Football and the small screen have been a match made in heaven. Thesame cannot be said about the silver screen. Never has a soccer storywith a US$100million budget been attempted; why bother when this subjectwill be ignored by the American market?
Somehow Danny Cannon secured backing for Goal!, a vision that began to takeshape in 2003 where Newcastle became the club and city of choice, apparentlyfending off both Chelsea and Manchester United. The premise of the film wasnever a secret; young Mexican illegal immigrant wins the chance of a contractwith Newcastle United after being spotted playing for a Los Angeles amateurclub and makes the big time.
Suffice to say that is not the basis of a good film. But Santiago Munez(Kuno Becker) plays the role of doting yet ambitious grandson/son/brother in apoverty stricken environment to perfection in one of many storylines that putsthe football on the subs’ bench. Unfortunately this stutters the beginning ofthe film in the first test of the audience’s patience.
The genius of the picture kicks off when Munez eventually swaps LA forTyneside. From the train journey from London to his arrival in NewcastleCentral the beauty of the East Coast line and the bridges over the Tyne arecaptured and immortalised. Upon arrival in Newcastle the stereotypingof the Geordie Nation picks up pace with jokes about “the toon” just the startof the fun – there’s even a comic Scouser thrown in for good measure.
Munez struggles to hold his own while harbouring an affection for Newcastle’sclub nurse Roz Harmison (Anna Friel), latest signing and resident bad-boy GavHarris (Alessandro Nivola) demonstrates the Footballer’s Cribs lifestyle, whilesampling the delights of the Quayside and infamous Bigg Market. Somehow thefilm avoids falling into Footballers’ Wives / Dream Team levels of tackiness -although there are cringeworthy moments a-plenty.
Star footballers are neatly worked into the script, with many of theNewcastle first team appearing and Alan Shearer getting a line. There arefurther appearances from Raul, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham nicely settingup the second of the Goal! trilogy (which focuses on Spanish giants Real Madrid).The football action is cleverly shot, with reserve games being acted out andactors being superimposed onto Premiership action.
St James’ Park was filled by fans volunteering in the hope of an appearancein a Hollywood film, while Munez and Harris hid behind advertising hoardings tojoin in celebrations of first team goals. Those moments were bemusing for theoblivious crowds at the games
The Tyne and Wear Tourist Board would do well to use Goal! in futurepromotions. The film may help eliminate the vision of it beinggrim up North, capturing as it does the heart and soul of Newcastle, a city that revolves around its football club.
Goal! is no Oscar contender, but for a feel-good movie you’ll be hard pressedto find a better option this year. It’s all the more impressive giventhe subject matter. Goal! is not a film for football fanatics from Newcastle – the subject matter is universal complete with cultural diversity.
It is also fantastically acted by a relatively unknown cast. StarAlessandro Nivola told musicOMH that the sequel is even better (although hewould say that) – Real Madrid give the cameras even more access. Thistrilogy looks destined to become a universal success.