Net Picks is your weekly digest of some of the best movies and TV shows currently doing the rounds on streaming sites such as Netflix, MUBI, Amazon Prime, Curzon Home Cinema and On Demand services such as Freeview and Sky Movies.
Director(s): Mike Brett, Steve Jamison
Starring: Thomas Rongen, Jaiyah Saelua, Nick Salapu
Currently streaming on: Sky Movies
Words: J. Senior
Sports documentaries are actually quite hard to choose from at the moment. There are a wealth of really strong features currently doing the rounds on Netflix but the one that really stands out is Next Goal Wins on Sky Movies. Mainly because it is about the best sport ever invented, Football. But also because it really is the most powerful of the collection of films that were considered this week.
There were other big hitters to choose from as well; The Last Gladiators the tale of the rise and fall of Ice- Hockey goon Chris Nylan, The Battered Bastards of Baseball the ultimate under dog tale in American sports, We Could be King the story of a school from a deprived Philadelphia inner city district and its American Football team and Hoop Dreams which was one of Roger Ebert’s favourite sport documentaries, were all considered but didn’t quite make the final cut.
Next Goal Wins is a stunning tale of teamwork and dedication that really reinforces any lingering doubts you may have about the human spirit. In 2001, the tiny Pacific island of American Samoa suffered a world record 31-0 defeat at the hands of Australia, garnering headlines across the world as the worst soccer team on the planet. At the beginning of the film Dutch coach Thomas Rongen is drafted in by the US Soccer Federation to train and coach the team in preparation for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. What he finds is a terrible standard of football, but a group of individuals who inspire and support each other in the face of insurmountable odds.
For a film about a team sport, Next Goal Wins is fantastic for its focus on individual stories. Take Jaiyah, the first ever trans-gender player to compete in a professional Football match, or Nicky Salapu the goalkeeper that conceded all of those 31 goals against Australia who still has nightmares about the match, there’s Rawlston Masaniai who traces his Mother’s lineage back to the island to join the team, but has never even been to the country of his ancestors before or even Rongen himself, still greaving for his deceased daughter and finding catharsis in his support of the Amercian Samoan team. What directors Mike Brett and Steve Jamison do is show you how each player has their own journey to go on, and how as a team each journey reaches its resolution. It’s a clever device that invests you emotionally in the games of Football being played out on screen.
Through the course of the documentary the team improve and finally record their first ever competitive win, a news story that shocks the world of Football and lifts spirits around the camp. Even to score a goal is such a monumental achievement for these players, that you’ll find it hard to hold the emotions back at their reactions when they finally go on and win. Sadly, they don’t manage to qualify for the World Cup but they leave the qualifying tournament rejuvenated by the experience. It’s not a film that fill you with shock and awe, but it is a film about a genuine group of under dogs who play the sport they love, purely for the joy of playing. The success that they experience is just an additional benefit. With the sport being the way that it is in this country, it’s really beautiful to see how Football can build bridges between different cultures and renew old friendships and not be focused on commercial gain. For that reason alone it really is the best sports documentary you will see this week. Make sure you catch it, before it’s gone.