Marketing a film about soccer in the United States may be just as tough as marketing the actual sport. Although millions of young Americans sign up to be Saturday morning stars, the mainstream popularity of the worldwide phenomenon peaks in the U.S. only about every four years.
Enter “Goal: The Dream Begins Here,” the newest flick about soccer stardom, attempts to rekindle some of that popularity and passion for the sport, only months before the World Cup tournament kicks off. And while the national team most likely won’t be hoisting the golden trophy when all is said and done, “Goal” proves that winning the big one is only part of the journey.
The film depicts an illegal Mexican immigrant living in Los Angeles with incredible soccer skills and potential. Despite working two jobs and helping support his struggling family, young Santiago loves life on the pitch, even if finding his glory is only in a local recreation league. But when a former English soccer star notices him, he offers Santiao the chance of a lifetime: a tryout with the English soccer club Newcastle United. Against his father’s wishes but with his grandmother’s support, Santiago leaves the family landscaping business and the country, to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional soccer player.
The predictable story of “Goal” is overshadowed by the film’s outward intentions. Although the cliche, somewhat goofy nature of dialogue and characterization is what foremost drives the plot, the message directed at the younger generation of soccer players is what’s important. The notion that a poor, struggling youth can defy seemingly insurmountable adversities by merely believing in himself is the crux of the theme and the foundation of the film.
The highlight of the movie is the intense action sequences and on-field drama, which intertwines actual Champions League play with acted scenes. The athleticism of lead actor Kuno Becker fits wells into the fast paced nature of the film and his up and down relationships with particular teammates emphasizes the importance of cooperation and chemistry within a team. It is, however, Santiago’s relationship with his father that creates the overlying conflict of the film and propels his emotions to the extreme.
Director Danny Cannon also embeds a loose love story into the plot which results in an awkward, tongue-tied relationship between Santiago and a young nurse for the team. Although ineffective beyond the typical teen crush stage, the relationship between Santiago and his hesitant girlfriend provides him with moral support and a cuter, less competitive side to the film.
With cameos by soccer superstars David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Raul, “Goal” has its share of memorable moments and reasons to smile. And while it may not kindle your appetite for the sport, expect entire soccer teams to take a day off of practice and show up to this film. So maybe wear some cleats to fit in.
“Goal: The Dream Begins Here” is in theaters now.