

Interviews with some of the biggest names are here, along with some footage that most would have never seen before. The series boasts that it contains every World Cup Final goal up to and including the 1998 final, the first ever filmed international match between Wales and Ireland, the first England versus Scotland match ever filmed in 1907 and the first FA Cup Final ever filmed between Tottenham and Sheffield Wednesday in 1901. All these are included and so much more.

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The series of 13 episodes is contained on seven discs in an impressive box set, two episodes on each disc apart from the last which is alone. Each episode runs for approximately 52 minutes and, along with the episode itself, there are several extras relating to the topic of that episode. Each episode is beautifully edited and informative and contains some amazing footage dating back to the 1800s. A brief synopsis of each episode follows to give you a better idea of what is covered. The extras for each episode are also listed in the extras section of this review.

Beginning the series in great style, episode one looks at the origins of the game. It looks at the various possible beginnings from many different nations including China, Mexico, Japan and Italy. Many countries lay claim to being the inventors of the sport and many can prove very early forms, some of these are still re-enacted to this day. These can be seen in Florence where men literally beat each other in an attempt to score a goal and also in Scotland where the entire village is involved trying to move a ball to a certain place. This episode also looks at the creation of the first professional league, know as the Football Association in England, regarded by many as the true origin of the game as it is played today.

Football Cultures
This episode looks at varying cultures and how they have developed the same basic game to incorporate their own cultural diversity. It looks into great detail at Africa in the ‘50s and how the attempt at creating the United States of Africa failed. Many would consider this not to be football related, but this episode shows how football had an impact on this failure. It also looks at early attempts to build the game in the USA and why it failed there. Even with its massive financial backing and the importation of some major football stars it still failed at this time. The episode also looks at Spain and the differing cultures there. The Basque region is the main focus, with a detailed look at how clubs in this region have tried to maintain their Basque heritage. Iran also gets attention we learn how religion had an impact.

Evolution of the European Game
The third episode looks at how football took its shape in Europe. It shows how much influence Scottish players had on the early game in Europe as many were imported into England’s professional league. It also looks at the formation of FIFA and the teams that dominated the early years. These teams were relative minnows by today’s standards, but this was at a time when all players were paid the same rate, allowing the smaller clubs to be able to entice the stronger players. The Italian team of the time is also looked at and the way that the dictator Mussolini used the team for his own political gain. The Hungarian team were also dominant during the ‘50s and the West German team were an emerging force on the world stage. Both are covered in this episode.

European Superpowers
As the name suggests, this episode looks at the clubs that have become the big powers in European football. Clubs such as AC Milan, Internationale and Real Madrid were the dominant powers and showed a great flare for attacking football. This dominance by southern Europe was challenged when Glasgow Celtic from Scotland won the 1967 European Championship. This had followed the previous year’s memorable win by England in the World Cup. The early ’70s saw the emergence of Dutch teams on the European stage delivering some eye catching technique. Ajax Amsterdam and Feyenord were the leaders from Holland with Ajax winning several European Cups in the process. The period also saw the English league begin to make a mark in Europe with Liverpool being the dominant team winning four European titles over a ten year span. On a national scale the ‘70s and ‘80s saw Holland, West Germany and Italy as the powerhouse teams, something that has continued to the present day.

Considered by many to be the most prolific nation in football terms, this episode looks at the South Americans and their impact on the game. They are without doubt the most successful nation of all time, having won the most World Cups, the most recent being in Japan and Korea in 2002. Their flamboyant style stems from when the racial problems were overcome and black players were incorporated into the national team. This worked well for the team until they were hosts of the World Cup in 1950 and a new format was trialled where rather than having a final, teams would play a round robin format. The Brazilians lost to neighbours Uruguay therefore failing on their home soil and the blame was aimed at the black players. This feeling changed however at the 1958 World Cup when the introduction of Pele saw the team succeed yet again. The debate as to whether Pele was the greatest Brazilian player of all time still rages to this day as many feel it was Garrincha. Brazilians may produce the best players in the world, but they also produce the worst administrators, this topic is also covered here.

South American Superpowers
This episode looks at the South American region and goes into great detail of its history. Maradona is focussed on and his role in the 1986 finals where he cheated by handling the ball into the net, claiming it to be the “hand of God” and then later in the same game scoring one of the most memorable goals in World Cup history. It looks at the River Plate region of Argentina and the power clubs in that area along with Uruguay’s golden era. It also looks at Argentina’s isolation and the divide between Europe and South America. Colombia is looked at in detail along with an insight into the passion that is renowned in South America.

For Club and Country The first topic of focus in this episode is the French and how they have recently become a force in world football, since their memorable win on home soil in the 1998 World Cup. They currently house some of the biggest names in football with players such as Zidane, Henry and Pires to name but a few. Also covered in this episode is the World Club Championships, Juventus, Manchester United, how playing for a club can sometimes conflict with international duty as clubs have tried for many years to restrict their players participating in international matches through fear of injury. You could say we are more than aware of this scenario with constant speculation about Australian players Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell constantly stating their desire to play for the Socceroos, yet having to battle their club’s wishes.

The Dark Side
This interesting episode looks at the darker side of football. The general perception of the public around the world is that football fans are hooligans and racists and this episode shows some examples of why this perception is held. It also looks at the plane crashes that killed the Torino and Manchester United teams in the late ‘40s and 1968 respectively, as well as the Zambian national team disaster. It looks at the conflict between El Salvador and Hondures in 1970 which was said to have been caused because of football. Stadium disasters are covered including the collapse in Peru in 1964, the Heysel Stadium tragedy and the Hillsborough disaster. Hooliganism is covered, but I must say this is not a true look at the phenomena. It focuses on the English game, but most will be aware that this is not just an English problem, South American and other European countries are rife with the problem also, so it is a little unfair to single out England. (Editor's note: Spoken like a true Pom, Adrian!)

The general public who have no idea about football will still be aware of some of the biggest names in the game – the superstars. Names such as Maradona, Pele and Ronaldo are instantly recognisable. Other names like Zidane, Shearer, Maldin and Garrincha will not be as recognisable to Joe Public, but are names of note for football followers. This episode looks at some of the biggest stars of the game and how they attained the status of superstar. It looks at how they have impacted on the game over the years and now earn extravagant salaries and endorsements through advertising. Football may be a short career, but if someone is good enough they can earn more in week than the average person can earn in ten years, not bad to be paid such money for doing something you love.

This episode looks at the football media and how they are both needed for the game and at times its worst enemy. Without the media the game would never reach the world audience that it does or create as much interest, this is the good side of the media. The bad side is when they publicise football violence, drug scandals and the like. These are all considered newsworthy and therefore the public has a right to know but it ends up putting an over negative slant on the game that could be avoided. This episode also looks at how media effects the players, Maradona for example being constantly under the spotlight and this eventually caused his own undoing. Early forms of media are also covered, along with the importance of radio before television made such an important impact.

This episode looks at the growth of football in Africa. It covers how the game was first introduced and the changes it has undergone over the years. It looks at the North African Cup which began in the ‘40s, the politics of the region and their effect on the game and the exclusion of South Africa due to apartheid. It looks at many stars from Africa including the 1990 World Cup hero Roger Milla, who got Cameroon to the quarter finals only to lose to a very good English side led by Paul “Gazza” Gascoyne. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is also covered in great detail.

A Game For All
This episode if more about the history of FIFA than anything else, covering its inception 1904. It looks at the rule of Jules Rimet as president from 1921 until 1962 and the reign of Stanley Rous until replaced by Havelange in 1974. How FIFA grows with the aid of big business and the politics that accompany its growth. UEFA get a brief mention, along with poignant moments from the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cup Finals. Women’s football being banned in England is touched upon, along with where the game is headed in the future in the eys of FIFA.

What does the future hold for football? Will it remain the dominant sport? This episode looks at the continued growth in countries such as China, India, the Middle East, Korea and Japan, all hugely populated areas with a hunger for football. The evidence shows that although the sport is currently dominated by Europe and South America, maybe one day the powerhouses of world football may come from Asia. As for the National Soccer League here in Australia, which is not covered, well we live in hope. Optimism after all is a prerequisite of being a football fan.

Put simply, this is a fine documentary series that although a little political, is endlessly informative. Those who love football will be amazed at the amount of information contained here that most of us were unaware of. Those who have no interest in football should also get pleasure from the historical content and the way it is delivered. Terrance Stamp does a fine job of guiding the viewer through this journey and the content is evenly balanced. The biggest bonus for myself is to have all this footage at my fingertips should I ever need to relive a certain World Cup Final or to check historical facts to settle an argument. I cannot praise this series highly enough, so take the time to check this one out, it will give you something to do between seasons of domestic leagues.


The video transfer for this release is quite stunning. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16:9 enhanced. Considering that some of the footage is over a century old, they really have done a terrific job here. Picture is sharp throughout with some gorgeous scenery. Obviously the more recent game footage is of excellent quality, but even the old black and white footage is looking better then it ever has. Sharpness is superb and there are no problems with edge enhancement, colour bleeding or detail. The problems that do occur are solely on the older footage where there are quite a few film artefacts. It truly is difficult to find fault with this transfer when you take into account the amount of variance and age of some footage used. All you can really do is look at what has been done with the material available and for this the producers should be commended.


The default soundtrack for this series is English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and this does the job beautifully. The narration of Terrence Stamp is kept to the centre channel with good usage of surrounds for action footage and music ambience. This usage is subtle, but well placed and balanced. Dialogue is clear at all times with no synch problems of note. The subwoofer does get called into action on occasion, but this is rare. Taking into account that this is a documentary series and not an action blockbuster, there is no need for spectacular audio effects and therefore this audio track delivers exactly how it should.


Extras are plentiful with this release and each episode offers its own relating to its particular topic. I have detailed the extras under the heading of each episode title for easy reference.


Stuart Hall On Football’s Unlikely Origins
This is a tongue in cheek featurette that shows how broadcaster Stuart Hall invented football. It only has a brief running time of 1:43 but is entertaining.

Football is an Old Italian Custom
This contains newsreel footage of a game of Calcio, which is played in Florence. This featurette runs for 3:42.

The Old Ashbourne Folk Game
Ashbourne is a town in the Derbyshire Dales and this featurette contains newsreel style footage on the game. Keep an eye out for a very young Brian Clough.

Early Football Match Archive
This selection of featurettes contain various excerpts of archival footage from the years 1897, 1898, 1901, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1910, 1911 and 1912. All the footage has historical value and includes the earliest known footage of any match. Each can be selected separately and are a terrific inclusion.

There are several biographies throughout this series and all come in the form of text pages. Each relates to the episode it accompanies and some are repeated in other episodes. For this episode, the biographies are on superstars Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez.

Easter Egg
For more information on Easter Eggs, please refer to our Easter Eggs page.

Football Cultures

The North American Soccer League
This section is broken up into three sections entitled Stars and Strife, The Great NSL Experiment and The NSL Finals. The first is a featurette running for 6:37 and is made up of interviews. The second is a text page of information and the last is a scorecard.

Real Madrid’s European Cup Victories
This section is broken up into four parts, entitled The Greatest Team Ever, The Finals (1956-60). 1957 Cup Final Versus AC Milan and 1959 Final Versus Stade de Reims. The first two are text pages of information and the latter two are footage from each game.

In this interview with Italian star Alfredo Di Stefano, he comments on Destiny, Success, Real Madrid’s European Glory, World Cup Disappointment, The Poetry of Football and Real Madrid’s Continuing Success.

Featured here are biographies on Osei Kofi, Pele and Jorge Valdano.

Evolution of the European Game

1934 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between Italy and Czechoslovakia and runs for 2:22.

1938 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between Italy and Hungary and runs for 2:46.

1954 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between West Germany and Hungary and runs for 3:59.

In this interview with Pepi Bican, he comments on the Death of His Father, Sindelar, Playing For Austria Against England, Life in Vienna, Signing For Slavia, Italy, Meazza and the German Occupation of Prague.

Featured here are biographies on Franz Beckenbauer, Pepi Bican, Tom Finney, Gijula Grosics, Pietro Rava and Ottmar Walter.

Easter Egg
Please refer to the Easter Egg page for instructions on accessing this item.

European Superpowers

1966 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between West Germany and England and runs for 5:24.

1974 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between West Germany and Holland and runs for 4:05.

1982 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between West Germany and Italy and runs for 2:44.

1990 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between Germany and Argentina and runs for 2:54.

Sir Bobby Charlton comments on Ramsey’s Wingless Wonders and Substituted By Ramsey Versus West Germany 1970, Jurgen Klinsmann comments on German Tournament Mentality and German Reunification and Paulo Rossi comments on Enzo Bearzot.

Featured here are biographies on George Best, Sir Bobby Charlton, Kenny Dalglish, Alfredo Di Stefano, Francisco Gento, Aime Jacquet, Jurgen Klinsmann, Wolfgang Overath, Michel Platini, Gianni Rivera, Paolo Rossi and Zinedine Zidane.


1958 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between Brazil and Sweden and runs for 4:11.

1962 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between Brazil and Czechoslovakia and runs for 6:17.

1970 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between Brazil and Italy and runs for 4:07.

1994 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between Brazil and Italy and runs for 2:41.

Featured here are biographies on Sir Bobby Charlton, Leonidas da Silva, Didi, Just Fontaine, Arthur Friedenreich, Aime Jacquet, Charles Miller, Carlos Alberto, Parreira, Pele, Roberto Rivelino, Ronaldo, Tele Santana, Socrates, Mario Zagallo, Zico and Zizinho.

South American Superpowers

1930 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between Uruguay and Argentina and runs for 5:15.

1950 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between Uruguay and Brazil and runs for 3:46.

1978 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between Agrentina and Holland and runs for 2:55.

1974 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between West Germany and Argentina and runs for 3:02.

In this interview, former Argentinean coach Cesar Luis Menotti comments on The Ethics of Football and Leaving Maradona Out Of The 1978 World Cup Squad.

Featured here are biographies on Jose Leandro Andrade, Antonio Carbajal, Alfredo Di Stefano, Alcides Ghiggia, Rene Higuita, Mario Kempes, Diego Maradona, Humberto Maschio, Roque Maspoli, Francisco Maturana and Cesar Luis Menotti.

Easter Egg
Please refer to the Easter Egg page for instructions on accessing this item.

For Club and Country

European Championships 1960 – 1976
This featurette includes footage from each tournament from 1960 to 1976, each is selectable separately.

Featured here are biographies for Alfredo Di Stefano, Sir Alex Ferguson, Just Fontaine, Francisco Gento, Aime Jacquet, Nwankwo Kanu, Diego Maradona, Abedi Pele, Pele, Michel Platini, Pietro Rava, Paolo Rossi, Alan Shearer, Jorge Valdano, Dwight Yorke, Zinedine Zidane and Dino Zoff.

Easter Egg
Please refer to the Easter Egg page for instructions on accessing this item.

The Dark Side

Containing four featurettes entitled Julie's Story, Perimeter Fences, Football Martyrs and A Healthy Cynicism, this section looks at the Hillsborough tragedy through the eyes of someone who lost family.

Heysel Remembered
This featurette looks at the Heysel Stadium tragedy in Brussels where rioting caused the death of many Juventus and Liverpool supporters.

Trouble on the Terrace
This series of featurettes entitled Halcyon Days, A New League Table, Alcohol, Xenophobia, Away with England, A Fashion Cycle and The Media.

The solitary biography here is for Sir Bobby Charlton, which can be found on other discs.


Interviews featured here are with Pele, Ronaldo, George Best, Dino Zoff, Paolo Rossi, Jurgen Klinsmann and Diego Maradona. They comment on a wide range of subjects.

Featured here are biographies on Franz Beckenbauer, George Best, Pepi Bican, Johan Cruijff, Alfredo Di Stefano, Garrincha, Nwankwo Kanu, Diego Maradona, Guiseppe Meazza, Cesar Luis Menotti, Billy Meredith, Pele, Ferenc Puskas, Pietro Rava, Ronaldo, Matthias Sindelar, Alberto Spencer, Jorge Valdano and Zinedine Zidane.


1998 World Cup Final
This featurette looks at the final between France and Brazil and runs for 3:38.

Interviews featured here are with Pele, Alan Shearer, Paolo Rossi, Zico and Kenny Dalglish. They all comment on a variety of subjects relating to the media.

Featured here are biographies on George Best, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson, Aime Jacquet, Jurgen Klinsmann, Diego Maradona, Cesar Luis Menotti, Pele, Antonio Rattin, Ronaldo, Paolo Rossi, Hugo Sanchez, Jose Sanfilippo, Alan Shearer, Zico and Dino Zoff.

Easter Egg
Please refer to the Easter Egg page for instructions on accessing this item.


The African Cup Of Nations 1957 – 2000
This section covers the prestigious African tournament over this vast span of time and includes both text pages and footage.

Featured here are biographies on Just Fontaine, Pierre Kalala, Nwankwo Kanu, Osei Kofi, Roger Milla and Abedi Pele.

Easter Egg
Please refer to the Easter Egg page for instructions on accessing this item.

A Game For All

The Golden Era of the World Club Championships 1960 – 1970
This section features footage from each of the World Club Championships during this time span.

Featured here are biographies for Antonio Rattin and Dwight Yorke.


The Asian Cup
Featuring footage from the years 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1992 and 2000, this collection of featurettes looks at the ever expanding Asian tournament.

Running for 4:23 this featurette looks at the region.

In this interview, Kazu Muira comments on the subjects of Verdy, Being Dropped For France 98 and Japanese, Brazilian and Italian Fans.

Featured here are biographies on Baichung Bhutia, Kanishige Kamamoto, Jurgen Klinsmann, Kazu Muira, Wolfgang Overath, Carlos Alberto Parreira, Socrates, Mario Zagallo and Zico.

Easter Egg
Please refer to the Easter Egg page for instructions on accessing this item.


Overall this collection is simply wonderful. It will not contain everything to satisfy every fan, but it is by far the best documentary series on the sport to date. The video and audio are superb and the extras plentiful, making this a worthy purchase. Most would be hard stretched to find fault here so if you are a fan you should at least rent this, but I would highly recommend the investment of a purchase, simply to have the endless footage at your easy disposal.

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