When FC Barcelona were filming the first edition of ‘Matchday’, its behind-the-scenes docuseries, it almost ended in spectacular fashion.
Ernesto Valverde’s side had wrapped up the league title early, were in the final of the Copa del Rey and 3-0 up from the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie with Liverpool.
However, an infamous collapse at Anfield and a surprise loss to Valencia scuppered hopes of the documentary becoming the story of an extraordinary treble-winning season.
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“We were three games away from having probably the best football insider ever, and not because we were producing it, but because of the participation of the players,” Paco Latorre, director of Barca Studios, tells GOAL.
“We really had Lionel Messi on board, Gerard Pique on board, Luis Suarez on board, Sergio Busquets on board, Jordi Alba on board, Marc-Andre ter Stegen on board and one thing that is very important in this kind of content is that the protagonists make it their story.”
Take two, however, ended perfectly. Following the club’s women’s team throughout the 2020-21 season, Latorre and Barca Studios belatedly landed their treble.
Lluis Cortes’ team lost just one game on their way to the league title, beat Chelsea 4-0 in the Champions League final and came out on top in a six-goal thriller with Levante in the Copa de la Reina.
“We said they should record documentaries every year if they end like that!” Alexia Putellas, who won the Ballon d’Or for her efforts in Barca’s historic season, tells GOAL.
“Let them come all the time!”
‘Matchday: Queens of the Pitch’, which premiered on Barca TV on February 25, is a rarity in being a docuseries on a women’s football team.
It featured an all-female shooting crew and wasn’t something Barcelona consciously chose to do – it was simply a “very natural” next step after the first series.
It is naturally very different to its predecessor, too.
“You can imagine it's not the same dealing with Messi or dealing with Alexia,” Latorre explains. “Dealing with Pique or dealing with Jenni [Hermoso]. They were much easier to deal with.
“Someone like Messi, someone like Suarez, someone like Pique, you can imagine they've been in the spotlight for what, 15 years now?” he adds.
“They are too used to the cameras. The girls, they were much more authentic, original, natural. That was a big bonus.”
The idea of the club being one of the first to do this with its women’s team follows a theme it stands for, too. “It’s important, this line of being pioneers, having visions and sticking to them,” Latorre says.
This success would not have come without the team’s pioneers, to whom the series pays tribute.
The first women’s game at Camp Nou came back in 1970 and that is one of the first topics touched upon in the series.
The stories of Melanie Serrano, the 32-year-old defender who has spent her whole career at Barca, and Vicky Losada, captain of the treble-winning team who had three spells with the club before leaving last summer, are showcased, too.
"It’s where we come from. She’s a player we can only thank for paving the way,” 24-year-old midfielder Aitana Bonmati says of Serrano in the first episode of the show.
"Without players like her, we wouldn’t be where we are now."
Also featured in that same episode is one of the few setbacks that Barca experienced last season – the Spanish Super Cup defeat to Atletico Madrid.
That the documentary begins in disappointment but ends in success is something that Putellas believes “says a lot about the team we are”.
Throughout that journey, in this rare look inside an elite women’s football team, there are two main things that stand out.
“One is commitment, dedication,” Latorre says. “I think that's something that many people still don't realise when talking about women's football – how committed, how dedicated, how professional, how focused these girls are.
“There is still so much, sometimes, disrespect in thinking that this is just a bunch of girls who meet and then they call each other almost for Sunday's game. It's not the case. Here you see proper professionalism.”
The other is what he describes as “the secret of success” – that this team is a family.
“You see that we're a really connected team,” Barca winger Lieke Martens tells GOAL. “That we really help each other. That not everyone had a really good season.
“For example, one of the girls had an ACL injury. It wasn't easy, but we tried to help her off the pitch. She felt really connected. It's not easy when you're not with the team, but she still felt connected.
“I think you'll see we had something special on the pitch last season, but also off the pitch.”
“You see it in that episode with Vicki and Emma,” Latorre adds, referring to Losada sharing a touching moment with her partner, former Arsenal goalkeeper Emma Byrne, in the stands after the UWCL final triumph.
“It's like a family enjoying together a very, very sweet moment. I think that's the secret of the success of the team and also something that we tried to portray.
"That's also part of our success in the production in really conveying this spirit.”
Women’s football isn’t necessarily a regular feature of television or film, particularly when it comes to documentaries.
‘Queens of the Pitch’ is a rare example of a production that gives the audience the real insight into what it means to be an elite female athlete.
Why doesn’t more of this exist? That’s another question altogether, but it would be fitting should Barca prove to be pioneers again.