The world’s top footballers may live the lifestyle of film stars, but rarely has the sport successfully made the transition onto the big screen. While the plot may be strong and the characters believable, rarely will the sporting action appear believable or convincing. After all, apart from Vinnie Jones, few former-players have sidestepped into acting. Whiling away their vacation, the OxStu sport team dug out some of their favourite football films…
(Disclaimer: These clips may contain explicit language)
Kuno Becker stars in this rags-to-riches tale in which a Mexican illegal-immigrant living in the US is spotted by an ex-Newcastle scout on holiday. Can young Santiago Munez swap a future of working for his dad’s gardening business for the glamour Premier League football? Will he be able to overcome the challenges of asthma, bitter reserve team has-beens and the appalling weather and break into the side? A below-par plot is boosted by cameos from Becks, Zidane and Raul alongside convincing match footage. Two disappointing sequels followed and real-life Newcastle were relegated to the Championship.
Escape To Victory
A ‘Great Escape’ for the terraces, this 1981 flick sees Michael Caine and Sly Stallone play their way out of a WW2 prisoner of war camp in a game of footy against their guards. With Stallone better known as boxer Rocky and the German side aided by a biased ref, things don’t look too good for the Allies. Luckily, Caine has managed to sign up Pele, Ossie Ardiles and Bobby Moore. Better for the football than the story, it’s enjoyable enough on a Saturday after coming home from a game. For the inspirational real life version listen to this on FC Start.
The Premier League meets EastEnders via Midsummer. In 1997 Sky launched their very own football soap which followed the fortunes of the players and staff of fictional Harchester United. With ex-pro Andy Ansah (the man who coined the phrase ‘unbelievable tekkers’) choreographing training sessions with the actors and Sky Sports’ catalogue of match footage at his disposal, ‘Dream Team’ had a greater appeal to footy fans than Footballers’ Wives. But the show frequently yo-yoed between the sublime and the ridiculous – after being relegated to the Championship for match-fixing the entire squad was wiped out when their ex-manager drove his car into the team coach in a suicide-revenge attack.
The Damned United
A moving adaptation of the novel by David Pearce, this film follows Brian Clough during his 44 days in charge of Leeds United. After successfully becoming Tony Blair, Kenneth Williams and David Frost, Michael Sheen is completely believable as the former Derby and Nottingham Forest manager. As Clough’s methods anger his new colleagues (suggesting the Leeds players throw away their medals because they were won through cheating) we see through flashbacks his rise to prominence at Derby and his relationship with his assistant Peter Taylor (the fantastic Timothy Spall). The football well and truly comes second in this story of friendship, passion and power.
Mike Bassett: England Manager
The ultimate football film. Ricky Tomlinson’s hapless Bassett is tasked with guiding the England team to the World Cup finals in Brazil in a picture which succinctly parodies over the forty years of hurt fans have suffered at summer tournaments. England players past and present are hilariously portrayed; Stuart Pearce is the psychotic skipper Gary Whackett (who has been sent off in all but five internationals), Rufus Smalls’s inability to score echoes the likes of Emile Heskey while playboy midfielder Harpsy could well be a young David Beckham. But the star of the show is Kevin ‘Tonka’ Tonkinson – Mike Bassett’s Gazza – whose off the field antics are nothing short of side-splitting. Unfortunately, football-wise this film is as relevant now as it ever has been – anyone who has followed the England team can relate to this masterpiece. The infamous ‘Benson & Hedges’ scene above out is just one magic moment.
What footy films have we missed out? Are there other sporting films that top this lot? We’d love to hear from you – feel free to comment below or tweet us @oxstusport
Photo Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jikatu/