Great Football Managers and Film Directors: The Similarities and Differences

On this day, I would like to discuss the blatantly dissimilar yet fascinating overlap in nature of the art of filmmaking or film directing, and the role of a Football (soccer) manager. The essence and fluency of a great film generally lies in the vision and imagination of its director. Likewise, the flow and fluency in a tireless team’s effort on a football pitch reflects the vision and demands of the manager in charge.

Every little detail on a football pitch is planned, defined, and refined for players to orchestrate and execute. The role of a football manager is to make sure each of his players knows his role. When conducted with under the right direction of a manager, the game will inevitably display sheer talent and an elevation of skill and precision, at least on their side of the pitch.

Like a football manager, on a movie set, a film director must prepare a game plan for the movie. The director must rehearse (training/practice), storyboard the script (detail a strategy formation), work with each actor and help them understand the character more clearly (motivate the players and clarify their role on the pitch with each step/run), and finally hire the best and most suited collaborators aside from the actors to make a good picture (hire the best assistant managers/training staff and medical support staff).

In major North American sports such as: Hockey, Baseball, Basketball, for example, the job of acquiring/trading players, signing contracts, dealing with cap space (salary cap), or scouting young up and coming players is delegated to a “General Manager”. However, a football manager, unlike the aforementioned sports and their respective leagues, must oversee every aspect of a football team, aside from producing the finances for the club.

Likewise, in the process of making a film, a good director does not always need to produce his own films, but must worry about the finances at times, including a tight schedule and the input of investors (producers). Thus, the film director must be equipped with a high form of competence and intelligence to oversee many aspects of the job and exercise restraint and zen-like qualities in spite of these pressures and demands in order to transform not only his vision onto the screen, but also to maximize the performances of the lead actors, the supporting cast, and the numerous other collaborators on the set. What we see in a film is essentially what the director has imagined and put together, little by little, in careful collaboration with those working under them.

It is in this light that I see the best directors and football managers having very similar qualities and extreme sense of work ethic, of which they demand of themselves and those who work for them. It is an essential requirement to be meticulous, driven and to have a remarkably acute awareness of challenges and potential setbacks. Each must also be a masterful mind reader as well, in order to manipulate those around them to work for them and want to work for them.

In order to give examples of great film directors and football managers, I can only think of one name for each. Although this may be controversial, I think the two men are arguably the two most detail-oriented artists of their craft. In the world of football there is a man named Jose Mourinho a.k.a. “The Special One” who emphasizes a strong work ethic from everybody around him, but that is not all. He is a highly motivated individual, and has reached the border of arrogance at times, but is generally a man who is highly confident in his abilities. He has a strong attention to detail for each minute of every game and most important of all, has a Machiavellian approach to football in order to motivate his players and unleash psychological warfare on his opponents.

In the world of film, those who are movie buffs will probably already know who I am nominating, and you would be right if you thought it’d be none other than, David Fincher. This acclaimed film director has passion for filmmaking. His style is unique, and his attention to detail, also relentless. Many actors, if not all, speak of this director fondly of elevating their performances, and maximizing their strengths.

To conclude, it is worthy to take note that the amassed responsibilities of these two roles is unlike little else. It is one of the hardest things to achieve, which is to become a great film director or a great football manager. And of course, so much is riding on your hands, and if anything goes wrong, it is your fault. Major decisions must be made quickly, and swiftly before, and after the words “action/cut” and likewise, before the kickoff and final whistles. Furthermore, unlike other major sports, in football, there is no stoppage or break on the time clock. So, time is of the essence, along with everything else.

We have arrived inevitably to the part where I entertain the idea of whether Jose Mourinho could direct a film or that David Fincher could manage a football team. Although I don’t think it is possible for them to succeed immediately, I do think that the two do have the ability to bring out the best in people.

However, I have just realized I’ve done a disservice to myself, because now I can’t relinquish the thought of Jose Mourinho as a film director! I wonder what kind of director he’d be. I’m sure he wouldn’t be much different to David Fincher. Except, Mr. Mourinho would then probably call Ridley Scott a “specialist of failure”.

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