Judge Ryan Keefer studied up for this review by drinking a lot of juice boxes and eating a lot of orange slices.
Celebrating 100 years of FIFA soccer.
My loyalties quickly became torn when getting ready to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, or any other metaphor you can imagine, when I started to review a two-disc set composed primarily of soccer highlights. There is no denying the fact that soccer is recognized around the world as being the dominant sport, except in countries like the United States, where it's recognized as simply as a niche sport for a small but passionate group of fans. The dilemma is whether or not I stick to referring to the sport as "soccer" or the more traditional "football," and to clear up confusion, I'll call it "soccer." If I can stray for a second, I think that the reason so many people dismiss the sport is because many simply do not have the patience for the build up and strategy involved in the game. Consequently, it is stereotyped as a bunch of guys doing nothing with their hands for 90 minutes. There are attacks and counterattacks, and soccer players often run the equivalent of several miles during a match. You'll have to forgive me—I had to tie a string of defense to a sport I enjoy, but I'm done now.
In any case, to mark the centennial anniversary of the organization, soccer's governing body FIFA (short for the Fédéeration Internationale de Football Association), with the cooperation of Mackinac Media, has issued this set that both showcases the sport's premier event and informs fans of the progress made through the years. And clearly, the World Cup, as we know it in soccer, is the world's most popular sporting event, with over 30 nations competing, with billions more watching it on TV, sometimes in the middle of the night. I know that getting up at four in the morning for a few days in 2002 to watch the U.S. team's improbable run in the most recent World Cup helped me to identify with fans in other countries and the things they do to watch their teams' games.
This set helps to bring out the best part of the game, the goals. Creative, powerful, sometimes jaw-dropping, many of the goals are the reason why soccer is often called "the beautiful game." The set includes footage from almost every tournament, which has been held every four years since 1930. It's nice to see the evolution of the players over the years (the early stages of the game had players wearing outfits that looked more suitable for Wall Street), and the emergence of nation's to the world's soccer stage, countries such as Germany, France, and Argentina. In between the highlights of each tournament are mixed some segments about FIFA, trivia, and some other soccer tournaments, like the Women's World Cup, the various Youth Championships, and an emerging indoor soccer league. The lighter side of the sport is covered too, like bloopers and the players' wardrobe and hair. What's funny about the feature is that it warmly embraces the predominant hairstyle that soccer players sport, the mullet. While the appealing thing about soccer is the fun involved in the game, the fact that it's brought the mullet along with it isn't a bright spot.
The feature also discusses the great games, teams, and players of the tournament through the years. The obligatory footage of Pele is included, but some other great names through the years have some footage in here also. The Brazilians have had a wealth of talent through the years, aside from current-day wizards Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos, and when you're a member of the Brazilian men's midfielding group, you truly have earned a place in soccer history. Watching this will also introduce you to other players you may not be familiar with and shows you some of the greatest moments, like in 1986, when Diego Maradona practically faked half of the England team out of their shorts en route to scoring the best goal in the Cup's history.
Another surprising factor is just how good the footage looks. Film from as far back as 1966 has held up pretty well through the years, and the quality improves as the eras move forward. The soundtrack is a generic, upbeat techno music track, and is on the feature for most of the 195 minutes. According to Henry Rollins, this music sounds like "a metal trashcan being hit with a stick," and it clearly should have been done away with. But if the only gripe you can have about watching two discs of soccer highlights is that the music sucks, it's not a bad complaint. Capturing the essence and highlights of soccer results in entertaining viewing, and something that can be watched several times over.
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