Ronaldinho is ready for his close-up…
The 42-year-old Brazilian retired professional footballer is the focus of FIFA+’s debut feature documentary.
FIFA+ launched this week with a suite of FIFA+ Original-branded shows, live matches, news and data and plans to offer 40,000 soccer games.
Headlining the debut was the 90-minute Ronaldinho: The Happiest Man In The World, a buzzy title from British directors Andrew and Stuart Douglas, Bernie Goldmann and the Los Angeles Media Fund (LAMF) looking into the life of the iconic Brazilian soccer star, focusing on his time at Barcelona FC.
FIFA+ acquired the doc in a competitive situation ahead of the free streaming service’s debut and Marley tells Deadline it acts as “an incredible launch vehicle for this platform.”
The film follows the colorful attacker’s ascent to the top of game in the mid-2000s, before looking at why he only remained there for a short time by speaking to those close to him and his mystique.
After winning two FIFA World Player of the Year awards through his effortlessly skillful and joyful approach to the game, Ronaldinho’s career took a turn for the worst, culminating a series of damaging personal life episodes, including a spell in a Paraguayan prison for entering the country using a false passport.
“A lot of narrative is filled in the negative space around him,” said Stuart Douglas. “Key access is the most important factor in a doc like this and through his brother Roberto, who manages the whole story, we got that for Ronnie. We were able to fill in the blanks.”
The documentary hears from the likes of Lionel Messi, seen by some as Ronaldinho’s protege at Barcelona and now widely recognized as the greatest soccer player of all time, and also includes a score by British singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, who composed the music while under Covid lockdown restrictions in 2020.
Despite officially retiring in 2018, Ronaldinho remains a top-ten most followed athlete on social media globally and has attracted a sea of younger fans via YouTube videos of his tricks and goals. Indeed, the player is considered by some as the star of the first viral video: a Nike commercial in which he strikes the crossbar of a goal several times in a row.
“Ronaldinho is a uniquely loved character in football,” said Marley. “As a footballer, he is good enough but once we’d got into the depths of his back story and his character, we knew we had to get involved with the distribution of this film.”
Billed as coming in at the “premium budget end of the doc space – several millions of dollars” by the LAMF’s Simon Horsman, it marks FIFA+’s entry into a narrative sports doc space that has served the likes of Netflix and Amazon well.
“We want to speak to lots of people and create a huge wealth of content with amazing groups of people like with this doc,” said Marley. “We’re in the market to create amazing stories around football – going beyond the appeal of just football and widening it out to a broader audience.”
“The sports docs space is proving to be very fruitful and Bernie [Goldmann], Jeffrey [Soros] and I will certainly be knocking on James’ door with ideas,” added Horsman.