Earlier this week, ESPN announced Remember the Blue & Yellow, the latest edition of its E60 docuseries. Wright Thompson was embedded with the Ukraine Men’s National Soccer Team for six months in nine countries, tracking the war, the impact it was having on the team, and the impact the team was having on Ukrainian citizens back home.
But this film isn’t just about soccer. It is, of course, about war and its impact. It is about love for your motherland. It is about family.
The interviews Thompson conducts with the Ukrainian players, coaches, and citizens drip with emotion. They’re angry about Russia waging war against their country. They’re sad about the losses suffered this year. They’re proud of their country and heritage.
In the midst of Russia invading their country, the Ukraine men's soccer team continued to try to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.
Over the past six months, Wright Thompson and @E60 followed the team's journey.
? Sunday | 5:30 PM ET | ESPN pic.twitter.com/xQy5ct2BFM
— ESPN (@espn) December 9, 2022
All of that emotion leads to compelling storytelling from Thompson and director Russell Dinallo. They keep the focus pretty tight and don’t get off track. It could be easy for the feature to get bogged down in topics less relevant to the main story, but it doesn’t. For instance, FIFA and UEFA’s decision to ban Russia from competitions, including the very World Cup Ukraine were attempting to qualify for, is mentioned, but it isn’t a major talking point. More time easily could have been spent on the topic, but it wouldn’t have added much, if anything, to the story. Better to deal with it quickly and focus on the main story.
The Ukrainians’ love for their homeland, and the national team by extension, emphatically comes out in the interviews and other clips, both at home and abroad. Anyone clamoring for Ukraine to sign a treaty ceding territory to Russia would think twice after seeing how resolute and dedicated the Ukrainians are to their homeland.
I would have liked to have seen more interviews with civilians around the time of the matches against Scotland and Wales, but I understand how difficult it would have been, given the tight timeframe between the two matches and the conditions in the country. I think that seeing the level of excitement around the team back home would have done a lot to bolster the story.
But overall, this is a superlative addition to the E60 franchise. Like many of the previous editions this year, it bursts with emotion, and unlike many topics in sports docs, it’ll at least make you feel *something*. ESPN should get plenty of credit for green lighting this feature, and Thompson and Dinallo should receive plaudits for how well-executed it is.
Remember the Blue & Yellow premieres on ESPN at 5:30 PM ET on Sunday, December 11th, and will be available to stream on ESPN.