As the final stages of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 are upon us, Charlotte Maas asks, in an age when the drama of other sports are frequently utilised for stage and screen, why is football, the world’s most popular sport, yet to feature in the golden age of television?
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Heartbreak, elation, disappointment, and surprise – all of these emotions can quickly come and go in the world of sports. In fact, some might even say that it is this emotional roller coaster that makes sports so appealing. And when you really think about it, it’s certainly among the reasons Welsh culture is so enamoured with rugby. Yet the appeal of sports goes well beyond Wales and rugby. Indeed, one need only look at the multitudes of die-hard football fans around the world who live and die by the ups-and-downs of their beloved clubs – who cry when their teams lose and party in the streets upon victory – to gain a clear understanding of the passion that exists throughout the sporting world.
Given the potency of these emotions that are so immutably attached to sports, and football in particular, one could certainly wonder: Where is the first major football drama? Why hasn’t the BBC or any other television station picked up the natural drama and emotional pull of the world’s most popular sport, and come out with a massive hit that could do it all justice? Surely it wouldn’t be for lack of a potential audience. And in fact, there are a few reasons why it should be done.
It’s Actually Been Done Before
Perhaps football itself hasn’t been put to use in a meaningful way, but the world of drama and entertainment is certainly no stranger to picking up storylines from sports. American football, for example, was the core subject of the hit U.S. TV show Friday Night Lights and now plays a key part in the Dwayne Johnson-led HBO series Ballers.
Even in cinema, The Vulture’s list of top sports films shows us there are numerous sports dramas out there ranging from the recent Creed to the beloved basketball films He Got Game and Love and Basketball. Shockingly enough for the sport that’s most popular around the world though, only Bend It Like Beckham and The Damned United made the cut. With the vast range of works out there demonstrating that sports can produce excellent drama, perhaps it is football’s time to shine.
The Potential For Underdog Stories
It’s a trope harking back to the biblical tale of David and Goliath: Rooting for the underdog is something audiences have grown to love, especially when it pays off in the end as the “little guy” defies the odds and conquers a greater opponent.
Due to the somewhat low-scoring nature of the sport, upsets are actually more likely to happen in football. In fact, one need only look at lists of football scores around the world, at pretty much any time, in order to see how close the matches can be, with just one or two goals marking the difference even between teams of vastly different skill levels. This stands in contrast to a sport like basketball, wherein better teams are fairly likely to pull away with a significant lead. Even the biggest stage of European football, the Champions League, is prone to shocking upsets that keep fans on the edge. And just a few years ago, the English Premier League saw one of the biggest underdog stories in sports history with the triumph of Leicester City.
It’s An Undeniable Part Of Popular Culture
Beyond the emotional side of things described previously, it’s readily apparent to anyone who cares to look how significant football is in popular culture, particularly in Europe (and maybe the UK most of all). Head to a pub on a major match day, or visit a Premier League stadium, and you’ll see the sport woven into our cultural fabric like almost nothing – actually, perhaps nothing at all – truly is. Accordingly, tournaments like the World Cup have even become lucrative for TV stations, given that simply showing matches can bump up ad revenue a considerable amount. That’s not to say a football drama would have the same impact – but it might do quite well right off the bat simply because of interest in the sport.
Given all of these reasons, we can’t imagine what’s been holding networks and producers back from giving a real shot to a football drama. But here’s hoping it happens one day soon!