Tag Archives: Soccer

SIX OF THE BEST #37 – FOOTBALL FILMS!

SIX OF THE BEST #37 – FOOTBALL FILMS!

With the World Cup beginning in Qatar on Sunday 20th November 2022, I thought it was the perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and consider six of the best football films ever made.

Now, when I say “best” I say this cautiously. The relationship between football and cinema hasn’t always delivered the highest of cinematic art. However, there have been some highly entertaining films set in and around the world of this great game. A sport that involves human beings kicking a sphere into a net. A game I love!


ESCAPE TO VICTORY (1981) – Directed by John Huston

Wow! What a cast! This prisoner-of-war film starring Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Max Von Sydow, Pele, Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, John Wark and many more football stars of the era, shouldn’t really work. Yet, it somehow successfully combines football and WW2 prison break subgenres in a beat-the-Nazis-boy’s-own adventure of stirring derring do.


THE FIRM (1988) – Directed by Alan Clarke

An unflinching and gritty exploration of the football hooligan subculture so prevalent in the English game in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Gary Oldman and Phil Davis portray rival gang-leaders of opposing football teams, highlighting how football was used as a substitute for urban warfare up and down the cities and motorways of our green and pleasant land.


GRAHAM TAYLOR: AN IMPOSSIBLE JOB (1994)

Firstly, I must say that Graham Taylor was a great man and exceptional football manager at clubs teams including Watford and Aston Villa. This soul crushing fly-on-the-wall documentary covers in painful depth the ill-fated attempt by the England football team to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. Brutally honest, poignant, funny and embarrassing all at the same time, this is one of the most absorbing sports docs of all time.


SHAOLIN SOCCER (2001) – directed by Stephen Chow

Combining football and martial arts is a master stroke of the highest order. In the turbo-charged, Shaolin Soccer, we get both an underdog story and a litany of incredible kung-fu action set-pieces with scorching goals at the end of them. Brilliantly choreographed by Stephen Chow and his production team, this is a funny, kicking and net-busting classic!


THE DAMNED UNITED (2009) – directed by Tom Hooper

This exceptional adaptation of David Peace’s classic novel scores on many levels. None more so than Michael Sheen’s eloquent portrayal of top manager, Brian Clough and the excellent Timothy Spall as his assistant, Peter Taylor. Dramatically picking apart Clough’s disastrous tenure at premier football club, Leeds United, it shows even genius can get it utterly wrong. Clough would last 44 days at the damned United, but would later prove at Nottingham Forest what an incredible manager he was.


DIEGO MARADONA (2019)

Asif Kapadia’s documentary is arguably one of the finely crafted sports films of all time. Here he takes his razor-sharp filmmaking focus to the massive highs and eventual lows of Diego Maradona’s time at Napoli following his move from Barcelona in 1984. Maradona is regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, but had not hit expected heights at the Catalan Kings before moving to Naples. Here Maradona elevated a mostly unsuccessful team to the top of the Italian league. After becoming a footballing god to the Napoli fans, off and on-pitch behaviour would subsequently sour the romance in a powerfully thrilling documentary drama.

ALL 4 FILM REVIEW: DIEGO MARADONA (2019)

ALL 4 FILM REVIEW – DIEGO MARADONA (2019)

Directed by: Asif Kapadia

Produced by: James Gay-Rees, Paul Martin

Written by: Asif Kapadia

Music by: Antônio Pinto

Edited by: Chris King

Available platform: Channel 4 / All 4



Even if you’re not a fan of football, you cannot fail to have to heard of the Argentinian player that is Diego Maradona. If you don’t know him then he rose from the shantytowns of Buenos Aires to become one of the greatest footballers of all time. A wunderkind prodigy as a teenager, he became the most expensive footballer ever when he moved to Napoli from Barcelona. In Naples he would transform a club, normally in the shadows of giants from Milan and Rome, into a title winning team. Moreover, he famously led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, with one of the most scintillating individual footballing performances ever witnessed. I missed Asif Kapadia’s absorbing documentary when released at the cinema, however, with Maradona sadly passing away last week, I took the opportunity to watch it on Channel 4’s streaming platform.

Kapadia has shown himself as a master filmmaker in constructing narratives from archival footage. This engrossing style and expertly edited form is brilliantly demonstrated in Senna (2010) and Amy (2015), both winning several major awards. Once again Kapadia uses the same process. He combines interviews via voiceover with Maradona, his ex-wife Claudia, his trainer and many other people, with hundreds of hours of found film footage shot by Argentine cameramen in the 1980s. Moreover, further archival footage was discovered in the home of Maradona’s ex-wife in a trunk untouched for 30 years.



Kapadia and his editors weave such sources to create an absorbing portrait of an extremely complex personality. Indeed, many interviews comment on the football star having two distinct sides. One called Diego, a sweet-natured lad who became a phenomenon on the pitch and the other Maradona, a notorious, larger than life mega-star pursued by the media, football fans, women, gangsters and money people. Whether this schism contributed to Maradona’s battles with drug addiction and other controversies, it is difficult to say. What is clear though is, despite his flaws, love for partying, fiery temperament and questionable associations, the press in Italy and the rest of the world, were permanently in Maradona’s face, creating a pressure cooker atmosphere for him and his family.

Overall, I was totally transfixed by the documentary, Diego Maradona (2019). Having grown up as a teenager watching Maradona on the television, notably the infamous ‘Hand of God’ game against England at the 1986 World Cup, I was struck by huge waves of nostalgia. Even though Maradona’s Argentina defeated England, one could never fail to be in awe at his magical skills as a player. I love football and enjoyed many scenes showing the brutal and beautiful nature of the game. Lastly, Kapadia’s main narrative thrust involves Maradona’s rise and fall from grace during Napoli’s spectacular rise to the top of the Italian league. Yet, having scored the penalty that knocked Italy out of the 1990 World Cup, his once beloved Naples would turn on Maradona, leaving him friendless and without protection from the Italian law. Ultimately, the film stands as not only a complex tribute to a footballing genius, but also a cautionary tale of the trials and tribulations of worldwide fame and notoriety.

Mark: 9 out of 11


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR F.C. LEAGUE REVIEW (2015 – 2016)

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC LEAGUE REVIEW (2015 – 2016)

“Icarus flew too close to the sun, but at least he flew.” Jeremy Robert Johnson

As the paint dries on the end of the Premier League season my team, Spurs, finished in third position; having flown high for so long they ultimately imploded in orbit before sadly crashing and burning. However, I am a very proud Spurs supporter today as finishing third in the league guarantees us Champions League football next year, and for a moment, just one split-second moment our young team, under the progressive management of Mauricio Pochettino, just flew; we really flew!

Okay, Leicester’s incredible Premier League win was the sporting story of the year, plus we didn’t win anything and failed to hold on to second to our bitter rivals Arsenal. Still, at least, when compared to the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, and the under-achieving Mancunian teams we got off the runway and soared. Yes, we burnt out spectacularly in the last two-and-half-games but the future for Spurs remains sonic-powered and solar bright!

GAMES

While I would have taken third position at the beginning of the season, getting so close to title glory meant failure was a bitter, jagged pill to stick down one’s throat. But we were scintillating throughout the season with some fantastic performances in the Premier League. Fair enough, an unlucky 3rd round loss to Arsenal in the League Cup, unnecessary loss to Palace in the FA Cup and waving the white flag to Dortmund in the Europa League condemned us to a lack-lustre cup exits, we, more often than not, totally smashed it in the League.

During a fourteen game unbeaten run early doors we smashed Manchester City 4-1 at home, Bournemouth 5-1 away and West Ham 4-1 at White Hart Lane. Even after blippy defeats to bogey teams Newcastle United and Leicester at home we strung together a series of wonderful wins including SIX in a row, which would propel us to title contenders. After being out-hustled by West Ham (1-0) we actually were, for fourteen minutes, top of the table when leading against ten-man Arsenal. But the scum equalised and we never hit the top again.

Nonetheless, Spurs continued to battle and chase and harry the formidable leaders Leicester and put real pressure on them when winning 3-0 against Manchester United and smashing sorry Stoke 4-0.  Alas, the win in the Potteries was our last of a brilliant season and the ‘Battle at the Bridge’ against Chelsea saw the wheels of our title challenge career off in a pulsating, yet ill-disciplined, performance. Two crushing defeats to Southampton and Newcastle meant our young lions had won hearts and minds and flirted with glory but sadly fell short in the title and runners-up spot.

PLAYERS

Spurs had many stand-out players in a highly consistent season. Hugo Lloris was, overall, one of the best goalkeepers in the league saving us many, many times through the year. His form, arguably fell off, like the rest of the team in the last few games but, David DeGea aside, I would not want another keeper in our box. Our defence was mean like a junkyard dog with Rose and Walker bombing up the wings and covering tackles and crosses like demons. In fact, Danny Rose, under Pochettino, is one of the most improved players at the club, embracing the derring-do, action and pace the manager has instilled.

Centre-back, Toby Alderweireld was deservedly voted Spurs player of the season by the fans as his cool, calm persona plus brilliant tackling and exquisite passing range made him the signing of the summer. But, special mention must go to a great young defender, who I thought was unlucky to be dropped for Vertonghen, called Kevin Wimmer. I would make him first choice next year as Jan, while a fine defender, has looked somewhat jaded and short of pace since coming back from injury.

Arguably our most valuable player of the season, along with Harry Kane, was Belgium midfielder, Moussa Dembele. Box-to-box there was not a better footballer in the league in my opinion. Because of his ability to hustle opponents and rarely lose the ball, Spurs struggled when he didn’t play. Another revelation in midfield was Eric Dier, who having been promoted from the back four provided, for the most part, rock-like protection, snarling commitment and also some valuable goals.

Attacking midfielders Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela were also excellent throughout. Great Dane Eriksen especially provided an unprecedented number of assists and often derided Lamela really found his passing and goal scoring range. Find of the season though in a Spurs shirt was the mercurial teenager Dele Alli who scored a series of brilliant goals. Bought for an incredibly low price of £5 million he deservedly won PFA Young player of the Year and what a talent he is! The only criticism that can be aimed at him is his lack of discipline; yet it’s that aggression which drives his winning mentality and something I’m sure he will channel into becoming a world-class player for Spurs and England.

Going forward Harry “He’s one of our own” Kane has provided the fulcrum for a brilliant attack-minded team. In the Premier League alone he scored TWENTY-FIVE goals and pretty much played every minute on his own up front. If he’d been injured I’m not sure Spurs would have been able to challenge as high as they have. He is single-minded in his pursuit of goals, possessing great ability in the air and on the ground. Kane’s skill in tight spots, powerful strength and dead-eye accuracy made him my Spurs player of the year; followed closely by Alderweireld, Dembele and Alli.

GOALS

An incredible amount of goals to choose from but my top FIVE Premier League goals of the season in date order:

Christian Eriksen – brilliant free kick against Swansea – 4/10/2015

Dele Alli – incredible finish versus Crystal Palace – 23/01/2016

Christian Eriksen – ice-cold winner against Manchester City – 14/02/2016

Harry Kane – amazing strike against the Arsenal – 05/03/2016

Dele Alli – sublime thru ball & finish versus Stoke City – 18-04-16

STYLE

This youthful Spurs team, most of them in their twenties, played with high-line intensity, hunting in packs, defending in numbers and breaking teams down with a ferocious passion and jugular-gripping power. When they had their best eleven on the pitch they were virtually unplayable and had many Premier League managers and football pundits praising our impressive attacking prowess and miserly defence. While the romantics were rightly willing Leicester FC to win the league, Spurs were a credit to football and it was a damned shame they could not hold onto the runners-up berth their scintillating play richly deserved.

THE MANAGER

In Mauricio Pochettino (and his backroom staff) Spurs have a fantastic manager who, while still gaining experience, as a Premier League boss is moulding a young, speedy and hungry team capable of challenging for top honours. Pochettino carries himself not only with dignity but also quiet power and determination. You can see a keen football brain ticking over and his passion is undeniable. I admire his ability to get a tune out of an inexperienced team and create a winning spirit which will hopefully lead us to greater things in the near future.

NEXT SEASON – 2016-2017

With Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool under-achieving plus Manchester City being below par generally throughout the season, next year will be tough for Spurs to maintain a top four place. Also, who’s to say another team won’t do a “Leicester” and come from nowhere to win the Premier League? Indeed, Leicester themselves won’t want to give up their title easily.

Obviously, we will need to bolster the squad as we severely lacked strength in depth when our first-team eleven were not playing. Plus, the intense, closing-down football we play, and the Europa League campaign, meant we were stretched mentally and physically by the end of the season; thus culminating in our final game draws and capitulations against West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea, Southampton and sadly, Newcastle.

By shaving some of the players Pochettino deems surplus to requirements and bringing in, at the very least, another quality defensive midfielder, top-draw midfield playmaker and a couple of strikers, Spurs can take the overall positivity of this season to new heights. Moreover, tactically I would like us to add a bit more match-play nous to our speed and skill next year. We threw away points from a number of advantageous positions and feel with better discipline and tactical ability to close a game out we would have been even higher up the table.

OVERALL

It was ultimately a brilliant season from a marvellous young squad who did the Spurs supporters proud throughout the year.  I thank the players and manager for giving me an enormous amount of footballing pleasure and excitement this season. It’s true to say that Icarus flew too close to the sun but at least he flew; as did Spurs this year.

2015 – 2016 – STATISTICS (select)

Premier League Top Scorer – 25 Goals – Harry Kane

Premier League Best Goal Difference – 34+

Premier League Longest Winning Streak –  6 games

Premier League Most Assists – (2nd place) – 13 assists – Christian Eriksen

Premier League Goals – (2nd place) – 69 goals

Club Record Unbeaten Run – 14 games

PFA Young Player of the Year – Deli Alli