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Ted Lasso: The Beautiful Game

I hate football. Or rather, I really dislike football. I have always found the sport to be quite frightening, alienating and often cannot comprehend why people get so excited over watching others kick a ball into a net.

So, it may come as a surprise when I say that I utterly adore the football-centric Ted Lasso, a show that has changed my perspective of the game entirely.

Those who have yet to tune in can be forgiven for believing that this is a show all about football, but it is much more than that

Originating as a character in an NBC sports ad in 2013, Ted Lasso debuted as an Apple TV+ show in 2020. It tells the story of the titular character (played by Jason Sudeikis), an American football coach hired to be the new coach of AFC Richmond in the UK. The catch? He knows nothing about football. We follow Ted, the team and all those involved with the club as they navigate the game itself and the life that they have beyond it. I was hesitant to watch the show but after all of the buzz that it garnered (including seven Emmy wins for its first season!) I reluctantly hit play.

And I am so glad that I did.

As Ted Lasso wrapped up its third and supposed final season in May, I have begun to realise how impactful this show has been for me. Those who have yet to tune in can be forgiven for believing that this is a show all about football, but it is far much more than that. As Ted tells the journalist and writer Trent Crimm (James Lance), in response to his book about Richmond FC, “It’s not about me. It never was.”

Ted Lasso is ultimately about people, and the beauty in the everyday. Throughout the show we go on a journey with all of its characters, watching them grow, develop, learn and make mistakes; it is a show in which there is genuine, impactful development between each episode and season.

Ted processes his anxiety and father’s passing, Jamie Tart (Phil Dunster) turns from a self-centred celebrity into a considerate, self-aware human being, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) moves from wanting to burn Richmond FC to the ground to loving it wholeheartedly and selling it to the fans. Nate Shelley (Nick Mohammed) goes through an entire villain origin story, realising that actions have consequences before finally beginning to realise his own self-worth. Keely (Juno Temple) tackles the dark side of fame whilst becoming a powerful business and media mogul whilst Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) slowly tackles his built-up exterior. We also see Richmond team member, Colin Hughes (Billy Harris) grapple with his sexuality, in a refreshing take on what it means to be LGBTQ+ in professional sport, which is vitally needed for so many across the globe.

Ted Lasso deals with an excessive amount of content, which is one of its main criticisms. One could argue that its rather saccharine, positive mindset pushes social issues upon the audience. But isn’t this what we need right now? In a TV landscape full of sex, violence and drama, it is rather refreshing to see a show that deftly balances the difficult moments that many face in life with the affirming message that things can truly get better. It is also satisfying to witness the true demise of a villain, seen here with the owner of West Ham United, Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head).

It is fair to say that the show’s third season suffers from being slightly bloated with long run times to accommodate one too many plot points. None of that really matters, however, as the show manages to offer a send-off to its vast array of characters that reflect the huge global audience that adore football, characters that I have grown to love.

football isn’t just about the game, it’s about the people it brings together

In genuinely caring for these characters whilst watching the show, I began to see how important and incredible football can be. In perhaps my favourite moment of the series, Rebecca delivers a rousing speech to club owners, chastising them for trying to further monetise football and take it away from the hands of those who love the game: the people. Rebecca says she doesn’t want to be “part of something that could possibly destroy this beautiful game”, as a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Spiegel im Spiegel can be heard in the background. I shed tears when watching this. Tears for a game that I usually hate. Through the lives of the characters, that I came to deeply care for, I finally realised that football isn’t just about the game, it’s about the people it brings together, the feelings that it can rouse and the communities, friendships and relationships that it can forge.

Now, I may not be heading to a football match anytime soon, but I will forever be grateful for Ted Lasso for teaching me the beauty of ‘The Beautiful Game’.

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