Football Belongs is an exploration into the passion of the people who make up the World Game within Australia. Featuring interviews with football aficionados, players and coaches, the documentary is an excellent reminder of how the immigrant communities have contributed to the success and survival of football in Australia, but also to the national identity as well.
The strength of the documentary lays in its vast catalogue of interviews. Countless legends of the game describe how football clubs and the communities that underpin them have contributed to their lives. The insight from these interviews – over 150 in total – reveal how these football clubs became bastions of their respective ethnic communities. “It’s not about football, it’s about getting people together” is the quote that most perfectly encapsulates the heart of this film.
One of the greatest successes of Football Belongs is its authenticity. Anybody who has spent time around a football club in Australia, particularly any ethnic club, will feel instant nostalgia. The culture these clubs create, the memories they form, and the players they develop can’t be ignored. Nobody ever forgets the feasts these football clubs put on after (and during) a game.
Rarely will you see a production on Australian football that has so much respect for the rich achievements of Australian football pre-2006 World Cup. From coaches and players from Australia’s first-ever World Cup in 1974 to mainstays from clubs that haven’t been on the national stage since the National Soccer League, the documentary shows reverence to an often-overlooked history.
A common sentiment from the countless people interviewed is that their lives would not have been as rich, or their careers as successful, without the clubs that form the Australian football community. Socceroos coach Graham Arnold talks about the impact that Sydney United, and its Croatian community, had on him after the loss of his mother. Mark Bresciano, John Aloisi, and Sasa Ognenovski – great servants to the game in Australia – discuss their upbringing in the game and the careers that followed. Others describe how football allowed them to experience different cultures and experiences, for their betterment.
While watching Football Belongs, it was an ecstatic surprise to see a young Jackson Irvine scoring goals for Ringwood City, wearing the same kit that I played in as a 13-year-old boy. Seeing a club I spent so many hours of my formative years at, having played there from under 14s through to the senior team, in such an important time of Australian football history was a beautiful moment.
One of its most impactful moments comes in the finale, when Indigenous footballer and artist John Moriarty is interviewed. He describes how he was accepted through football in a point in history where he had no rights in his own country, after experiencing the direct impacts of being a part of the Stolen Generation. The filmmakers have gone to great lengths to highlight the multiculturalism that sustains the world game in Australia.
This review barely covers the countless number of interviews within Football Belongs. The team behind it has delved deep into footballing history while highlighting the roots that were formed in the past that remain today. Football Belongs is a love letter to the multiculturalism that has helped not just the world game, but Australia as a whole. It is without doubt essential viewing for those who love football, and it is truly a part of Australian footballing history.