Friday, June 18, 2010
Emrah Güler
As the world is living and breathing football for the duration of the World Cup, it’s the ideal time to watch some of classic football movies. We remember some of the inspirational, heart-warming, and funny football films, with some very famous cameos

Turkish film 'Dar Alanda Kısa Paslaşmalar' (Offside)
With the World Cup keeping the adrenaline pumping, it’s the ideal time to put some of the old football movies in your DVD player. There’s a football film for everyone, from World War II dramas, to romance and comedy, and some very clever takes on fandom. Don’t forget that some of these films feature very famous cameos from Eric Cantona and Tanju Çolak to Pele. Here’s a look at some of the classic football films.
The biggest classic football film would undoubtedly be the 1981 “Escape to Victory,” or “Victory” to many. The ***** directed by John Huston, stars Michael Caine as John Colby, an ex-football player who coaches Allied prisoners of war during World War II against the Germans. Such football legends like Osvaldo Ardiles, Kazimierz Deyna, Bobby Moore, Paul Van Himst, and the legend himself Pele play some of the prisoners of war. Sylvester Stallone, starring as the goalkeeper, was trained by English World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks. The film is a loose adaptation of the Hungarian film of 1961, “Ket telido a pokolban” (Two Half-times in Hell) by Zoltan Fabri, and was inspired by the true story of Dynamo Kyiv defeating German soldiers while Ukraine was occupied by the German troops during World War II.
Many people will tell you that there is a football movie directed by Guy Ritchie, or a film by the guy who made “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” They are right and they are also wrong. The 2001 British movie “Mean Machine” was directed by Barry Skolnick, but was produced by the team behind the Guy Ritchie blockbusters “Lock, Stock” and “Snatch” and stars many of the cast in these films. The film is an adaptation of the American football ***** “The Longest Yard” of 1974. It stars the former English football player Vinnie Jones as a former national football captain who was banned from football for life for fixing a match. As he finds himself in prison for assaulting police officers, he also finds himself in a new role coaching the inmates, which include Jason Statham’s violent Monk.
“Fever Pitch” has been one of the ultimate sources of confusion for cinephiles for some time now. There are three films of the same name, and two of them are based on Nick Hornby’s memoirs, “Fever Pitch,” focusing on Hornby’s relationship with football, and specifically with Arsenal Football Club. The 1997 British movie was adapted by Hornby himself. Colin Firth plays Paul Ashworth, a teacher in London, and the film portrays the real life match between Arsenal and Liverpool in 1989, with the legendary last minute goal by Michael Thomas. The 2005 American movie (released in the UK under the title “The Perfect Catch”) stars Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon, and adapts the film to baseball, and the victory to the Boston Red Sox’s surprising win in 2004. The 1985 movie, “Fever Pitch” with Ryan O’Neal as a sports writer was filmed long before Hornby’s memoirs were published.
Women, working class and amateur Turks
A surprising hit in 2002, “Bend It Like Beckham” was the film that made football films accessible to and enjoyable for women, and it was also the film that would establish Keira Knightley as the next bankable actress from the UK. With its light humor, charming characters, and brilliant acting, the film pokes at social pressures on women and immigrants in England. Knightley plays Jules, a young woman obsessed with football, while Paminder Nagra plays Jess, the daughter to Punjabi Sikh immigrant parents who it turns out has quite the skills for kicking a ball and bending it like David Beckham. As the two begin playing for the local football team, practice is complicated by some cultural hurdles and further fuelled just by the pair’s being women. The film was directed by Gurinder Chadha, a British director of Kenyan origin.
The English director Ken Loach who’s obsessed with becoming the voice of the underdog and the working class had always flirted with football in movies like “Kes” and “My Name is Joe.” So, it was no surprise to see him tackle football and fandom overtly with the recent “Looking for Eric.” What was surprising was that Loach had put his signature under a feel-good movie. Steve Evets, former bassist of The Fall, plays Eric Bishop, a postman in some sort of life crisis who feels he has no way out. He has problems with connecting with his son and his granddaughter, and he realizes that he never had the courage to come to terms with his broken marriage. One day, he sees hallucinations of his football hero, Eric Cantona, giving him advice on how to recollect his life. As these visits increase, Bishop sets on Operation Cantona, a unique quest to become the ultimate fan, and make his life right along the way.
The 2000 Turkish ***** “Dar Alanda Kısa Paslaşmalar” (Offside) tells the trials and tribulations of an amateur football team in the 1980s. The ***** directed by Serdar Akar, features the most famous Turkish actress of the 1980s and cameos from legendary football players like Rıdvan Dilmen, Tanju Çolak, and Feyyaz Uçar. Becoming a cult football hit instantly, the film went on to win four awards at the Istanbul International Film Festival, including Best ***** Director and Actor for Savaş Dinçel. The tagline, “Life is like football” pretty much summarizes the philosophical themes of the movie.