Without a doubt, football is the most popular game in the world today. Thereís not a day that goes by that a game isnít played somewhere in the world, be it at professional level, or between a few mates with the proverbial jumpers for goalposts in the local park.
The History of Football - The Beautiful Game, is a seven DVD set which looks at the very history of the game, and the way it has developed over the centuries. There are many countries, such as Japan, China, Mexico and Italy, who claim that they invented the game centuries ago, and this collection begins by taking a look back at the very roots of football, and how it developed, in various forms and guises, around the world. Some of these forms are still played today, including the game in a small village in Scotland, where the entire town plays, and the game lasts all day.
Through the volumes, we are taken through the history of football in the twentieth century, through the formation of the first professional association, Englandís Football Association, to the worldís oldest knock-out competition, the F.A. Cup, to the Mitropa Cup, an early equivalent to todayís European Champions League, to the World Cup, which began in Uruguay in 1930.
For those of us interested in the history of the twentieth century, this collection is an interesting insight. Itís interesting to see how the game developed around the world, and how players and
countries were introduced onto the world scene, with some of them having a dramatic effect.
Thereís interviews from some of the greats of the game - Pele, Maradona, Di Stefano, and many more, who give their own views on their own careers and how the game has progressed.
Of course, politics is also mentioned here, with interesting insights on how the likes of Mussolini
used the success of the Italian national team in the 1930ís to further his own success.
But it isnít just the superstars from Europe and South America we hear about. Thereís some great chapters on the evolution of the game in Africa and Asia as well, and we see how these fledgling football countries hope to catch up to their more talented rivals. With the series being filmed just before the 2002 World Cup, we see how the host nations of that particular
tournament, Japan and South Korea, hope to use the international stage they are given to further their own ends. Of course, for South Korea, they seized the opportunity perfectly.
But it isnít all sweetness and light as far as looking at the history of football goes. Thereís an entire chapter dedicated to the dark side of football, tragedies such as the 1958 Munich plane crash which saw some of Manchester Unitedís finest lose their lives, to the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters. The chapter, a little unfairly, focuses on the hooligan element in British
football, without mentioning that there have been problems with this side of things in other major footballing countries as well.
The extras on the various DVDs are one of the sheer joys of this collection, and they feature black-and-white archive footage, some of it going back as far as 1897, as well as the first ever footage from an F.A. Cup Final, recorded in 1905, and coverage of all the World Cups, as well as more in-depth interviews with some of the great stars of the game.
In conclusion, this seven DVD set is an absolute must for any football fan. Itís a joy to behold, and even those who claim to be experts on football will find out things they never knew about the sport they loved.