While all football fans are suffering through a complete shutout from the Premier League and all of Europe’s other major competitions, at least we can stave off our withdrawal symptoms with a dose of Netflix’s latest mini-series.
Long before Messi, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Zidane, Baggio, Marradona, Beckenbauer and even Pelé, there was Fergus Suter.
He was not a star athlete following a strict training regimen or driving a supercar to Balon D’Or galas, he did not play in front of tens of thousands of fans. Hell, he didn’t even play the game with lace-up boots and he scored between square goalposts! No, Fergus Suter was a stonemason; a man that pioneered the modern game as we know it.
Netflix’s 2020 historical drama, The English Game, follows the lives of Fergus (Kevin Guthrie), his best friend, Jimmy Love (James Harkness) and the man who is considered to be football’s first star player, Arthur Kinnaird (Edward Holcroft).
It follows the beginning of modern football, shortly after the rules were put into place by the Football Association in the mid-19th Century. Directors Tim Fywell and Birgitte Stærmose take us through the journey of the earliest days of the FA Cup, football’s oldest competition, and the rivalries between the aristocratic players from Old Etonians and the working class teams, Darwen and Blackburn.
Fergus and Jimmy are two players that join Darwen from Partick in Glasgow, getting paid three pounds a week (but keep it on the hush hush, professionals weren’t allowed to play in the FA Cup at the time) to bring the passing aspects of the Scottish game to England in a way that would revolutionise football forever.
But don’t worry, all of you that are yawning at the prospect of six hour-long episodes of a bunch of men kicking a ball around (oh, and believe me, football fans, in the early days, this is exactly what it was). The English Game is about a whole lot more than football, it’s about class and the battles between the English aristocracy and its working-class cotton-mill workers. It’s a story about love and family. It tackles themes like gender inequality, motherhood, fatherhood and protest; it’s a story about something that all of us know about football. It has a sense of magic that stretches way beyond the pitch.
It’s a bit of an Any Given Sunday meets Downton Abbey story. And, really, there is something about the toothbrush moustaches, pocket watches and three-piece suits that kinda makes you wish you could live in this simpler time.
Just like we all do, season after season, you sit on the edge of your seat just to see what the result of the next game is, and in between every game, you get caught up in a completely different storyline that carries right through to the next time the players take to the pitch. You will see cross-field passes and volleys from outside the box; you will see pitch-side brawls; you will see love stories unfold and you’ll get sucked into a remarkably compelling drama that will satisfy your thirst for the beautiful game during this football shutdown. The only sad part is that the story has to end.
Essential Millennial rating: 4.5 out of 5 avocados