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Photo: Euro 2020, Football Movies
For the purposes of this article, and out of respect to EURO 2020, we will call soccer by its real name – football. So when we say football, we mean soccer. Unless, we are talking about American Football.
Football in Europe is the undisputed number one sport and science that governs all aspects of entertainment, social life, and even politics under the sun. Meanwhile, in America – it’s not really a thing. Among the zillion reasons why football is not as popular in the US as in the rest of the world, several main cultural differences seem to stand out:
- American sports are usually equipment-heavy, while football is not – and you can play it almost everywhere, all you need is something resembling a ball and two rocks to mark the goal;
- Football is by no means a traditional sport in America like it is in the UK and Western Europe;
- Americans are pretty inward-oriented in cultural terms and usually don’t pay much attention to what is happening outside US borders, while Europeans, Africans, Asians, and South Americans seem to be more interested in what other continents are up to and what’s hot there. Historically, that facilitated the isolation of the US from the rest of the world sports.
It’s also fair to say, however, that many Americans do like football. And the sport is becoming increasingly popular every year, with the MLS league attracting more and more attention from investors and the media, and inviting top players to play in the league. America’s performance in the two recent World Championships has improved drastically and team USA is now a force to be reckoned with, so it’s safe to predict that Americans will be more engaged in the sport in the next few years.
Maybe that will also reflect on the movie industry, which usually is the main trendsetter inside and outside the US – right now, there are not so many movies about football that have hit the spotlight in America. So, in order to pay my respects to the ongoing Euro 202 tournament, which is without a doubt the biggest sports happening after the World Championship over there, I suggest we take a look at the five most important football movies that have reached the spotlight in the US and all over the world.
If you turn a blind eye to how the movie seems to suggest that being a hooligan is a good thing because it gives you confidence and eventually helps you find your more ruthless, masculine avatar, it occasionally does a pretty good job at depicting what being in a UK football hooligan firm could feel like and how the threats that come with it cannot be dismissed because you grew a conscience and became wiser at the end. With some well-written random scenes about cultural differences between UK and US fandom and Elijah Wood’s textbook performance of a vulnerable college kid paired with Charlie Hunman’s hardly convincing East London accent, the movie takes us on a journey with some cringe-worthy but equally hilarious moments. Just don’t take it too seriously.
‘Goal! The Dream Begins’
To me, “Goal!” is a movie that embodies the essence of football and why people go crazy about it – it’s probably the simplest of the sports and that has somehow made it magical to billions. In the same way, there is not a single scene in any of the three ‘Goal’ movies (btw, the first one is the best by far) that is not predictable. The film is so loaded with cliches that you can barely resist the temptation to finish every dialogue by yourself but somehow it does what every great underdog tale succeeds to do – it makes you cheer relentlessly for Santiago Nunez, a teenage nobody rising from the slums of Mexico to superstardom in the UK and all the vaudeville drama that comes with it. There is not a single character in the movie that you have not seen over and over in other films. All that said, I have watched the movie at least three times and enjoyed every moment of it, and that just might be the magic of football.
‘The Two Escobars’
The rumors of the cartel’s merciless rule in Colombia hit different when the news about the murder of Andres Escobar came about. Reportedly, the murder happened in retaliation for him having scored his own goal which contributed to the team’s elimination from the tournament. His murder tarnished the image of the country internationally – it’s also worth mentioning that this happened after Pablo Escobar’s death, and the documentary does a great job of depicting the state of the whole nation, trampled under crime, with the two Escobars on the opposite sides of the public and with football as the medium connecting everything – gangsters, money, politics, and athletes.
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Before he started acting, Vinnie Jones had an actual career in football, he even made it to the Welsh national team. He became famous when a photo of him clenching the private parts of Paul Gascoigne during a match became popular and that spirit is well-reflected in Barry Skolnick’s 2002 movie, which is about a match that takes place in a UK prison between the prisoners and the prison guards. Vinnie Jones’ character is a corrupt football player who was put in jail for rigging an important match and who now has to assemble the prison team who will face the guards in the final game. Jason Statham plays a particularly hilarious character, ‘The Monk’ – a manic Scottish ex-goalkeeper with a cheerful inclination to violence. All in all, it’s a lovely, albeit nonsensical film and a fun 90 minutes of different British accents.
‘Looking For Eric’
Ken Loach, the master of social realism and critique in cinema is a director hardly known for sports comedies, or movies that are funny in any way really. And yet, like a true Brit, he came forth giving his homage to football fans by shooting ‘Looking for Eric’ – a heartwarming feel-good movie about a postman from Manchester who is a football fanatic whose life is descending into crisis. After a brief meditation session with his fellow postmen in his living room (and smoking cannabis stolen from his stepson), he hallucinates about his football hero, the famously philosophical Eric Cantona, who gives him advice on how to navigate his life. All that results in a realistic, down-to-earth comedy probably more applicable to football fans than the traditional audience of Ken Loach’s great filmography.
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David Tsintsadze is a music industry executive, investigative reporter and a film enthusiast. As far back as he remembers, he always wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry. When that started to happen and he began to really understand how it all worked, he found that his love of both the creative arts and the relevant industry allowed him to move between the two worlds and make them relate to each other. David’s belief in meaningful entertainment coincides with Hollywood Insider’s values and in his vision, cultural intermediaries play a crucial role in shaping and exchanging culture, which he firmly believes is one of the main contribution in creation of a free and vibrant society that people want to live in.