REVIEW: First Team: Juventus – Part One (2018)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of the first three episodes of the first season of Netflix’s First Team: Juventus.

As one person, during the second episode of First Team: Juventus, points out, it is a matter of black and white with Juventus in Italy — either you hate them or you love them. Juventus is one of the most storied clubs in world football. When it comes to legendary club kits the only kits that rival the striped black and white home kit of Juventus are those worn by Barcelona and Real Madrid from Spain. Juventus, arguably the greatest club in Italian football history, is that kind of club — a true winner.

First Team: Juventus is a docuseries that stands on the shoulders of great inspirations. American football has these insightful behind-the-scenes docuseries like HBO Sports and NFL Films’ long-running Hard Knocks-show, which has always provided you with great behind-the-scenes pre-season coverage of a select team in the National Football League (NFL). Just a couple of years ago, Netflix released a notable docuseries about American football — Last Chance U.

Last Chance U is a terrific docuseries about young athletes struggling with schoolwork while chasing the dream to play in the NFL. It takes us through the daily activities of a community college football program, and gives us intimate information about coaches, players, and influencers. First Team: Juventus should be that kind of show for the most popular competitive sport in the world.

Unfortunately, while the three episodes are well-produced and fairly entertaining, the docuseries is, ultimately, too superficial to really provide new information to die hard fans, but also, on the other hand, not suitable for newcomers to the sport. If you don’t have a working knowledge of the basics of world football, the Champions League, and the like, then you’ll likely be lost somewhere down the road.

These first three episodes of First Team: Juventus take you from pre-season all the way to a couple of season-defining matches that took place in December 2017, though it oddly only mentions Juventus’s loss to Lazio in the Italian Super Cup. In the season prior to the one in which First Team: Juventus takes place, the Turin-based Italian champions managed to win the Italian league — the Serie A — for the sixth time in a row, as well as the Italian Cup — the Coppa Italia — for the third time in a row. However, they also suffered a soul-crushing defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

So while, on the surface, the 2016/2017 season might have been a great one for most teams, it does provoke a sour taste, as it were, for the organization and the Juventus players. When you are Juventus, only the best is good enough. First Team: Juventus also takes place in a very interesting period in the black and white striped football clubs recent history, seeing as its stars are starting to arrive at the end of their careers.

The docuseries is especially interested in Gianluigi Buffon, the 40-year-old goalkeeper, who is not just a cultural icon and club legend, but also one of the best to ever play his position. Buffon is a real character, but the show doesn’t spend enough time with him to truly break through. It should’ve dealt more deeply with the end of Buffon’s career for the national team, but wastes that opportunity to rush through the fall of 2017.

It might have also been interesting to see more of Federico Bernardeschi and Claudio Marchisio behind-the-scenes, as their sections are quite interesting. The best decision that the team behind the docuseries makes is to focus in on Gonzalo Higuain and his relationship with Napoli — one of Juventus’ rivals for the league title — which has soured since he left Napoli to join Juventus. Another interesting ‘character’ in First Team: Juventus is Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic, who comes across as a very private and shy individual.

It is, however, also an incomplete docuseries. As you may have noticed from the title, the three episodes of this football-based docuseries is only half of the full season. In Netflix’s original announcement, they stated that the “second part” would be released some time later in 2018. If you are unfamiliar with the standard structure of a season of football in Europe, then you may be surprised to learn that the season starts once the summer ends and that the season comes to a close the next summer.

A season of football — or soccer, if you are an American — is very long, and this first half of First Team: Juventus naturally only covers the first half of the full season. First Team: Juventus – Part One thus ends on a cliffhanger. The narrator tells us what is next for Juventus on the other side of Christmas, and the docuseries makes an early exit after just three episodes.

Incomplete really is the right word to describe these first three episodes of First Team: Juventus, in which many storied Italian clubs (including some rivals) are strangely absent. It might’ve actually been a good idea to have the opening episode be some sort of a primer for — an introduction to — the Italian Serie A, but I digress. Ultimately, while it is fun to watch for football junkies, the rushed and superficial docuseries First Team: Juventus only contains bite-sized pieces of undiscovered behind-the-scenes information.


– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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