No live football? Then watch these football movies instead of repeat telecasts
And you’re probably cross-eyed from watching videos of the 10 best goals of (insert name of player) or your favourite team.
So it’s Netflix during this silly season until it’s safe for the footballers to come out and play. But that isn’t quite the fix, we know, because it is football action you want, not something you already know the scoreline of.
But how about mixing the two? Watching a show with football as its central theme could give you a bit of excitement, at least until the English Premier League resumes for Liverpool to finally claim their title.
We’ll help you kick off your football movie season with these titles:
Escape to Victory (1981)
This movie, set in a Nazi prison camp in Paris, stars World Cup winners Pele (Brazil 1958, 1962 and 1970), Bobby Moore (England 1966) and Osvaldo Ardiles (Argentina,1978). That’s six World Cup winner’s medals, probably a record for any movie that isn’t a football documentary.
WATCH: Pele shares the interesting story behind how he got his name
Ardiles moved to England immediately after the 1978 World Cup, and may be part of the reason so many boomers support Tottenham Hotspur.
The show centres on a match between the prison camps guards and the prisoners of war, and – and as the title tells you – it involves the prisoners’ attempt to escape.
The film also stars Sylvester Stallone, fresh from his success in the first two Rocky instalments, and Michael Caine, an English actor who reportedly had absolutely no clue as to how to play football.
Pele, arguably the greatest player of all time, exhibits his football skills, which are great. He also demonstrates his ability as an actor, which is abysmally bad. Had the film been made a lot later, he could have got acting lessons from his much younger compatriot Rivaldo.
The film, which is based on a 1962 Hungarian film, Two Half Times in Hell, received plenty of attention during its release. Americans at that time were probably baffled as to why a football is round, or spherical.
Escape to Victory could use a remake, probably with Paul Pogba starring in Pele’s role, and Graeme Souness as coach.
Fever Pitch (1997)
This film, based on the book of the same title by Nick Hornby, follows the exploit of a lifelong Arsenal fan who works as a schoolteacher and he sees a budding romantic relationship get in the way of his passion for the Gunners. As the trailer suggests, it is about a football fan, theo woman he loves and the 11 men he worships.
This is a wonderful rom-com made for football fans, and I’m sure my mate Noah Tan has already watched it with his wife. Come on, Noah, give us your take on the movie:
“I’m not a fan of rom-coms in general - I think the dialogue’s usually cheesy, the plotlines are predictable, and I’ve a bad habit of giggling uncontrollably during tear-jerking scenes.
“But I thoroughly enjoyed Fever Pitch. Maybe it’s got to do with the fact that it largely revolves around Arsenal (a successful Arsenal, too!), and that I can identify with the protagonist’s (played by a young Colin Firth) passion for the club.
“Of course, it helps that *spoiler alert* Arsenal win the English League title at the end of the movie, by beating Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield with a goal from midfielder Michael Thomas in the dying seconds of the match. Sergio Aguero who?
WATCH: The story behind Michael Thomas’ dramatic winner for Arsenal
“Sure, it’s a relatively old movie, so the images aren’t high-definition. But, given the situation we currently find ourselves in, such nostalgic feel-good shows are perfect, because it brings you back to a simpler time, when there was no such thing as Covid-19, Donald Trump was still a businessman, and football transfers were in the thousands rather than the millions.
“The one thing that has remained constant since then is the bareness of Spurs’ trophy cabinet. You’d probably have to go back to when the movies were silent and shot in black and white for the last time Spurs had their trophy cabinet full.”
A word of warning, though. If you’re looking for this movie online, do note it has already suffered an American remake starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Football didn’t survive in the 2005 film – it was replaced with baseball.
This is a fairytale about a poor Mexican illegal immigrant living in Los Angeles, US, who plays football in his neighbourhood and is spotted by a former player of an English Premier League team Newcastle United, leading to a trial and a contract.
The film captures the travails that many a young, blossoming footballer hoping to compete in the top level of football have to go through before they eventually become millionaires earning more in a week than you would in a year.
Goal! has two sequels, in which the protagonist joins Real Madrid, though in today’s context, a transfer to Liverpool would do the job.
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
This film follows a young Sikh woman (played by Parminder Kaur Nagra) who loves playing football but has to play in secret because her conservative family objects to her participation in a sport they see as meant for guys.
WATCH: David Beckham’s free-kick goals for Real Madrid
While it is essentially about a teenage girl pursuing her dream, it is also a subtle social commentary and has garnered mostly positive reviews.
Bend it Like Beckham also stars Keira Knightly, who is as slim as the upright of a goalpost.
Shaolin Soccer (2001)
This show has training that would make Ronaldo wince, skills that would make Lionel Messi blush and more slapstick humour than your TikTok feed. What would you expect, with Stephen Chow directing and playing the lead role? Even the jerseys of Chow’s team, which are an adaptation of the robes worn by Shaolin monks, are funny. There’s even some last-minute nudity, but I won’t spoil it for you.
WATCH: Zlatan Ibrahmovic uses kung-fu to score
In fact, I won’t even bother going into the plot because it is so utterly ridiculous. But you’ll love it because it’s so ridiculously funny, and a good laugh is what we could all use now.
One Leg Kicking (2001)
This locally-made comedy will make you laugh. But probably for the wrong reasons. With a stellar cast that included no professional footballers, we have to concede that the performance was nowhere near as good as Pele’s. And we’re talking about the acting. Watch it once you’re tired of watching grainy “Best” or “Top 10” videos on YouTube. The only problem is that the only versions you can still probably access online will be just as grainy.
And new On Netflix:
You might also like to catch the Netflix series, The English Game, which is a historical sports drama charting the rise of modern football in England.
There’s also a Spanish comedy, Holy Goalie, in which a Catholic priest who looks like Pep Guardiola in need of a shave coaches a squad of bungling initiates who have to win a regional football tournament in order to get funding to save their little monastery. Quite a different situation from Pep’s, who has millions of pounds at his disposal.