THE BEGINNING

Pssst. The World Cup starts today. Darren Chesworth thought he’d share his top 10 football movies

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Pssst. The World Cup starts today (12 June 2014). Nobody’s talking about it, so Darren Chesworth thought he would. In this month’s Loud And Quiet he reviewed new football documentary Next Goal Wins, and shared his top 10 movies about boys (and a girl) kicking balls about. That top 10 is below. 

Those Glory, Glory Days (1983)
In the North London battle for supremacy Arsenal win on grass, but on celluloid Spurs take the honours. Against the insipid film version of Arsenal fan Nick Hornby’s equally pallid book Fever Pitch, is Philip Saville’s Those Glory, Glory Days. Funny and poignant it tells the story of a schoolgirl’s support for Tottenham during their double winning season of 1960-61.

Looking for Eric (2009)
With a passing resemblance to Alan Bleasdale’s early 80s drama, Scully, which told the story of a teenager receiving advice from an imaginary Kenny Dalglish, Looking for Eric, replaces Scouse teenager with middle-aged Mancunian postman, and Dalglish with the more charismatic Eric Cantona. Both works are left leaning, but, as one would expect from a Ken Loach film, Looking for Eric’s political message – working class solidarity – is more explicit.

Democracy in Black and White (2014)
One place to find democracy in Brazil during the early 1980s was at the Corinthians football club. The team (including international star Socrates) voted on everything, from what time to have lunch to which players to recruit. This would be unusual in any period, but while living under a military dictatorship it was positively radical. Pedro Asbeg’s excellent documentary perfectly captures this era of social upheaval and unparalleled hope.

The Firm (1988)
Of course pre-Hornby football wasn’t all socialism and working class heroes, as the late, great Alan Clarke’s The Firm testifies. Telling the story of a West Ham gang led by Bex (Gary Oldman), the film is an unflinching examination of hooliganism and its depressing effect on the English game. Thoughtful, powerful, and not to be confused with Nick Love’s typically ham-fisted remake or the risible Green Street.

Club for a Fiver (1995)
Club for a Fiver is about Leyton Orient’s season under the stewardship of joint managers John Sitton and Chris Turner. No doubt the filmmaker’s original idea was to document a club in crisis, with chairman looking to sell and team facing relegation. But Sitton soon stole the show. Ribald, angry, and aggressive (sacking a player at half time of one match) Sitton barely worked in football again once the film was aired.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006)
A truism, which pundits never fail to peddle, is that football is a results business. Therefore a film that follows a single player throughout a single game, with no interest in other players, let alone the final score, could rightly be accused of indulgence. That is if the player in question wasn’t Zinedine Zidane, the most graceful footballer the world has ever seen.

The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty (1972)
Albert Camus, novelist, existentialist and goalkeeper wrote: “All I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football.” The goalkeeper in Wim Wenders’ second feature also makes a link between football and existentialism. After murdering a cinema cashier he compares the psychological confrontation between goalkeeper and penalty taker to that between murderer and policeman. That’s what you get when you combine football with art house cinema.

An Impossible Job (1994)
In nearly half a century England have achieved precisely nothing, yet still there’s anticipation that any new national coach will lead the ‘three lions’ to world domination. When the coach invariably fails he is criticised, ridiculed and sacked. The only difference with Graham Taylor (a fine manager with Watford and Aston Villa) was that he allowed cameras to chronicle the whole embarrassing, hilarious and utterly predictable affair.

Gregory’s Girl (1981)
When a girl, Dorothy, replaces Gregory as centre forward on the school football team, the eponymous hero goes from resentful to love struck in the time it takes hormones to rear their ugly head. Bill Forsyth’s classic coming of age film is funny, tender and captures the awkwardness of teenage life as well as any movie ever made.

Hillsborough (1996)
Watching Jimmy McGovern’s dramatisation of the Hillsborough disaster is almost unbearable. If it wasn’t bad enough that 96 Liverpool football supporters died through events that were entirely avoidable, the victims and their fellow Liverpool fans were then blamed by South Yorkshire Police (the true culprits) for the disaster. This astonishing film can’t help but leave the viewer angry and distraught.

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