Sunday, February 18, 2018

Now on Netflix: First Team: Juventus (2018)

First Team: Juventus (2018) - Produced by Michael Antinori, Fred Christenson, Johnson McKelvy, Will Staeger.

By Kenny Howell

Think of it as Hard Knocks: Italian Style, as Netflix travels to the world of soccer to profile one of the best clubs on the planet.

Juventus is an Italian powerhouse based out of Turin that is currently trying for their seventh straight league title, something pretty unprecedented in the modern age. They are actually trailing Napoli at the time I am writing this review, but are still very much in the mix for the title. They are also fighting in the Champions League (2-2 on aggregate with Tottenham) for another spot in the finals, a place they have been two out of the last three years, though both were losses.

In First Team: Juventus we go into the club to see what the training is like, how the players are on and off the pitch, and what the first half of this season was like for the club. Soccer season for the European teams runs roughly August to May, and this three episode series takes it up to the start of 2018, so just four months into it.

The reason I referenced Hard Knocks, the great HBO show that follows the preseason training camp of a NFL team, is because this is told in almost the same fashion. There is great cinematography of the training, games, the cities of Italy, the homes in which these world superstars live. It bounces back and forth from their life on the pitch and off it, as we get to meet Juventus' star players like Gonzalo Higuain and Gianluigi Buffon. The guys are quite candid and open about their lives, which was always the best part about Hard Knocks, getting to know the players as people instead of just a face or number on the field.

I think where First Team: Juventus might falter is the fact that we only get to see half the season. In Hard Knocks we get to see training camp and it ends at the close of that, a definite stopping point before the regular season starts. Here we just get to the halfway mark where things have already kicked off, and we are getting there, but there is so much left to decide. Every major accomplishment is still left up for grabs. I think if they would have cut it off after the first game or two, maybe at the close of the transfer window, it might have helped, or just followed it out through the end. It still makes for an interesting look inside a major soccer club, something at least in the United States we don't get to see very often. For a big fan like me, this was nice to get that look.

First Team: Juventus is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: ***

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