ESPN slates 'Soccer Stories' films for runup to World Cup 2014

alex-gibney-brett-ratner-espn-tca-gi.jpgESPN is planning heavy coverage of the 2014 World Cup. In addition to live coverage of every game from Brazil, the sports network is launching a series of documentaries under its "30 for 30" banner in the lead-up to the tournament.

"30 for 30: Soccer Stories" will premiere April 22 with "Hillsborough," a feature-length film about the 1989 disaster in Sheffield, England, that killed 96 fans in an overcrowded stadium. Directed by Daniel Gordon ("9.79"), the movie chronicles the tragedy and also what emerged from it, including the birth of the Premier League several years later.

The series includes one other feature-length film, "White, Blue and White," about Argentinian stars Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa going to England to join Tottenham Hotspur in 1978 -- and Ardiles' decision to leave the club when the Falklands war broke out. It's set to air July 1. Six 30-minute films will also be part of the series, airing back-to-back in the weeks following the debut of "Hillsborough."

The six half-hour films are:

- "Garrincha: Crippled Angel," about the life of Brazilian star Mane Garrincha and the downward spiral it took after his World Cup career ended.

- "Barbosa," chronicling the national mourning after heavily favored Brazil's loss in the 1950 World Cup final and the blacklisting of goalkeeper Moacir Barbosa.

- "Ceasefire Massacre," from director Alex Gibney ("Catching Hell," "Taxi to the Darkside"), pictured above left. As Ireland was playing its first match of the 1994 World Cup against Italy -- and amid a climate that seemed to be pointing toward peace in Northern Ireland -- two gunmen entered a pub in a village south of Belfast and killed six fans watching the match.

- "The Opposition," about a bizarre qualifying match in Chile in 1973, shortly after the Pinochet coup. The Soviet team refused to play the match in Santiago, so the Chilean team scored a goal against no one -- and the result stood.

- "Maradona '86," an "operatic" look back at Argentine hero Diego Maradona's incredible 1986 World Cup, including the infamous Hand of God goal.

- "Mysteries of the Jules Rimet Trophy," in which director Brett Ratner (above right) focuses on a Nazi plot to steal the coveted trophy from Italy during World War II and the Italian soccer official who protected the trophy.

"Soccer Stories" also includes a set of 10 "vignettes" about Brazilian culture that will air throughout ESPN's World Cup coverage, including during pre-game shows and on "SportsCenter."

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