A few weeks ago Slovenian weekly magazine Mladina published a list of seven memorable football movies. The magnificent seven are: Escape to Victory, The Football Factory, Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter, Bend it like Beckham, Goal: The Dream Begins, The Damned United and Zidane – un portrait du 21e siecle. The period before the beginning of the World Cup is just right to examine one of them, the most straight-forward among them – Goal: The Dream Begins.
The movie is not really a masterpiece, but I’ll try to focus mainly on product placement and some other interesting facts. The movie was (partially?) funded by Adidas and approved by FIFA (football governing organisation), so the producers could use the names of footballers and clubs.
Goal’s script reads like a sports marketer's dream – Santiago, an illegal Mexican immigrant who lives in LA, wants to play professional football, but poverty and family problems make it virtually impossible. After seeing him play, an English scout recommends the kid for a trial with Newcastle United in the English Premier League. You can guess the rest of the story (and yes, it includes a pretty girl).
Goal: The Dream Begins was the first of three films Adidas has financed for a total budget of about $100 million. The movie is shallow, predictable and looks like an Adidas ad. There are countless shots of Adidas sneakers, football boots, training gear, Adidas logos … But that’s really not the biggest problem.
The movie concept
In my opinion the movie(s) failed with the whole concept – Santiago went from L.A. to Newcastle Utd. (the first movie) and then from Newcastle to Real Madrid (the second movie). The story is almost like a fairytale, with lots of unbelievable twists and turns, but unfortunately also with lots of illogical aspects of the story.
What’s the problem with the concept? Real Madrid can be quite believable choice for a dream team to play for, because it’s one of the biggest brands in football, but why Newcastle? The answer is also obvious – in the time of making the movie Newcastle was the best English football club that was playing in the Adidas sponsored kit. You might have guessed – Real players also wore Adidas (and still do).
The data from Deloitte’s annual Football Money League show that the decision to use Newcastle for Santiago’s destination wasn’t a bad idea. Well, at least on the surface. According to Deloitte’s research Newcastle was indeed one of the wealthiest brands in world football (in terms of revenues generated), but the club hasn’t got the tradition of some clubs that were below Newcastle on the list. The producers chose the safest route: they chose the best English based (English speaking) club at that particular moment without considering the football history and the global appeal of the movies. In the graph you can see that in the recent years Newcastle hadn’t achieved much and was even relegated from the Premier League.
Another dangerous aspect of making movies about football is the possible simplification of the football facts. This was also the case in Goal: The Dream Begins. The football rules prevent the footballers to sign and play for clubs outside the so-called transfer window. This rule was broken twice: one of the new players (Gavin Harris) was signed with just three matches to play – which is a massive no-go, while Santiago followed him very soon. Screenwriters broke another important football rule – players from non-EU countries must get a work permit if they want to play in the UK. To get that piece of paper they have to play in 75% of all international matches in the last 2 years for the country they came from. There are some exceptions to the rule, but Santiago couldn’t play for Newcastle even if they stretched the rule beyond imagination.
Well, never mind the simplifications and weird concepts, let’s focus on placements. Besides Adidas’ product placement and Adidas’ equipped teams there were some additional placements, notably Mercedes in Goal 1 and Audi & Lamborghini in Goal 2. BTW Mercedes’ product placement was quite good – their cars were present in several scenes: girls in California and Gavin drove convertibles, Santiago’s agent Glen drove M series in LA and one of the Mercedes’ estate models in Newcastle, while boys came to the nightclub in a Mercedes SUV.
The movie Goal: The Dream Begins and the whole Goal trilogy are filled with simplifications, which can cause some discomfort with the viewers, especially those with at least basic football knowledge. In my opinion it would be better that filmmakers stick with proven formulas, e.g. movies such as Bend it like Beckham or TV series Footballers' Wives. Anyway, upcoming World Cup matches will provide more fun, horror and drama than most of the current Hollywood production.