Friday, July 09, 2010

Football On Film

Watching Robert Duvall's Scottish football "epic" A Shot At Glory the other night had me mulling over the problem of football and the movies.

Escape To Victory is often held up as the nadir of football films but it's really not. Apart from anything else the coming together of Bobby Moore, Michael Caine, Pele, Sylvester Stallone and director John Huston gives it value as a footballing and cinematic curiosity of some worth.

In many ways Escape To Victory has to be considered a classic of the genre. That alone is a measure of how the cinema has failed the world's favourite sport.

Maybe football is just too dramatic in its own right. Perhaps films are just unable to add any more depth to a game that already demands our emotional involvement.

And, as Barney Ronay argues in The Guardian, football is so aware of its role as a television spectacular that the world's greatest team is now subconsciously cinematic in its approach to the game.

That might explain why feature length documentaries fare better than fiction on the big screen. Last year The Mirror picked the top five football films and found space for three documentaries in the list.

So am I missing something? Or is football really without a classic feature film?

Tell me your favourites and your least favourite of all time.

The worst ever in my opinion stars Pele and is called Hotshot. IMDB's synopsis is brief:

The story of an American soccer player trying to make it big who turns to Pele, the greatest soccer player of all time, for guidance.

I went through a period of insisting that we hired this from the video shop. Even then I realised how bad it was but repeated watching was yet another way to torture my long suffering older brother. A pursuit I'm still enjoying today.

I think you would have needed to watch Hotshot on video. I have serious doubts that it was ever given a cinematic release.

> A Shot At Glory incidentally is a must see for any Scottish football fan of a certain vintage. You will never again see a film that stars John Martin, Hugh Dallas, Eddie May and many, many more Scottish football stalwarts. And Ally McCoist is just about lucky enough to pull off his central role.

> Spoiler Alert. I've got to say that, even though I sincerely hope you never watch Hotshot. Here's the emotional final scenes. Has football ever looked better on film. Aye. Probably.


  1. My favourite "so bad it's good" football film is "Mad About Mambo." It's about a Northern Ireland football player who decides to learn to mambo like a Brazilian in hopes that it will improve his game and earn him a place in the "Belfast United" football team. There's a love story too, and Brian Cox (no film is *really* bad if it has Brian Cox in it. :)

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