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Weekend Binge: Tackle your World Cup withdrawal with these 5 football films

There’s going to be a gaping void in your lives after the World Cup final on Sunday, so what not fill it with these five football movies?

weekend binge Updated: Jul 14, 2018 16:39 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Weekend Binge,World Cup,World Cup 2018
Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra in a still from Gurinder Chadha’s Bend it Like Beckham.

There’s a reason you’ve seen more movies about chess than you’ve seen about football. Americans make movies. But they don’t care about football. This leaves anyone who has ever liked both in a very weird (and dissatisfied) situation.

But the World Cup final is just one day away, and the Americans’ FOMO is at its peak. So it wouldn’t be surprising if in a few years, when they host the 2026 World Cup and China, India and South America overtake the US as the world’s biggest movie markets, that Hollywood begins making more movies about the Beautiful Game.

Being both Indian and fans of the sport, it’s likely that you’ve seen Bend it Like Beckham, Gurinder Chadha’s immensely re-watchable romantic comedy about two best friends. It’s equally likely that you’ve seen Goal, which was produced with the full participation of FIFA, featured more Galacticos than Real Madrid’s 2005 first 11, and spawned a couple of sequels.

But neither of those films need to be mentioned here. This list is reserved for the underdogs, the movies that you’ve perhaps heard of, but haven’t got around to watching. There’s going to be a gaping void in your lives after the World Cup final on Sunday, so what not fill it with these five movies?

Green Street

Green Street Hooligans (2004).

Green Street, or Green Street Hooligans, is a highly unusual film. Like Goal, it too spawned several sequels - and like Goal, each new film was worse than the one that came before. But in an age when there weren’t too many female directors working in mainstream Hollywood, Lexi Alexander bucked the trend. She brought a rugged toughness to the film, about England’s infamous football ‘firms’ - gangs of rowdy fans with rivalries that go back centuries. It’s part gangster movie, part crime drama, and part coming-of-age tale. It’s told through the perspective of an outsider - Elijah Wood’s American college student - and features an early starring role for Charlie Hunnam. Not the best football movie, but like West Ham United, functional.

The Damned United

The Damned United (2009).

Director Tom Hooper’s film is a quintessentially English story, about the ill-fated 44-day tenure of Leeds United manager Brian Clough, played in the film by Michael Sheen. It’s a muddy, sloppy, emotional ride about one man standing up for what he believes is right, despite pressure from all sides to take orders he doesn’t agree with. “I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the country. But I’m in the top one,” he says, which should indicate the sort of film this is - the best, and most unexpectedly brilliant football biopic you’re likely to see.

Next Goal Wins

Next Goal Wins (2014).

If there’s one film on this list that encapsulates the sheer passion that fans have for football, it’s this one. Next Goal Wins is a documentary about the American Samoa national team, who’ve routinely found themselves at the bottom of FIFA’s world rankings. When they lose 31-0 to Australia - the worst loss in international football history - the board hires Dutch coach Thomas Rongen to help them rebuild the team, a team whose goalkeeper lives with the dubious title of having conceded the most goals in a single match, and a transgender with grand ambitions. Next Goal Wins is an underdog story to beat all underdog stories, and it’ll take a person of Severus Snape levels of coldness to not be moved in several euphoric moments in the film.

The Class of ‘92

The Class of ‘92 (2013).

There’s a reason why Sir Alex Ferguson is often regarded as one of the world’s greatest ever managers. Under his two-decade-plus tenure, he cultivated home-grown talent and led Manchester United through a particularly glorious phase in their already illustrious history. The Class of ‘92 is a documentary about six of his most prominent players - David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and the brothers Phil and Gary Neville - who emerged from the youth academy and transformed the face of English football. It’s a special sight to watch them sit across a table and talk about their lives, and their friendship.

Offside

Offside (2006).

Celebrated Iranian director Jafar Panahi is one of the world’s greatest living humanists, and Offside is one of his earliest (and best) films. It’s about a group of young girls who want nothing more than to be able to watch the national team play a World Cup qualifier. But it’s against the law for them to watch football (to protect them from the raging men, of course). But they do it anyway. The film was banned in Iran, like many of Panahi’s films, which have always been critical of the regime, but also proudly nationalistic. Panahi himself has been under house arrest for several years, and had to smuggle his secret new film to the Cannes Film Festival in a pendrive (buried inside a cake).

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: Jul 14, 2018 16:39 IST