King Otto works a superb balance of comic relief and historical drama bringing us into the world of a forgotten sports team who was all but ignored by their own country. The film chronicles a pinnacle moment in Otto Rehhagel’s career, a former football champion, who was brought in to coach the disarray of the Greek national football team. It’s an in-depth contextual look off the pitch that takes what Netflix’s The Playbook did with Jose Mourinho last year a step further.
Otto Rehhagel was brought in to instill a new discipline in 2001 to the Greek team who continually failed to qualify for the European Championships for over two decades and were plagued with the back to back savaging in the 1994 World Cup.
The film skims over the internal politics with regards to Otto reconfiguring the team, making cuts and recruiting new debutantes, that would form the new cohesive machine he was looking to make worthy of international A-Grade football. Instead, the film focuses on the culture differences in German and Greek stereotypes which provide for many comical setups peppered throughout the 90 minute feature. It reunites the players with their former coach as they recount the adjustment period, new training regimens, language barriers through narrations and old media clips. These challenges that would later become a turning point in Greek football redeeming a nation’s embarrassment into pride.
Die-hard fans will appreciate the insight into the internal team dynamics, however the Director seems mindful of telling a story that will resonate with non-soccer fans using a performative format. Though we already knew how the film would end for its protagonists, the setup is playful as we await the resolution reminiscent of similar glimpses we saw at Leicester’s recent win earlier this month in the FA Cup.
2004 was a great year in European football ruled by the “Golden Generation” of Portugal who that year hosted the UEFA Euro Cup. Many legends of the time brought the attention of the world upon the 8 cities that hosted the 31 matches across 10 venues. The summer tournament was a gripping display of surprises and upsets. Germany, Spain and Italy were defeated in the initial group matches, with Greece entering the quarter-finals miraculously toppling the defending French champions. The odds on Greece winning the title were 300:1 which is why to this day the achievement remains one of the most significant upsets in Euro Cup history.
Directed by Christopher André Marks (Tiger Hood, 2015) and produced by Shani Hinton (Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, 2019), King Otto shows how two contrasting cultures came together to speak the same language and write a new chapter of Greek mythology.