Phenomenon. Special. Legend. Wizard. Magical. These are but a few of the many superlatives bestowed upon FC Barcelona and now Vissel Kobe great Andrés Iniesta by football legends, friends and family members at the start of the new feature-length documentary, Andrés Iniesta – The unexpected hero. The film examines Iniesta’s life, from his humble roots in the small town of Fuentealbilla, Spain to his incredible on-field heroics, and reveals that, for those who know him, this champion is an even bigger hero when he steps off the pitch.
The family man
Produced by Rakuten TV and released today on Rakuten TV, Rakuten Sports and Rakuten Viki, the documentary opens up by introducing Iniesta’s family — including his wife, Ana Ortiz, and his four children — at his newfound home of Kobe, Japan, where he has played since 2018 for Rakuten-owned J.League club Vissel Kobe. Scenes of his home-life juxtaposed with interviews with his wife are heartwarming and at times heartbreaking, such as when they share about the late-term loss of a child. It’s a side of Iniesta that few fans have seen, and as the film walks us through his many triumphs, it somehow makes them resonate even more strongly.
Deciding to leave Barcelona for Japan
The film also delves into Iniesta’s move to Japan. He and his wife had always talked about taking on a new challenge, but had never considered Japan until Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani made the offer. But the timing was just right: Driven in part by Iniesta’s desire to give everything he had to give, which he felt was no longer possible at FC Barcelona, he and his family decided to join Vissel Kobe. Leaving behind family, friends and the only professional football club he had ever known was extremely difficult, but the story of his experience of joining a new club in a new country shines new light on some of his very best qualities.
Remarkable moments in a remarkable career
From his start in Barcelona’s famous youth academy, La Masia, that almost ended before it began, to his rise into FC Barcelona’s first team, the documentary makers talk with his family and coaches, including Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, as they recount Iniesta’s ascent through the ranks. In the first team, Iniesta quickly became a fixture alongside Xavi in one of football’s all-time great midfields, supporting the likes of Eto’o, Ronaldinho, Henry, and of course, Leo Messi up front. These Barca teams were at times unstoppable and included the most successful run of trophies in the club’s history. Yet despite the immense talent, Iniesta was never overshadowed and was often at his best when it mattered most, such as his unforgettable late winner in the 2009 Champions League semifinal.
But undoubtedly the moment that cemented his status as a football legend occurred the following year. In the world of football, few will ever be able to say that they scored the winning goal in a World Cup. Iniesta counts himself among that elite group, having netted the dramatic winner only four minutes from the end of extra time in the 2010 World Cup final, securing Spain’s maiden championship. Yet, the documentary reveals that, as historic and important as the goal itself was, Iniesta’s celebration that dedicated the goal to a friend may have left the greater impression.
There may be more documentaries to be made about Andrés Iniesta. His virtually unmatched level of success throughout his career practically guarantees it. But what makes Andrés Iniesta – The unexpected hero such an enjoyable film is how it makes this living football legend feel more like a brother. Andrés is one of us.
Documentary release by Rakuten TV
“Rakuten values empowerment, innovation and optimism which are perfectly illustrated in Iniesta’s personal and professional life,” commented Jacinto Roca, CEO and founder of Rakuten TV. “This story talks about personal self-improvement, starting from his beginnings in his small hometown, Fuentealbilla, up until becoming the captain of FC Barcelona. It is also about global innovation in the sport, thanks to his unique playing style. The documentary flows together to create an amazing story that we are proud to be part of, and we are excited to share within an innovative distribution system.”
Andrés Iniesta – The unexpected hero launches today on Rakuten TV, Rakuten Sports and Rakuten Viki. To help promote the release of the documentary, Andrés Iniesta will be responding with a personal video message to a selection of fan questions submitted to specified Rakuten accounts along with the #8tothe8 hashtag starting today.
In Japan, the documentary is available for free on Rakuten TV and Rakuten Sports. Rakuten Sports is a live streaming, video on demand and community platform that powers live sports matches from top leagues and features the original series Iniesta TV. The documentary also launches in the U.S. and Southeast Asia* on Rakuten Sports and Rakuten Viki. Rakuten Viki is the Rakuten Group’s global video streaming service that provides content translated by a volunteer community of fans. Global distribution will follow via Rakuten content partners.
In Europe, the documentary is available for free on Rakuten TV, one of the leading video-on-demand platforms in Europe, available in 42 countries. The documentary will be part of the AVOD (advertising video-on-demand) section of the platform, launched in October 2019. The FREE section compiles an offer of Hollywood movies, kids content and original and exclusive content without cost, such as Matchday – Inside FC Barcelona, MessiCirque, Inside Kilian Jornet and the newly added documentary about Sadio Mané, Made in Senegal.
* Singapore release on Rakuten Sports to follow at a later date.