A few weeks before the World Cup, ARD is showing a gripping crime series about football, a business worth billions.
Frankfurt – Similar to the Olympic Games, soccer World Cups are something like a license to print money. But because the World Cup only takes place every four years, the President of the World Football Association (WFA) has an idea of how a few billion more could be earned, and that every year: with a “World League”. A first supposedly secret test vote in the WFA Council leads to a narrow defeat, but of course the powerful puller knows ways and means to convince the fickle of his line.
The scenario is fictional. Nevertheless, the parallels to reality cannot be overlooked; It is no coincidence that the world league plans are reminiscent of the “Super League”, with which European clubs around Real Madrid failed a few years ago due to protests from the fans. The only question is: How can a series be designed around this core plot that captivates eight episodes at the highest level? The answer is: love. The central character of “Spiel am Abgrund” is the Berlin lawyer Lea Brandstätter (Birgit Minichmayr).
|Lea Brandstaetter||Birgit Minichmayr|
|Jean Leco||Raymond Thiry|
|Marcel Fork||Max von der Groeben|
|Richard Rimbauer||Tom Wlaschiha|
|Emmanuel Canoe||Farba Dieng|
Her friend David (Itay Tiran) is a talent scout and runs a youth campus on Lake Constance together with his partner (Tom Wlaschiha): He keeps an eye out for talented young football players on the dusty football pitches of black Africa, brings them to Germany and, in the best case, places them for a lot of money to big clubs. When David burns to death in his car in front of Lea’s eyes when he meets a sports journalist in the Alte Försterei, Union Berlin’s home ground, the police assume it was an accident, but hooligan Marcel (Max von der Groeben) noticed that David had previously been killed by been mugged by Russian thugs; Marcel’s best buddy was killed in the process.
Crime series “The Net: Playing on the Abyss” thrives on character constellations
On the character level, the series draws its appeal from this unusual constellation: Lea wants to find out why David, who was obviously involved in something big, had to die. Marcel, fresh out of prison and with more muscles than brains, wants revenge; so the two get together. Lea stumbles upon David’s connection to world football’s governing body, while Marcel worms his way into the trust of Mikhail (Surho Sugaipov), a Russian who runs a gym on a derelict industrial site. His friend worked here, and the Russian thugs come and go here too. The series also makes good use of the contrast between the run-down industrial site and the glittering world of the football association with its Zurich headquarters and luxury hotels.
Airtime “The Net: Game on the Abyss” (ARD)
from November 3rd at 8.15 p.m. or in advance in the ARD media library
However, the level with Marcel and the Russians could have been told more concisely, especially since Lea’s investigations are much more complex. During her research she is not only pursued by a henchman of the WFA, she also gets in the way of the European Anti-Corruption Agency, which finally wants to put an end to the frauds of the WFA boss Jean Leco.
The Dutchman Raymond Thiry puts on the functionary as stoically as his brilliant BKA profiler in the short-lived Sat.1 thriller series “Nemez und Sneijder”. Leco is the spider in the web that at least appears to give the series its title. However, the screenplays (chief author: Bernd Lange) amaze, especially in the last few episodes, with new and completely unpredictable twists and turns, so that it finally shows: Basically, Leco is just a character in a game.
International locations, mysterious deaths: “The Net: Play from the Abyss” series at the highest level
The story is one of imposing complexity, and that’s not just true of the ever-expanding circles that Lea’s research draws when she discovers mysterious deaths among African talent; Thanks to the broadcasting time of around 360 minutes, the script team was also able to integrate a large number of seemingly irrelevant details into the plot. In terms of craftsmanship, the series is at the highest level anyway, the image design alone (Juan Sarmiento G.) with its rich colors is worthy of an award (director: Rick Ostermann).
But despite all the effort with international locations and glamorous locations, the real fascination results from the ambivalence of many characters. Leco, for example, isn’t even unsympathetic thanks to Thiry’s subtle play. The ensemble is also cast very interestingly in the supporting roles. At the same time, another project was created under the collective title “Das Netz” (overall concept: Martin Hartmann, Pinio Bachmann): The Austrian series “Prometheus” (from October 28 in the ARD media library) is about a very special form of exploitation young player, the two productions overlap in terms of content. (Tilman P. Gangloff)