There is a good chance that you have already seen fragments from the documentary “Football is war” somewhere in recent months. When director Hans Heijnen released a trailer, the images went viral very quickly, partly due to the unmistakable words of trainer Eric Meijers about his keeper (“what a shitty keeper”) and the local media (“shitty newspaper!”). The documentary follows a football club that slowly collapses from its sky-high ambitions.
Achilles ’29 from Groesbeek is a club that has been operating in the highest echelons of amateur football for years. But the club, led by the eccentric Derks family (brothers Harrie and Frans and sister Elrie), wants more. They decide to use an experiment by the KNVB football association to apply for a professional license and to be promoted to the Eerste Divisie in 2013 (the second highest professional level in the Netherlands).
The situation in 2018? A bankruptcy, an almost completely resigned group of players due to the non-payment of salaries and an inglorious last place in the Third (!) Division. The ominous music in the opening scene of “Football is war” sets the tone in that regard: the documentary is a chronicle of an inevitable downfall.
The hilarious videos of a trainer who no longer seems to have his emotions under control, seem to be driving on a somewhat crazy documentary; “Football is war” is above all a tragic portrait of a club that is completely destroyed by the unstoppable ambitions of the Derks family. Shady constructions with Brazilian banks; arrests by the FIOD and the continuous finger pointing to the media, KNVB and players: the image that the documentary creates of the family is not exactly rosy.
But “Football is war” is at the same time also an intimate portrait of an amateur club where old mastodons take a closer look at the club while playing cards and where most supporters are not at all waiting to play a professional club. It makes the image of the slowly crumbling club all the more poignant.
The ‘cunt-keeper’ images will probably follow trainer Eric Meijers for the rest of his career, although the documentary also offers some nuance in the image of the trainer, especially because he has even become entangled in the web of an overambitious family. . The fact that one of the Derks brothers is emerging as a dictatorial assistant coach is a lot more poignant, and a shining example of the fairly unhealthy influence of the family on the club. “Football is War” can therefore indirectly be read much more as an indictment of the way of acting of the Derks family, than as an easy-scoring documentary that wants to put a trainer on hold.
“Football is war” is a fascinating portrait of a football club where the pride of a family caused a thunderous fall into the deep end. Director Hans Heijnen must have imagined himself a child in a candy store when he was allowed to film almost everything during the disastrous relegation season. In “Football is war” the sword of Damocles falls mercilessly down: after all, not much is left of Achilles ’29. What has it delivered? An endlessly intriguing, at times tragicomic documentary that can serve as teaching material for any football club that wants to live beyond its means in order to get ahead. Biggest Losers? The supporters, who prefer to just watch a match and not at all waiting for hassle about millions of loans and professional licenses.