Far from the bright lights and billions of dollars flowing through the highest echelons of global professional soccer, the game itself feeds off and fuels an entire culture. One significant part of that is street football, played on pavement pitches of all shapes and sizes in urban centers around the world.
Street football in France–primarily coming out the country’s public housing blocks in the suburbs, known as les banlieues— has helped produce some of the country’s biggest soccer stars, like Riyad Mahrez, Serge Aurier, and Ousmane Dembélé, all of whom make an appearance in a documentary about the scene and its influence on the global game.
Produced by Paris-based creative agency Yard, with help and input from Nike, Concrete Football (or Ballon Sur Bitume) just landed on Netflix worldwide. It joins docs like Netscout’s Lo and Behold (directed by Werner Herzog), Dick’s Sporting Goods’ We Could Be King, and Nike’s upcoming collaboration with National Geographic Breaking2, as just the latest example of agencies and brands creating documentary content good enough to live alongside more traditionally produced films.
“Nike Football backed the documentary because they’re very active in the street football scene, and a lot of their athletes came from this movement” says Yard cofounder Tom Brunet. “Dembélé, Mahrez, (Kylian) Mbappé, these guys all got their start playing on asphalt before they took to the grass for pro teams.”
Fellow Yard cofounder Yoan Prat says that the country’s street football scene is thriving in such a way it’s impossible to ignore, and its connections between sport and pop culture are significant. The film features interviews with some of the biggest names in French rap–Gradur, MHD, OhPlai, Niska–to make this point, and highlight how the scene is more than just the sport, but part of a lifestyle.
“There have been a lot of pro players who have come out of this scene, and we had the sense that most people didn’t know the culture all that well,” says Prat. “Twenty years ago, it was all about playground basketball culture–the scene was trendy and everyone knew about it. It was about more than basketball, there was a whole lifestyle that came from it. Now it’s football.”