Hasty, cursory interview portraits of three of Belgium’s greatest footballers, with their disastrous World Cup in Qatar as dessert.
Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois and Axel Witsel were part of the Belgian soccer team that disappointed even more than the Dutch team during the recent World Cup. However, it goes in the documentary series. One for all just in the latest and shortest episode about the Red Devils’ failed mission – a fascinating headache file. It is therefore a pity that the interview portraits that precede it give a superficial and hasty impression.
In addition to Disney+ (That one word: Feyenoord) and Netflix (captains) Prime Video is also eagerly tapping into the growing market for “soccer novels”: lucrative docu-series that offer a glimpse into the lives (and increasingly into the dressing rooms) of professional clubs and soccer’s greatest players. Partly due to the increased supply, the projects often feel random and somewhat superfluous.
Prime Video, for example, came up with this last fall. AJAX: Pearls of Amsterdam, in which three players were followed during the past football season. By the time the documentary appeared, one of them (Ryan Gravenberch) was no longer playing for the newly dethroned national champion, while a fourth player (Daley Blind) was given his own documentary that premiered at Videoland in exactly the same period.
In One for all Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois and Axel Witsel (many soccer fans will miss Kevin de Bruyne on this list) lend their cooperation, with Courtois further appealing to the imagination through his global stops as goalkeeper for Real Madrid and Belgium. The first thing that stands out is the limited setup of the episodes: in just under thirty minutes, the creators interview one of three players, with sparse stock footage and ugly yellow blocks of text providing context. There are hardly any extra images of the club or the selection.
The biggest advantage is that the footballers were interviewed in their home environment, where they clearly feel comfortable and are less bound by club labels. Courtois, in particular, gives the cameras a glimpse of his (family) life off the pitch, though the scenes in question leave much the same impression as the interviews: fleeting, confident, and nowhere truly surprising.
The documentary starts false with the episode about Romelu Lukaku. The bony striker seems disinterested and mostly spouts lines like “I don’t care what they think,” “I don’t say bullshit,” and “You don’t know anything about me.” Lukaku is certainly not the only footballer to hold such a shield, which is not surprising given the amount of criticism consistently leveled at elite athletes in the press and on social media.
On the other hand, you can also talk openly about it, which is exactly what Axel Witsel does. Apart from the interview, his ‘his’ episode of him has little to offer, but the midfielder at least speaks with less detachment from the questioned image of him as a footballer (‘slow and tough as nails’). It’s less disturbing at those times when the episodes are somewhat monotonous and boring. Even so, the contributions of the footballers continue to be decisive.
In that sense, it seems like a missed opportunity that Lukaku, Courtois and Witsel only delve into a complex and fascinating football topic from the past World Cup in the last and shortest episode (only 26 minutes): the collective failure of Belgian football. team, which immediately also marked the end of the so-called ‘golden generation’. The 30-somethings who helped make the Red Devils great failed to produce one last piece of art or convincingly engage the upcoming new talent in their mission.
During the first two group stage matches, there was visible disagreement between the Belgians about the way they played and it seemed that the mediocre play of the experienced players (Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Jan Vertonghen) led to additional frustrations. Naturally, the poor performance of the national team was enthusiastically commented on in the football media and online, but in One for all it is too easily used as an excuse by the players involved to put dissatisfaction within the team into perspective. Courtois also points to the qualities of the opponents, and mutual conflicts are largely denied.
A yes or no answer makes little sense, but it feels like a missed opportunity for the series to only pay attention to the World Cup hoax at the last minute. To the creators’ credit, they’re not reprising the Red Devils soap opera in Qatar (itself a headache file), but this was an excellent opportunity to paint a critical and layered picture of a football team that has shown to be vulnerable. The players could have filled that gap by letting themselves be known in their interviews, but the filmmakers don’t set the bar too high in that area either.
One for all can be seen in first video.