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Drama

‘Baggio: The Divine Ponytail’ (2021) – GOAT or goat?

Baggio: The Divine Ponytail (2021)
aka Il Divin Codino
Baggio: The Divine Ponytail (2021)

When creating a biopic about a footballer, who you claim to be one of the best that ever played, the rule is that the film must have some football in it. At least have enough soccer to show the viewer that the player’s greatness cannot be denied.

Unfortunately, Director Letizia Lamartire did not get the memo. Instead, she makes Baggio’s story about his pain: unloved by an unloving father, massive knee injuries as his career begins and that continue throughout, clashes with his coaches, and a terrible PK that sails over the bar and denies Italy the 1994 World Cup.

As a result, the drama leaves the unenlightened in the dark. Baggio appears to be merely Italy’s most injured player, with a lot of resilience, thanks to Buddhism. Still, he has a huge following, because he is so human. After all, he missed that PK, right?

Other reasons I didn’t enjoy the film

Most of the football play is cut-away so there is no attempt to portray the game. Even the WC penalty kick made me laugh because, after 120 minutes of play in Rose Bowl baking sun, Baggio (Letizia Lamartire) takes his PK with an immaculate uniform.

Of course, the film was shot in Italy during the pandemic (Fall 2020), so perhaps it is unfair to fault the filmmakers for a lack of game authenticity. But if Netflix expects anyone to watch this film post-pandemic, it needed to have enough football to prove its point.

The film didn’t even explain why Baggio kept the ponytail (codino) his whole playing career.

On being the GOAT or the goat

In researching Roberto Baggio’s career, I found similarities to Harry Kane. This year has seen a lot of talk about Harry Kane’s legacy and his request to leave Tottenham. Everyone argues, if his career ends without winning a major trophy, can he really be ranked as one of England’s GOATs?

Like Kane, Baggio won no World Cup trophy, and he barely even played in the Champions League. He won a few Serie A titles with different clubs. But he also had many issues with playing time with almost all of his coaches. If his own coaches don’t value him, where does that place him in the annals of football history?

Now look at the opposite end of the spectrum. In today’s American vernacular, GOAT stands for Greatest of All Time. But when I was growing up, being the goat referred to someone who made a catastrophic blunder and lost the game.

A similar goat story exists with Chris Wondolowski. After he missed what looked like a sure thing versus Belgium at WC 2014, Wondo became a goat to many American soccer fans and pundits. The rancor is still there over 7 years later. The fact that Wondo continued to play and excel despite the hate is a real testament to his inner strength.

Italians, with their history of football, are more forgiving of Baggio’s missed PK than Americans, who barely know the game, are of Wondo’s miss. It is a sad statement of American values.

In conclusion

Spoiler Alert! The ending to this biopic is actually quite awful. During the entire film, the theme is that 3 year old Baggio promised his father he would someday beat Brazil and win the World Cup. Like Pelé promised his father, Baggio would redeem Italy for its loss in WC 1970.

But at the end of the film, Dad tells Baggio he made up the story because his son lacked character and only played for compliments. This is such a bizarre admission, it is like saying the whole film is about Baggio’s lack of character. Whether true or not, it was painful to watch.

This drama about a footballing great is too much about pain. Maybe Italian fans can appreciate this movie because they already know all the facts about Baggio. Otherwise, particularly if you are a manipulative parent, you might want your child to steer clear of this film.

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6

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