Coming from an English family, football (sorry, soccer) is never just a sport. It’s closer to religion, lifestyle, or the reason you wake up to your parents yelling Mike Dean every Saturday morning. To quote Dani Rojas of Ted Lasso, for many “football is life.»

David Beckham, of course, is no exception to this rule. Born and raised in East LondonBeckham made his debut in the senior team of Manchester United in 1992 year. Before finally retiring from football 2013 yearBeckham spent six years as captain of the England national team and 13 years with the team as a whole.

In his new Disney+ documentary, Save Our Team with David Beckham, the soccer legend himself takes us back to where his career began – Echo Junior Football League in East London. And this time he is “starting from the bottom” to train a new generation of beginners.

We have learned that the Westward Boys Under 14 team have recently moved up the league after huge successes the previous season. But now flaws and frustrations are bubbling to the surface as they struggle to keep up with the big dogs of the more competitive Echo League, leaving the team on the brink lowering. Key players on the team include the knowledgeable but shy Orlando, the charismatic but chatty Ethan, and the capable but frustrated Brian. The Westward Boys are a team that has both skill and potential, but struggles with communication and confidence. Especially after losing their vocal leader and top goalie Frederick to injury early in the season, the boys will have to step up and come together to face the trials and tribulations of the Echo League.

Sign in DB7.

Through proper training and personal anecdotes, David Beckham helps WB coaches Ade Abayomi and Edwin Mensah guide their players to improve, both individually and as a team. Beckham talks about his experience as a professional in the sport and explains to the boys what they can expect as promising players.

However, the key to the series isn’t necessarily that it focuses on the sport in question, but on the heart and passion behind it. In a world where sport has become serious and the stressful aspects of daily life for fans and players, it’s easy to forget why a person chose to play sports in the first place. “Save Our Team” captures “the beautiful game” to remind viewers of what lies in the hearts and minds of starry-eyed football youth — ambition, motivation and, most importantly, passion for the sport they dream of leading them to glory.

While the show focuses heavily on team building and the more family-oriented aspect of soccer, interviews and montages give us an insight into what the sport means to each individual player.

Rio, whose father is not pictured, works as hard as he can on the field to make his mother proud. Ethan uses football as a way to release the energy he stores all day at his strict school. Westward Boys’ youngest player, Kuro, even explains that he plays to stay “grounded” from the racial discrimination he deals with in his personal life. For future England fans, football is more than just moving a ball from place to place: it’s both an outlet and an escape from everyday life.

​While Beckham may be back in East London, he’s not the only one with a full-circle moment in the series. Special appearances by the England national football team, including the captain Harry Kane and a midfielder Bukayo Saka, let the Westward Boys hear from their heroes and get advice on how to satisfy their own ambitions while still emphasizing the importance of work as a whole. However, the interaction between the two teams is not just an opportunity for the young players to hear some words of wisdom about the long but rewarding journey ahead of them. It also serves as a reminder that the Three Lions did not start with the fancy cars and league trophies that make up their lives today, but with the humblest dreams and ambitions that the Westward Boys have today.

While each player may have their own personal ambitions for the future, the main transition we see while playing Save Our Squad is a shift from “me” to “we.” Each player makes their own personal improvements throughout the series, but the biggest shift Beckham has instilled in the mentality of the Westward Boys is teamwork and cooperation. At the end of the day, players can practice as much as they want outside of practice, but trophies and championships don’t go to great players — they go to great teams. By the end of the series, the boys’ frenzied screams on the field had turned into supportive and confident chats, and it was clear that the team’s experience with Beckham had led them to victory in more ways than one.

What helps Save Our Team stand out from the countless sports documentaries floating around the media is its emphasis on improvement, not winning. Westward Boys may not end their season at the top of the league. But over the course of the series, we see Orlando come out of her shell and become a major leader on the team. We see Ethan learning to channel his energy into improving his game. And we see the Westward Boys come together to learn what is really at the heart of the “beautiful game”: teamwork, focus and a burning passion for the sport itself.

In terms of the message we got, I think Kuro said it best: “Family is the most important thing to me, and I will never take that back. Family number one. And that’s all.”

Daily Arts writer Olivia Tarling can be reached at tarling@umich.edu.

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