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The Next Goal Wins Film Reminds Us That Winning Simply Isn't Everything For The Team Dubbed "The Worst Team On The Planet"

Wednesday 10th September 2014
Jack Kitson has put his feet upon the sofa, poured some Coke into the largest container he could find and has a bin-liner full of popcorn to review the football documentary Next Goal Wins, the story of how American Samoa picked themselves up following their largest ever defeat.

Sport is jam-packed with a plethora of inspirational moments, famous comebacks and staggering upsets. These range from the Greece's 100/1 Euro 2004 success to Goran Ivanisevic's wild card surge to victory at Wimbledon in 2001, while Buster Douglas' shock knockout of Mike Tyson, alongside the Miracle on Ice are two more pertinent examples.

Less known, but fully deserved of a place in the upper echelons of this category, is the engrossing story of the American Samoa national football team. Next Goal Wins is a fascinating, compassionate and uplifting football documentary, which showcases the gripping story of America Samoa's against-the-odds quest to end years of hurt and suffering, as they bid to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, whilst in the process providing a telling reminder that winning simply isn't everything.

Back in 2001 the Pacific Island minnows made worldwide headlines after they suffered a humiliating 31-0 defeat at the hands of Australia in a record international hammering, which saw them ridiculed and subsequently dubbed “the worst team on the planet”. Fast-forward 10 years and they were still plunged in misery and hardship, suffering heavy defeats left, right and centre, while they were without a goal in a scarcely believable 17 years.

However, revolution came in the form of the exuberant Dutch coach Thomas Rongen who doggedly headed to the island with the seemingly impossible mission to launch the country off the foot of the FIFA World Rankings. The engaging Rongen instantly set about changing the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the national team, whilst squeezing out the players' warrior spirit that is embedded in the Samoan culture.

The big-hearted movie then follows America Samoa though their spirited 2014 World Cup qualification campaign, however, football isn't always the main focus, with the documentary delving deep into aspects of Samoan culture, family life and identity. The latter comes in the form of world football's first transgender player, Jaiyah Saelua, a compelling character who has fought her own personal battles as a Fa'afafine: the country's third gender.

The football itself may be a world away from the glitz and glamour that is common place at the summit of the global game, but the actual footballing action on show remains riveting, while the suspense is gripping. The directors take you on a captivating journey, which is enhanced through the stylish editing and match montages. The suspenseful slow motion only enhances the experience as one finds themselves engrossed in what they are seeing, and even roaring the team on in their pursuit of their first win in over 30 matches.

Underdog success stories have become a reoccurring theme in sport's films since Rocky erupted into movie theatres in 1976. Many, with a few exceptions, have tried and ultimately flunked at re-enacting sporting reality, while many fictional attempts have a far too familiar fairy-tale feel about them. However, the documentary format of the Next Goal Wins directed by Mike Brett and Steve Jamison is a surprisingly breath of fresh air, which perfectly captures the attention and hearts of those who watch it.

Next Goal Wins Trailer

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Jack Kitson
Massive Southampton fan, loving being back in the Premier League but cannot get enough football to feed my addiction.

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