Football and the silver screen have had their ups and downs (ups: Pele's bicycle kick in Escape To Victory; downs: everything else in Escape To Victory). But there's been a rash of excellent footie flicks in recent years, from documentaries to fiction. Fire up the Blu-ray player and pop on one of these.
Shaolin Soccer (2001)
Behold, the masters of kung-football. The admirably barmy Shaolin Soccer follows the exploits of Sing, a martial-arts missionary who brings his message to the masses by forming an ass-kicking football team who must ultimately face ‘team evil’ (an outfit almost as ruthless as the Mexico '86 Uruguay team). Gravity-defying volleys, mid-air tackles and flaming footballs – it’s the referees we feel sorry for.
The Class of '92 (2013)
Beckham, Giggs, Scholes – which of Manchester United’s gifted early-'90s graduates did Pele pick as his star performer at the 2002 World Cup? The workmanlike midfielder Nicky Butt, of all people. This well-crafted documentary compares the careers of these varied personalities, the most painful bits being England-related: Beckham and Phil Neville were both vilified after tournament exits. It’s only a game, people.
£15 (Blu-ray), tesco.com
More after the break...
Unique, insightful and surprisingly accessible, Offside is the story of an unnamed Iranian girl, who dresses as a boy to sneak into the only-males-allowed crowd at a vital World Cup qualifier. It doesn’t quite go to plan. Filmed on the hoof at a real qualifier, Offside was banned in Iran and its director eventually imprisoned. A starker side of the global game.
£6 (DVD), amazon.co.uk
One Night in Turin (2010)
It’s easy to forget that England’s best World Cup since 1966 was a pretty awful tournament, overall, and that’s not just post-penalties sour grapes. Thankfully this evocative Italia '90 documentary – based on Pete Davies’ excellent memoir All Played Out – omits the hours of tedium and centres on the England campaign that helped make football likeable again. Just don’t expect a happy ending.
The Two Escobars (2010)
The 1994 World Cup lacked the usual calamity of an England loss on penalties, but it did have a genuinely tragic moment – the murder of Columbian defender Andres Escobar after his team's loss to the USA. This compelling doc weaves together his story with that of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, whose money laundering led to the rise of 'narco-soccer' and cast a shadow over his country's vibrant, idolised football team.
£15 (DVD), amazon.co.uk