By Joel Kalkopf
25th May 2021

The nature of a documentary should ideally be not only informative, but leave the audience with a message that aids the lesson. When it comes to sports documentaries, the parameters tend to be a little different - although, in reality, they shouldn't be. The best sports documentaries still leave a message, moulded by god-like athletes and their stories that capture the hearts of millions.

The Greek triumph at the 2004 European Championships might not have the mythic and legendary quests of Homers 'Odyssey', but Christopher Andre Marks' documentary 'King Otto' shows how this true underdog story managed to unite a nation, and displays the power of a positive mindset.

The Otto in reference is German football coach Otto Rehhagel, who after taking charge of the National football team in 2001, oversaw their most successful footballing era of all time. The Greek victory at the 2004 Euros is a real "where were you" moment, and is the focus of this documentary. To put this conquest into perspective, the National team had not even scored a goal at a major tournament - let alone won a game - before Otto's reign and this time, they were facing the world's best players on foreign soil. Even non-football fans can understand this level of heroism, and it's no coincidence that the film frequently references the stories of Greek gods and mythology.


"The gods always have their own plans," Otto tells his endearing fans, in a manner that suggests he knew all along they could pull off this million-to-one opportunity. And why not? Otto instils in his players the unwavering confidence that they can climb Everest, save the Titanic, or break through the walls of Troy. Not only is it infectious and endearing, but it all stems from his understanding that he needs to harness the proud nation's culture in order to get through to his players. It's the type of discovery that we can all learn from, and while it took Otto time to realise that, it was the breakthrough he needed to reinforce his philosophies.

As an avid sports fan - especially the world game of football - there is nothing new in 'King Otto' that any fan wouldn't know already. Otto famously doesn't detail his tactics, and we don't really get any insight into what he or his players were feeling during a match. There is no investigative journalism, no hidden insights, and no real revelations. The crux of the story is well-known and easily accessible on the internet. And yet the colourful Greek characters and inspiring story should still be enough to seek this out. It's joyous in how it captures the spirit of this team, and more importantly, the spirit of the Greek communities around the world.

"The gods always have their own plans," Otto tells his endearing fans, in a manner that suggests he knew all along that they could pull off this million-to-one opportunity.

'King Otto' reminds me of why I love the sport of football so much. Including archive footage of David Beckham scoring his famous free-kick against Greece in 2001 (he's so dreamy) is an easy way to my heart, but this tale is one of pride, passion and persistence. For football fans, this is a decent overview of the man behind the most remarkable fairytale, and for non-football fans, there are enough lessons here to leave you empowered, if not overjoyed.

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