With their focus typically on movies and dramatic and reality programming, most streaming services have yet to really set the pitch on fire with original sports fare – but Netflix is booting the ball into play with First Team: Juventus, an ambitious documentary series that plays things up close and personal with the legendary Italian football club.
The first three episodes, available for streaming from Friday, will chase the compelling stories and larger-than-life characters of the club to date this season, with the final three hours expected to stream sometime this summer. So why is this a big deal?
Well, for one, it's the first time the Bianconeri (Black and Whites) – as the club is lovingly referred to by their rabidly loyal fans – have granted this degree of behind-the-scenes access. With more than four months of filming under their belts, producers promise a true fly-on-the-wall perspective of the stars and the back-room crew of Juve.
"It's a source of pride that Juventus is the first football club to be the subject of a Netflix Original Docuseries," says Federico Palomba, co-chief revenue officer for the organisation, which was founded by Torinese students in 1897 in Turin, Piedmont – making it the oldest club of its kind in Italy after Genoa (1893).
“Collaborations of this kind confirm our passion for innovation and being, in every sense, a sport entertainment brand. In this way, we are determined to reach Bianconeri fans across the world and millions of [viewers] who, thanks to this docuseries, can get to know Juventus from every angle.”
For the uninitiated, the nickname Bianconeri stems from the vintage look of their iconic black-and-white-striped home kit – almost unchanged since 1903, and inspired by the colours of English club Notts County – which has also earned them handles such as Le Zebre (the Zebras) and La Vecchia Signora (The Old Lady). The name Juventus itself means youth, taken from the Latin iuventus.
Viewers of First Team: Juventus can expect to watch the players, both on and off the field, on the road, at home and wherever it takes to truly capture the real lives that make Juventus one of the most successful football teams of all-time.
“Fans and supporters worldwide... will feel closer than ever not only to the club that has won six straight league titles, but also to some of the greatest footballers, such as the legend Alessandro Del Piero, players like Federico Bernardeschi, Giorgio Chiellini, Douglas Costa, Gonzalo Higuaín, Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic, Daniele Rugani, the captain Gianluigi Buffon and the coach Massimiliano Allegri,” we are told by Netflix.
To call Juventus merely a phenomenal team would be an understatement.
This is a club now gunning for its seventh straight championship in the top tier of Italian football, Serie A. This brings the right to wear the Italian tricolour shield, the scudetto, on their shirts for another season. Juventus have been known not to concede a goal for months at a time, and are a team that have notched winning streaks of more than 25 games on multiple occasions.
The club have given the Italian national team more players than any other, helping Italy to win four World Cups (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006). In all, Juventus have claimed 63 major titles, including two European Cup or Champions League titles, the highest honour in club soccer.
In Italy, the club have won 33 league crowns, 12 Coppa Italia (Italian Cup) titles and seven national Super Cups – record hauls in all of these competitions.
The Bianconeri trophy cabinet also groans under the weight of two Uefa Champions League gongs (one in its previous incarnation as the European Cup), two Intercontinental Cups (the forerunner of the Fifa Club World Cup), a national record three Uefa Cups (plus a European Cup Winners' Cup) and two Uefa Super Cups. All of this makes them the most successful club in the history of Italian football.
Before First Team: Juventus, Netflix dipped its toes into sports docs on the opposite side of the Atlantic with the satisfying Last Chance U, a two-season series that followed the fortunes of players in the football programme at East Mississippi Community College.
"[We're] the home of passionate storytelling," says Erik Barmack, vice president of international original series at Netflix, "and there are no more passionate fans than tifosi [fans] of the Bianconeri. We're excited to have exclusive access to one of the most important squads in the world."
The natural rivalry between Netflix and Amazon appears destined to heat up even more, as the global streamers wade deeper into the pool of sports potential.
For its part, Amazon Prime has responded with its own sports documentary series focusing on English Premier League front-runners Manchester City, also set to air globally this year. Expect drama from players, coaches and manager Pep Guardiola – as well as a visit to the City Football Academy, the club's world-leading training facility.
First Team: Juventus is available for streaming on Netflix from Friday