UK release date: 30 September 2005

cast list
Kuno Becker
Alessandro Nivola
Anna Friel

directed by
Danny Cannon

Football and the small screen have been a match made in heaven. The same cannot be said about the silver screen. Never has a soccer story with a US$100million budget been attempted; why bother when this subject will be ignored by the American market?

Somehow Danny Cannon secured backing for Goal!, a vision that began to take shape in 2003 where Newcastle became the club and city of choice, apparently fending off both Chelsea and Manchester United. The premise of the film was never a secret; young Mexican illegal immigrant wins the chance of a contract with Newcastle United after being spotted playing for a Los Angeles amateur club 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 a poverty stricken environment to perfection in one of many storylines that puts the football on the subs’ bench. Unfortunately this stutters the beginning of the film in the first test of the audience’s patience.

The genius of the picture kicks off when Munez eventually swaps LA for Tyneside. From the train journey from London to his arrival in Newcastle Central the beauty of the East Coast line and the bridges over the Tyne are captured and immortalised. Upon arrival in Newcastle the stereotyping of the Geordie Nation picks up pace with jokes about “the toon” just the start of 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’s club nurse Roz Harmison (Anna Friel), latest signing and resident bad-boy Gav Harris (Alessandro Nivola) demonstrates the Footballer’s Cribs lifestyle, while sampling the delights of the Quayside and infamous Bigg Market. Somehow the film 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 are further appearances from Raul, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham nicely setting up 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 and actors being superimposed onto Premiership action.

St James’ Park was filled by fans volunteering in the hope of an appearance in a Hollywood film, while Munez and Harris hid behind advertising hoardings tojoin in celebrations of first team goals. Those moments were bemusing for the oblivious crowds at the games

The Tyne and Wear Tourist Board would do well to use Goal! in future promotions. The film may help eliminate the vision of it being grim 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 pressed to find a better option this year. It’s all the more impressive given the 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. Star Alessandro Nivola told musicOMH that the sequel is even better (although he would say that) – Real Madrid give the cameras even more access. This trilogy looks destined to become a universal success.

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