Film Review: Goal! A Rags to Riches Football Story

by SteveRogerson

A look back at the 2005 film Goal! about a poor boy's rise to football stardom

From poor beginnings in Mexico, young Santiago Nunez dreams of being a professional footballer. This rags to riches story has a few twists and turns in Santiago's journey and will leave some wet eyes and lumpy throats among the viewers, while others will see how many famous football stars they can spot in guest roles.

Touchstone Pictures

Every schoolboy who has kicked a ball on the street or a patch of grassy land has dreamed of one day playing football at the highest level, out on the pitch wearing the colours of Manchester United or Liverpool. The reality is that there are millions of schoolboys and only 92 League clubs. For most, the best they will achieve is the pub team in the local Sunday league, but that doesn’t stop them dreaming for, when all is said and done, that is what football really is about.

That kind of dreaming is what makes sport ideal source material for a rags to riches story in the mould of Rocky, and it is such a story that the 2005 film Goal! tries to tell (the film was called Goal! The Dream Begins in the USA). The rags come in the form of a young Mexican boy called Santiago Nunez whose family drags him illegally across the border into the USA in search of work. His father slowly builds up a gardening and pool cleaning business in Los Angeles to provide a living for Santiago, his grandmother and younger brother. Santiago works in the business but spends his free times playing what the Americans call soccer for a small team.


Talent Spotter

Being good at what is such an unfashionable sport in the USA is usually a dead end, but young Santiago (played by Kuno Becker) is spotted by former UK talent scout Glen Foy (played by Stephen Dillane), who pulls some strings and secures the lad a trial with Newcastle United. Father is not happy. He see Santiago’s future as a partner in the business he has built; he believes that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who live in big houses and those who clean their pools, and that such people should know their place.

Needless to say, Santiago makes the trip to England and has what can only be described as a disastrous trial on a muddy, rainy Newcastle training pitch. All looks over for the young lad who had never played on mud before, but this is just the first of a number of hurdles he has to cross, including asthma and being caught on camera in a compromising position by a newspaper photographer.


Goal! Is It Any Good?

So, what we have is a feelgood movie in the true tradition of such films. We know where it is going to end before it starts but that doesn’t stop us enjoying the journey or feeling a lump in the throat when the father proudly watches his son make his first-team debut.

All the old stereotypes are there from the friendly but firm German manager, through the playboy soccer star to the agent who lives a life of luxury on the backs of the players he represents. There is even the jobbing footballer who started his life on schoolboy books for Tranmere Rovers and is now knocking it about in Newcastle’s reserve team. And the film makes sure we remember just how short playing careers are for footballers, and gives us a vivid demonstration of how injury can make that even shorter. “We’re just one tackle away from flipping burgers,” points out Santiago grimly.

There are also guest roles for some of the big names in football from Alan Shearer to David Beckham. If nothing else, you can sit and play spot the stars.

The director of this feature is London-born Danny Canton, whose previous directorial credits included Judge Dredd and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and who has written and produced for the TV show CSI.

Yes, Goal! is worth seeing and don’t be embarrassed if your eyes aren’t completely dry by the end.

Updated: 06/30/2016, SteveRogerson
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DerdriuMarriner on 01/24/2022

SteveRogerson, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
Is the plot not somewhat applicable, in terms of rags to riches, to the biography of Pelé (born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Oct. 23, 1940)?
Pelé's father, who was a legal, native, resident citizen of central Brazil, was a fervent soccer fan who helped his son, from the time the latter could walk, to finesse soccer skills. Pelé vowed that he'd win World Cups for him when he found his father crying over one of Brazil's losses.

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