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Hello all, we continue with our sports movie season of March Movie Madness by looking at the world’s most popular sport: soccer (or “football” as it is known to most of the world).
Football is the national sport of many countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. It’s easy to play, with a simple kick about, and the World Cup is the world’s biggest sporting event. But unfortunately the sport’s governing body, FIFA, is run by corrupt fools; somehow they think Russia and Qatar are better World Cup hosts than England, Australia, the United States and South Korea (as you can tell I‘m still a little bitter). Because of the sport’s popularity to people of all ages and instant appeal to footy fans, soccer films do have an international appeal. They are inspiring stories about how victory was achieved to stories looking at social issues.
In the Sports Movie Madness tournament, there are seven sports and one mega-category of miscellaneous sports, so eight regions total. This is the Soccer Region. Below are the eight soccer films we deemed most worthy of our tournament. There are four matchups based on these seedings and your job is to pick which movie you deem worthy of winning each matchup. Simply enter a comment by Saturday at 11:59 pm with the four movies you are picking to move on (once again, not any four movies, but one of the two movies going up against each other, so no voting for The Damned United and Goal: The Dream Begins, only one or the other) and your votes count! Each region will have three rounds and then the winner of each sports region will face off against the other sports until we have a winner!
1. Bend It Like Beckham
2. The Damned United
3. Green Street Hooligans
4. Shaolin Soccer
5. The Football Factory
7. Goal! The Dream Begins
8. The Big Green
1. Bend It Like Beckham vs. 8. The Big Green
Bend It Like Beckham is easily one of the biggest and most well-known football films in recent years. Starring Parminder Nagra, Bend It Like Beckham was Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ big break. This comedy-drama was not just about the sport but also a film about cultural identity, with a young woman battling the Indian culture of her parents and the English culture she grew up with. It is also a film about women breaking gender stereotype, while enjoying and playing the sport they love. This was a surprise hit in both sides of the Atlantic.
Football is a popular sport with children in the United States, so weirdly the only football film which focuses on junior soccer is The Big Green. Starring Steve Guttenberg, The Big Green has a similar plot to The Mighty Ducks, and is about a British schoolteacher and a town sheriff making a group of young misfits from school into a winning team. And Mr. Guttenberg sets out to defeat his own nemesis who’s coaching a rival team. A pure formula film.
4. Shaolin Soccer vs. 5. The Football Factory
Stephen Chow knows how to make a fun film and Shaolin Soccer combines two things I love: football and material arts. It is completely silly and outrageous (Hong Kong being good at football is laughable), but that is why people like this film as Chow and his team use their skills to beat Team Evil.
The dark side of football has produced the problem of hooligan and thugs aligned to clubs as an excuse to beat each other up. The low budget 2004 film The Football Factory was a gritty film that looked at different elements and ages with Chelsea’s hooligans and focuses on the run up between a FA Cup match between Chelsea and Millwall (their fans are really scary).
3. Green Street Hooligans vs. 6. Victory
The other hooligan film to make the list was Green Street Hooligans, the big Hollywood take on the issue with Elijah Wood trying to avoid being typecast after The Lord of the Rings. This film was more popular in America than in Europe and Charlie Hunnam could not do a Cockney accent to save his live. Wood plays a Harvard student who joins West Ham’s hooligan wing in a story about friendship whilst being very violent. At least my club’s theme song, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” was brought to an international audience.
Victory is loosely based on a true story of when the Ukrainian team Dyamno Kiev was able to beat and humiliate a film of SS soldiers. Hollywood gave this story their treatment about a group of Western POWs being forced to play against a propaganda match against the Nazis in Paris. This film features the actors like Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone and Max von Sydow with football legends Pele and Bobby Moore in a story of offering resistance. It is always uplifting viewing it, but the real story is sadly a lot darker.
8. The Damned United vs. 6. Goal: The Dream Begins
The Damned United is an adaptation of David Peace’s brilliant novel of the same name. Directed by Tom Hooper and starring Michael Sheen, quality was never going to be a problem for this fictional bio-pic about Brian Clough, the best manager England never had. This is a film that shows both the hard, dirty world of 1970s football filled with rough tackling and the world of football politics set during Cloughie’s doomed 44 day spell as Leeds United’s manager with flashbacks to when he managed Derby County.
FIFA wanted to get in on the act of the big bucks and PR the film industry could offer. They allowed real clubs to be used in the rags-to-riches story about Santiago Muñez (Kuno Becker), an illegal Mexican immigrant in Los Angeles who gets the opportunity to play for the Premier League club Newcastle United. Yes, it’s clichéd and predictable, but it was uplifting and fun.