Directed by: #TheBrindleTwins
Written by: #TheBrindleTwins
Being a football fan is miserable right now (and I say that not just because I support Liverpool). Empty stadiums, mind-boggling VAR checks deciding games, pay-per-view – for the majority of us the game has lost sight of what made us fall in love with our teams. But we are after all lucky that our teams are still there for us. The Premier League, Championship, and European leagues are still on every weekend. Grassroots reminds us that away from the glitz and glamour, thousands of Sunday league pitches are empty – and their teams’ absence hits their players and fans hard.
Directed by twin brothers Alex and Lewis Brindle, Grassroots is a short tribute to the beautiful game at its rawest, purest level. Black and white footage of the pre-match routine – from early wake-ups to arriving at the club with boots in hand – is overlayed with voiceover messages of players expressing their love for amateur football and the important role it plays in their lives. As we arrive at the pitch, the voices are replaced with eerie silence as the COVID-imposed emptiness reminds us that for the time being, none of it is there for us.
Grassroots manages to be emotional, moving, depressing, haunting and uplifting all in the space of 5 short minutes. The authentic and honest eulogies from real Sunday league players, coupled with a homemade, simplistic directional style, make a faithful interpretation of the importance of the sport in people’s lives. The Brindle Twins’ decision to let real voices do the talking is a brilliant one, making the film relatable to its audience.
The monochrome footage builds brilliantly with the vocals, to a crowning moment of a barren, empty pitch accompanied only by the sound of the wind. It is a perfect encapsulation of the loss felt by those in the game, and the space in their life that nothing else can ever quite fill. As the silence becomes almost unbearable, viewers will be relieved to see colour return to their screen, for imposed sounds of whistles and balls being kicked to form in the distance, and for one contributor to remind us: “It will be back”. And, as he goes on to state; perhaps we will all appreciate it more once it is.
Grassroots manages to brilliantly represent the devastating impact of lockdown on Sunday league football, and the devotees for whom its loss shows it is more than just a game. And yet despite the unique, and hopefully temporary circumstances of the film’s creation, threats to the sport at amateur level have existed long before the pandemic, and will continue to exist once it is over. Lack of funding, support and infrastructure are challenges faced by local teams that also threaten their existence. In this context, the message of Grassroots extends far beyond 2021, and its tribute to amateur football is one we may need to constantly remind ourselves of.