The world of football was rocked this week after numerous senior Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) officials were arrested under suspicion of corruption and bribery. Allegations have circled for sometime now and it is not uncommon to hear people say that money has ruined ‘the beautiful game’. Clubs are no longer clubs, they are franchises characterised by sponsorship deals and ever-escalating wage packets which have come to sour the sport. It’s easy to forget that, for many still, it is not about money; football is about a love of playing and, at international level, the pride of representing your country. The third and final instalment of our There’s No ‘I’ In Team Season features an oh-so-sweet and inspiring underdog story, a wonderful film that we are extremely pleased to screen.
Next Goal Wins (2014) follows the American Samoan men’s international football team as they begin training for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It’s been 17 years since the team have won a game and for more than a decade they have been haunted by a 31-0 defeat to Australia – the biggest international loss in history. Of the 204 international teams listed in FIFA’s world rankings, American Samoa are rock bottom. To help with preparations, Football Federation American Samoa advertise for a new team coach. Only one man applies – Dutch taskmaster Thomas Rongen – and so begins a journey of self-discovery, unity, empowerment and friendship.
Although football, or soccer, may not yet have reached the levels of frenzied popularity seen in Europe or South America, those involved in the sport on this humble South Pacific island are passionately dedicated. In the build up to a tournament, players are expected to train twice daily whilst working a day job. The team’s captain teaches at a local high school. One of the team’s forwards serves in the U.S. military. Some squad members hold down multiple jobs yet still show up to practice fully committed to ending the team’s misfortunes.
This heartwarming British documentary, directed by Mike Brett ans Steve Jamison, showcases a wonderful culture, selfless and accepting of everyone. While their football team may be trailing the rest of the world, American Samoa are top-of-the-league when it comes to attitudes towards gender identity. Defender Jaiyah Saelua is the first fa’afafine player to perform at an international level.
With this There’s No ‘I’ In Team Season programme, sports have only ever been a backdrop or a ‘plot-device’, a catalyst for communities and the individuals living within them to better themselves and their given situation. Town of Runners wasn’t about running. It was about the young people of Bekoji and their efforts to rise out of poverty. Hell on Wheels wasn’t about roller derby. It was about women banding together and seizing the empowerment not afforded to them by a patriarchal society. And Next Goal Wins isn’t really about football. It is about a nation rebuilding confidence in itself, undergoing a healing process that will hopefully reinforce its rich identity.
Next Goal Wins screens at The Palace Picturehouse in Armley Mills Industrial Museum on Thursday 18 June from 7PM (doors open 630PM). The feature presentation will be accompanied by a selection of short films and refreshments will be provided. Tickets are available now from our online ticket office for only £5. Don’t miss out!