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Home   /   Documentary Review; Anelka: Misunderstood (2020)

This documentary review will focus on the documentary Anelka: Misunderstood. It takes a deeper look at the footballing career of Nicholas Anelka, a highly successful French footballer, and the controversies throughout his career at both club and country level. The intended audience for this is clear; this is aimed at football fans, specifically French football fans and fans that have followed his jet-setting career through all of its highs and lows. It is aimed at setting things right with the fans who were only able to get one perspective of the incidents occurring through his career through media excerpts and exclusive interviews with those who knew him best.

The documentary is auto-biographical in nature, and aims to be truthful as well as give Anelka’s point of view and opinions through the contentious issues that happened to him at all levels of football. This is more specifically focused on international controversies that national controversies due to the fact that the majority of litigious incidents that happened to him happened at international level. It is up for debate as to why the director takes this angle, as it appears that this is a genuine platform for Anelka to give his point of view. However, Anelka also gives advice to younger fans and even his own children about getting into football young and finding fame at an early age. Furthermore, Anelka also seems to wage a war of words on the media for the ways in which they manipulated and treated him as a young player finding his feet in a hostile and unforgiving world of sport. 

As a Chelsea fan, I had grown up watching Nicholas Anelka advance his career at Chelsea, which is briefly touched upon within this documentary. However, being only a fan with one such perspective to him, the media’s, has been disorientating as this has been the only version of the story that has been told to the public, and even then there is no guarantee that this version of the story is the truth. That is something that this documentary does well; it gives a well-rounded account from all who were involved in these stories and provides the audience with a seemingly unfiltered picture as to what was really going on and what really happened. As a fan, this is valuable because it allows fans to almost be able to be present with this documentary and therefore earn Anelka the upmost of respect for being so vulnerable.

The contrast between the previous places of his past mixed with his present and future allows for a full timeline to be established by Anelka that is clear to the audience from the outset. Furthermore, the biggest scandals surrounding Anelka are addressed in a vulnerable and anecdotal fashion, allowing the director to show Anelka in a different way to which we have seen him before as well as adding to the honest and reflective nature of the documentary that appeals to the audience well. The biggest matter that is attributed to Anelka and touched upon in great detail is what is referred to as the “Anelka Nature”; at the 2010 World Cup Anelka was sent home early for reportedly verbally abusing the then France manager Raymond Domenech and refused to apologise. In retaliation, the France international squad boycotted training in support of their teammate. Anelka goes into detail about the incident, setting the record straight that the words he was accused of saying to Domenech did not actually leave his mouth. He points to a 2018 documentary in which Domenech admits that those words were not used towards him but suggests that the reason why he lied for so long to the French Football Federation and the media was that he needed a scapegoat for the teams poor run of results and Anelka’s outburst made him a target. This crude and raw reaction is exactly what football fans want to see because the confines of the media takes away the humanistic nature of the player, and this documentary is able to give that back to the fans.

The main take away from this documentary is to not to believe everything that is printed in the media.  Anelka is shown to be a tragic product of media scrutiny and to always be guilty in the court of public opinion as a result of this media scrutiny. As a result, the documentary not only gives personal insight and access to Anelka but is also a fantastic example of how much power and freedom the media can have over certain players. Therefore, I would recommend this documentary to not only football fans but also trainee journalists to learn about the ethics and values of the media industry, particularly the sports media industry.

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