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A look at some football movie favourites

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Football fever is rising and the action is just getting started. Here’s a look at our pick of some favourite football movies

Argentina is facing a first-round exit, big names like Spain and Germany are yet to set the stage on fire, while Mexico and Russia have won fans with their attacking approach. The latest edition of the Football World Cup is upon us. In keeping with the sporting spirit of the season, we take a look at some movies, where the world’s favourite sport takes the centre stage.

Fever Pitch

A look at some football movie favourites

This film is a light-hearted romantic comedy where football club Arsenal plays a crucial role in the love story of fan and English teacher Paul, essayed by Colin Firth, and Sarah. The film, based on Nick Hornby’s book by the same name, is set in 1989 and follows the couple as Arsenal closes in on an incredible season win. For those not initiated with English football, this was the year that Arsenal won the title after 18 years, and lives on in collective memory for the Hillsborough disaster, that resulted in many fans being killed in a human crush.

Coming back to the film, there are very few movies made from the perspective of the fan, and this flick ticks all the boxes in that category. Much like the excellent book, the movie makes an attempt to understand the reasons that make folks pick and support a football team. Colin Firth’s short monologue on his love for Arsenal, delivered after a narrow loss, is quite touching and funny at the same time. Of course, the movie does not live up to the potential of the book, but it serves us a nice breezy romantic ride, with dollops of fandom added to the mix. The next time a layperson asks you about your love for a team or club that is thousands of kilometres away, this movie would serve as a decent explainer.

The Damned United

A look at some football movie favourites

This is the partly fictional tale of Brian Clough, a young football manager, who after successfully leading underdogs Derby County to the top reaches of English club football, eventually finds himself taking charge of Leeds United, bitter rivals of his erstwhile club. It is a job that Clough hates, and his time with a team he loathes is just conflict-filled days. The film is very well made, though most of the drama happens off the field than on it. Clough’s ride to the top and his subsequent fall is documented well in this movie that keeps going backward and forward. It is a film that throws light on the tribal loyalty that binds fans, players and managers alike. Micheal Sheen, as the passionate yet rather tactless Clough, is excellent, as is the performance by his deputy in the team, Peter Taylor, played by Timothy Spall. This is a film that focuses on one of the most colourful characters in the sport and succeeds in offering a fairly balanced view.

Sudani from Nigeria

A look at some football movie favourites

This Malayalam flick from earlier this year inverts many of the standard sports movie tropes. It does not have inspirational speeches, is not a comeback-from-behind or beating-all-odds story. It is a tale about a player, Samuel, from a war zone in Africa, who ends up playing in a middling team in a league in Kerala. A freak injury forces the team manager, Majeed (Soubin Shahir) to take care of Samuel, and the film dwells on the relationship Samuel goes on to develop with the family of his host. Football played in dusty stadia by men and boys wearing team and club jerseys, with loud, over-the-top commentary is a key element in the film. The characters are not top league footballers and are not looking at million-dollar deals to ink. They are united by a love and passion for the sport. The film also takes a look at inequality, poverty and the manner in which a sport can help bridge boundaries of race and culture. It is a racy watch, and what is most impressive is the fact that the ending is quite understated. The football scenes are shot well, and unlike movies like the forgettable De Dana Dan, the film does not pander to stereotypes.

Shaolin Soccer

A look at some football movie favourites

Martial arts meets football in this Hong Kong sports comedy feature. Director and lead actor Stephen Chow puts together a plot so uncannily ridiculous, that any other form of this movie will be shred to pieces by critics. But the Chinese actor’s hilarious script and fabulous casting make for an incredible addition to the hall of fame of football’s greatest flicks. Creating a rare comic flair combination with a minimalistic storyline and cartoonish visual effects, the movie leaves you wondering why no one thought of it before.

A look at some football movie favourites

Playing the role of Sing, a modern-day Shoalin monk who attempts to use his mastery over traditional martial arts to benefit modern society, Chow takes audiences on a roller-coaster ride through the streets of Hong Kong’s underbelly. He goes on to reunite his five brothers, each with a unique Kung Fu skill, but wasting away on making ends meet, to use their Shaolin strengths on the football field. Leading with his unstoppable kicks and the reinvigorated anime-like martial arts of his brothers, Chow leads them to win after win in a football tournament. Things take a turn for the worse when a drug-high team nearly defeats them in the finals of the tournament, until Sing’s love interest, played by the beautiful Zhao Wei, joins the team for a surprise win. Everything from over-the-top CGI to anime soccer moves comes to life in this unusually entertaining movie.

Goal!

A classic rags-to-riches story, this 2005 movie is reminiscent of the Slumdog Millionaire story, albeit it happens on the field. With Kuno Becker playing Mexican footballer Santiago Munez, the movie traces the life of a young sports maniac who refused to accept his circumstances and dreamt larger than life. While the movie bags no prizes for originality, it compensates with an incredibly lucid story of warmth and inspiration. What sets this movie apart is that it was made with the full cooperation of FIFA, which is why we see actual teams and players in the flick. Such was its commercial success that it spun off a trilogy with Becker continuing to shine and grow from upcoming Mexican star to seasoned actor.

Picked up for his skills with the ball, Munez plays a very convincing role as a struggling footballer, both on the field and off it. Despite the odds mounting against him in his personal life, he goes on to not just make his dream come true, but also conquer it. The subsequent movies continue to follow the footballer to the Champions League final and sharing screen time with Charlie Braithwaite (Leo Gregory) and Liam Adams (JJ Feild).

Bend it like Beckham

A look at some football movie favourites

While there has been a fair share of football movies with female actors as the lead, including Gracie (2007), none come quite as close to being a hit as this 2002 cinematic experience. A potpourri of language, culture and family comedy, the movie is a celebration of football and the game’s ability to change people’s lives. Trailing the life of an 18-year-old daughter of Punjabi Sikhs settled in London — Jesminder ‘Jess’ Bhamra, played by Parminder Nagra — the movie is a case study on the lives of Indians abroad, traditional families handling modern-day situations and celebrating freedom for women in sports.

While her parents want her to ‘settle down’, marry and have kids, Jess has other plans. More infatuated with football than the boys in her class, she doesn’t just tackle opponents on the field, but also her conservative family’s attempts to curb her spirit.

Aided by her English friend Jules, the duo beat the odds and recreate the magic of Beckham’s freekick in this amazing filmy window into Indo-European cross-culturalism and the inside lives of aspiring female footballers.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 9:00:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/best-foot-forward/article24252860.ece

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