‘Soccer Academy’: The Kids Have All the Fun

/ Sep 24, 2013


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I’m not a fan of soccer. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the sport or actively hate it; soccer just hasn’t ever “done it” for me — even though I am an obsessive fan of hockey, a sport that shares some similarities with the world’s most popular sport.

This makes it difficult for me to watch soccer-based movies. There have been some great ones, no doubt, but with the exception of “The Two Escobars,” which was less about soccer and more a study on the rise and fall of a country, I haven’t bothered to watch any of them.

This is all to say, when I clicked on the first episode of “Soccer Academy,” a new documentary web series from Magnet Media, KickTV, and Puma, I really didn’t know how I’d feel. Even if it was well-produced, would I care about a sport that I don’t have much of an interest in? Would that cloud my judgment?

Well, it didn’t.

Even though the show is called “Soccer Academy,” and is billed as a six-episode look at a nationally ranked US Soccer Federation academy, the star of the show isn’t the game (as beautifully shot as it is) but the kids playing it. And the kids are having a great time.

Created and executive produced by Paul Kontonis, a web video veteran and the former chairman of the IAWTV, the series is described as “a universal story about kids’ love for soccer and all the pressure that is put on them even at a really young age.”

So while the serious adults show up throughout the series — most prominently Kontonis himself as the coach of the team at the center of the show — “Soccer Academy” is at its best when it just focuses on the kids playing around, tumbling over each other, and just having a great time playing a game they clearly love.

Because even though “Soccer Academy” is about soccer, it’s not really about soccer. It’s about the time when you were a kid playing a game or a sport with your friends, whether it was in the backyard or on an organized team. The most compelling parts of the show are when we see the camera hone in on that element. Yes, the kids want to win and work hard to compete. But as the great Gordon Bombay would advise, if you’re not having fun, then why even bother?

“Soccer Academy” is well produced and features a stellar (though sometimes bite-y) score. The camera-work is solid, though sometimes it feels like the show favors the cool shot over constructing a tight narrative. But at the end of the day, the show is about the kids, and the kids are all right.

The show is co-produced by Magnet Media and KickTV, a YouTube channel partnership between Major League Soccer and Bedrocket Media. The producers have inked a distribution deal with Sports Illustrated Kids, and will receive additional promotion from Puma, which features prominently in the show as the sponsor for both the BW Gottschee and their hated rivals the Brooklyn Italians.

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