ESPN Soccer Stories: Maradona ’86 (2014)

Directed by Sam Blair

Knowing nothing of the history of soccer is somewhat frustrating given my penchant for both history and sports. For instance, I know much more than I probably should about the history of baseball, and probably just enough to know more than most in basketball and football. But soccer is a foreign game to me, and while I have come to like it, I am not very well versed in its intricacies and especially in its past. What Maradona ’86 tells us is that Diego Maradona was a great player in his time, perhaps the best in the world. It also tells us he was a controversial figure, bringing about great controversy and rivals to the Argentinian national club due to his brash personality which clashes with his tremendous talent with the ball.

Seeing the highlights provided in this film is enough evidence for me to recognize Maradona as a great player. But what Sam Blair seems to lack is a narrative. The film focuses on the 1986 World Cup run made by Maradona and the Argentinian team, but the films lack of structure works to its detriment. The unfocused narrative could have potential had it aspired to the heights of a symphonic or operatic approach to the figure or event of the 86 World Cup, but it doesn’t aspire. It seems content with its broad approach to this story, and for fans like myself who are less familiar with Maradona, soccer, the World Cup and everything else that plays a part in the narrative, the film plays as though it was made for a secret club of soccer fans.

I have been on the other side of the coin here too, being such a great fan of a sport, story, etc. that the summary style bores me, wanting a deeper dive where facts are assumed, because of course I already know all about this. So the film may work quite well for soccer die-hards. And my criticism is very specific to my knowledge of the subject and therefore my personal response to the film, as it is with every film I see. As far as the shorts of the 30 for 30 series go, however, Maradona ’86 stands as one of the least enjoyable for me.

** – Poor

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