The lack of exposure and marketing has been a noted issue for Serie A over the last decade. Italy’s top flight has lacked the innovation and vision to brand their product. It has hurt the league as the once proud Serie A now sits 4th in most popular leagues in the world. That very well could change as a new decade approaches. One small step is Netflix’s newest documentary, and first of its kind for a football team: First Team: Juventus. In the mold of HBO’s long running hit 24/7, the world’s largest streaming site has chosen Juventus, of all clubs to be featured in this groundbreaking series. It follows the 6 time Italian champions throughout the 2017-18 season as they aim for a 7th straight Scudetto and a return to the Champions League Final. Here is my review.
The series begins with three episodes for now. A reported 4 more will debut later in 2018. The first episode sees Juventus gather at Villar Perosa, the team’s traditional pre-season retreat in front of its fans. This tradition stems over 100 years and involves an open match between the first team and Primavera side. The series then shifts to Juve’s first game of the season, a convincing win over Cagliari highlighted by the first use of VAR in league history and a penalty save by legendary captain Gigi Buffon. Low lights are also featured including the 3-0 drubbing in the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona. Paulo Dybala is shown at both a high (scoring a hattrick versus Sassuolo) and missing a decisive last second penalty in the loss against Lazio.
Photo courtesy of Netflix
What the series does best in my opinion is delve on the personal lives of the players and behind the scenes of the Juventus operations. We get to know the players on a personal level. Polarising striker Gonzalo Higuain opens up about the importance of his family and life away from football, and the messy exit he had with Napoli, Juventus’s main adversary this season for the Scudetto. We get a small glimpse of the intense rivalry between the two clubs and the significance of Juve’s 1-0 win at the San Paolo on turning their season around. Claudio Marchisio gives a tour of the Juventus headquarters at Vinovo and discusses his personal life, and the only club he’s known since he was a 7 year old boy. The series goes behind the scenes of Miralem Pjanic and Federico Berardeschi’s personal lives ahead of each scoring big goals during the Champions League campaigns.
Arguably the series’ most powerful interviews are with Gianluigi Buffon who is mulling retirement and trying to handle the pressure of being captain of both Juventus and Italy, still trying to win the mythical Champions League trophy. Buffon has seen it all and through the episodes his philosophical quotes and mentality show just how legendary he is, not just as an athlete but as a man. Giorgio Chiellini as well faces questions along with Buffon surrounding Italy’s shocking exclusion to the FIFA World Cup in June, something that still stings when it is brought up. One of the grand old men for Italy’s grand old lady, Chiellini speaks about the culture of Juventus and how important it has been in shaping his life.
I loved the inclusion of Juventus legends Alex Del Piero, Roberto Bettega, and Moreno Torricelli who discussed the history of the team and the failures of Champions League finals past. This is a recurring theme in the series as it is made known that the Champions League is the club’s ultimate aspiration. Despite their dominance this decade Juventus the club are always hungrier for more success. No one exudes this desire than coach Max Allegri. He repeatedly expects perfection from his squad and makes that be known during training sessions. A 7th straight title is still expected from management, coaches, the players and the fans. We get a look at the coaches reviewing video and preparing for the club’s next opponents, something we don’t usually see in traditional or social media. Last but not least the series shows the city of Torino in a beautiful light. It is one of Italy’s most underrated cities and having been there myself it was about time that viewers could see just how picturesque it is.
Photo courtesy of Netflix
Overall, the series is excellent. It is a must watch for Juventus and Serie A fans alike. Touching, personal interviews and humour contrast the pressure packed demanding world of the Juventus football club perfectly. The first half of the season ends with fans wanting more as the season rightfully has many twists and turns. There is still a lot to be written as we hit the stretch drive of the season and Netflix will be along for the ride every step of the way. I give the series 4.5/5 stars as it spotlights Juventus and Serie A on a global scale increasing the value of Italian calcio in an ever-growing digital world.