Movie Review: Next Goal Wins a/k/a How I Spent Two Hours NOT Hating Sepp’s Evil Empire

Yesterday, I spent approximately two hours not hating FIFA.  Actually in all honesty, adoring FIFA’s mission and work.  It is a confusing feeling filled with conflict.

Watching the documentary, Next Goal Wins, about the worst national team in the world is to be reminded how to love the game.  In a world of Sepps, Jack Warners, corruption, scandal, the Qatar Cup killing machine, and a Brazil in chaos, it easy to be jaded about the game and about those who run it.  It is even easier to forget that sometimes good things are done by Sepp’s evil empire.

The film showcases the American Samoan national team’s quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, a team that has NEVER won a game. The also hold the distinction of being on the wrong end of the worst WC Qualifying loss in FIFA history, 31 to 0.  That loss, a decade ago, defined them and still does.

The team is made of up rank amateurs who love the game with a purity missing from most professional players.  They love the game, their teammates, country and God with admirable devotion.  What they lack is skill, talent, knowledge, equipment and facilities.  They also lack hate and bigotry.  One of these defenders is transgender women who is accepted without a trace of drama or judgment. [SPOILER: She becomes the first transgendered person to start a World Cup Qualifier.]

Enter saviors, FIFA’s GOAL Project run out of their development office.  They provided the funding for training facilities including a pitch and equipment including training-wear.  They establish the program and start getting players together and entered into FIFA sanction tournaments.   They entered and played but continued to be slaughter in every match.

With the burning desire to win, the president of American Samoan soccer contacted US Soccer Federation for assistance.  Not really sure of the relationship between the two federations which are in two separate confederations (Oceania and CONCACAF respectively), but American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the U.S. so there is a strong national connection.

USSF helped them out..   It made me proud to be a US Soccer Supporters’ Club member and know that even a little of my money is going to programs like this and programs to bring the sport  I love to more people.

The story is exceptionally well put together and flows well.  I LOVED IT.. I laughed, cried, cheered and fell in love with every member of the team both players and the coaching team.  GO WATCH IT NOW..  IT WILL REMIND YOU WHY YOU LOVE THIS SPORT SO MUCH

HERE ARE AVAILABLE SCREENINGS IN THE US

Pirlo: I Think Therefore I Play [A Sycophant’s Book Review]

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Amazon Kindle Edition of Pirlo’s Autobiography -$9.99 and Delivered Instantly

My love of Andrea Pirlo is well established and all-encompassing.  I pre-ordered the hardcopy of the book the day it went on pre-sale in the UK like two months ago and expect it to be here by the end of the month.  On its publication date I tried to download the kindle version from the UK and the US Amazon stores.  UK told me they only sell to UK addresses and US did not have it at all.

On a whim Friday night I checked US Amazon again, it was there!  Downloaded it instantly, started reading and barely stopped until it was done.   Seriously, I had finished it about 10 hours after I started it and that includes sleeping and seeing the World Cup.

It was fantastic, feeling more like a well written long-form magazine article or a behind the scenes documentary than an autobiography.  Actually, it is like a guy having a few beers telling war stories at the pub.  He hold you enthralled without really trying.

Unlike say Zlatan’s autobiography, there is very little on his childhood or his family.  He goes into great detail about his desire to keep his family’s privacy protected and therefore does not really talk about them.  He has precious few mentions of (ex?) wife and their two children and those mentions actually seamlessly flow with the broader story.

The book reads exactly as he plays: elegant, direct, everything held close to the vest and perfectly delivered.  There is no demeaning anyone, no chest-thumbing, no bravado, just funny stories and interesting insights.  There is not a lot of in-depth, introspection; settling of scores; or ego stroking.  Even when he does take on someone, it is still in a funny, intelligent way.  Much more snarky, sarcastic but good-natured mocking; than cowardly, brutal attack where the people cannot respond.

For example,  he talks about he and his Milan/Azzurri teammates would play practical jokes on each other…  OH BTW, PIRLO IS FLIPPING HILARIOUS, shockingly so…  The stuff he and the boys used to do with Rino Gattuso is laugh out loud literally comic gold.   The kids at goal.com  have one of the Gattuso excerpts on their site  this is the writing style throughout the book.. nothing harsh but funny.

The other surprising thing about his writing are the many, many and varied pop-culture references both related to Italian and more global pop culture.  He references movies, history, politics, science, tv, etc and it all works (luckily some of them are footnoted for the non-Italian reader) .

When addressing his own experiences with racism, being called a Romai (gypsy) or talking about Mario and Kevin Boateng experiences, he forcefully expresses himself and his feelings but with a very eloquent simplicity.    It is honest and compelling.

I think that my favorite story is at the end when the Qatari try to sign him to play in Qatar.  It was brilliantly told like he had just landed in the land of Oz and the muchkins were singing to him.  An Example:

“Andrea, how many kids have you got?”

“Two”

“Well, we’ve an excellent English language school in Qatar”

“I actually quite like hearing them speak Italian”

“No problem. We’ll build a new one and only employ a Italian teachers.”

It is a very brief but incredibly interesting insight into how the Qatari work, especially given the current speculation/proof of bribery for the world cup.

Anyone who loves soccer, loves good story-telling or just loves to laugh should enjoy this book.   I was afraid that I would like him less or be way less amused with him after reading it like I was with Zlatan after reading his autobiography.  Just the opposite, I adore Pirlo more.  Also I really want to drink with him

Today, I Met the World Cup..

She is 13 pounds of solid gold perfection.

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ME WITH THE MY NEW BFF (Ignore how horrible I look) REPPING US SOCCER and ROCKING MY RUN DMB HAT

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Coca-Cola and FIFA have been taking trophy tour around the globe with their only fan stop in America being in LA.  I literally texted every day for a month for tickets.  TOTALLY WORTH IT.

They had a hologram presentation on the history of the Cup which I only caught part of to record and the video is not great but it was cool to relive so many great World Cup Moment.  The big cheer in the middle was a clip of Clinton Dempsey dancing in 2006