Just before I left Antigua V's nephew Marco Vinicio informed me that he had enjoyed this flick about a young Mexican wetback that makes it big in the Toon, so I made a mental note to give it a go (though expecting shite on a par with Wimbledon.)
There has been an almost total lack of even passably watchable soccer movies, but now we have this one, which is actually (just) better than mediocre. It's a two hour Adidas ad structured around an utterly formulaic fairy-tale, but the high-calibre writing from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (the team behind classic sitcoms The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedersehen Pet) overcomes this limitation, adding heart and comedy to the otherwise predictable sequence of episodes. Perhaps the funniest moment in the film − who knows if it was intentional or not − is David Beckham's cameo.
There are one or two other false notes, such as the bar full of Geordies in full costume watching live Premiership football in LA (7 am surely..?) and most of the actual match action is disappointing. Yet the main performances are strong, especially from Yale-educated yank Alessandro Nivola as the Toon's dissolute star-signing Gavin Harris and Marcel Iures (Slavo in Layer Cake), who is so convincing as Newcastle's foreign coach you are left with the impression that you've seen him before scowling from a Premiership dug-out. (Niovola is actually a keen sarker-player and represented the 'Rest of the World' in a charity match against England.) Sven-Goran Eriksson, Alan Shearer, Raul and ZZ also appear as themselves. These performances are not so strong...though Zhidane's heading skills might have been used to greater effect in the nightclub scene!
Underlying Santiago's personal story there's a social theme: aspiración: his father believes that the world is divided into mansion-owners and their lawn cutters and there's no point in resisting this state of affairs. The third part of the Goal! trilogy has just been shot during this summer's World Cup in Germany, where you might say that the dream − for most of the lawn cutters at least − ended in relative disappointment. Out in Guatemala I had a strong sense that this Mundial was supposed to be the showcase for Latin America's superior ball skills − typically honed on arid urban terrain − and the dodgy, defensive Italians running away with the copa was not part of the script.
Onc critic has speculated whether Santiago will play for Los Tri or his adopted homeland in the World Cup to be featured in Goal 3. Well, which one has an Adidas strip? Answer: Mexico (US is Nike.) Santiago might have adopted the land of the free, but the film gave us no indication that it had in turn adopted him. As an indocumentado, whilst entitled to join the Marine Corps and die in Iraq, the lack of a green card would surely prevent him being capped by the USA.