Friday 9 May 2014

"Next Goal Wins" (The Guardian 09/05/14)

Next Goal Wins ****
Dirs: Mike Brett, Steve Jamison. With: Thomas Rongen, Jaiyah Saelua, Nicky Salapu. 97 mins. Cert: 15

In 2001, American Samoa suffered international football’s worst defeat, losing 31-0 to Australia. As underdogs go, there were literally none more under – they were still bottom of FIFA’s rankings when the 2009 tsunami waterlogged their pitch – and this deluge of misfortune blows Mike Brett and Steve Jamison’s buoying doc off the predicted trajectory: for much of it, you can’t see this lot scoring, never mind winning. Instead, time is spent painting an unfailingly warm and generous portrait of a community determined to move on: the signing of exuberant Dutch coach Thomas Rongen nudges everybody forward, while tightly edited match footage highlights the players’ improving workrates. Progress ensues elsewhere, too: there’s a narrative supersub in Jaiyah Saelua, a transgendered centreback who, by her own admission, runs “like a girl”, yet tackles like Chopper Harris – and is embraced by her teammates without snickering or suspicion. As an antidote to Premier League cynicism, it really couldn’t be bettered. 

Next Goal Wins opens in cinemas nationwide today.

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