Boh Ngau (The Champions) is a hidden gem of a football comedy, combining soccer with the formulaic plot of a Hong Kong kung fu flick. I was shocked to realize it pre-dates Shaolin Soccer by almost 20 years, and yet it has an impressive level of soccer skill without any CGI.
In fact, this 30 year old film has footy and keepy-uppy skills that rival tricks you see today. It made me really sad that I would never see a sequel from these talented performers.
Biao Yuen and Kwok Keung Cheung are funny and a joy to watch. It was interesting to learn that Yuen grew up performing with Jackie Chan, and Cheung was a youth player for Hong Kong’s international team. Both are quite handsome too.
In the story, Lee Tong (Yuen) is a young farmer who juggles eggs and builds strong legs by operating a rice winnowing machine, running through a pond, and kicking water at ducks. He’s a pious young man who works hard to support his crippled uncle. He ends up in the big city, makes a friend (Cheung), and becomes a footballer by accident. The two lead their team to a championship and refuse to take bribes, which puts them in constant fights with the local mafia. There is also a lot of fighting and brutality on the pitch.
The only problem I had with the story was in the final 10 minutes, when the two play a crucial match against the match-fixing star player. The loser must forfeit his leg. That gruesome bit prevents me from recommending this movie for little kids, but otherwise I really enjoyed this film.
About the Title of the Film
The literal Google translation of the title Boh ngau 波牛 is “Wave of cattle”. According to a friend of mine, phonetically, the first character sounds like “ball” and is used with a second character to represent different ball games. 足球 means “foot ball”. 篮球 means basketball. 排球 means volleyball. 牛 Represents ox or cow, which is a strong animal and symbolic of strength. Therefore, the title characters 波牛 could mean someone who is strong at a ball game, and therefore a champion.
In Mandarin or Cantonese with English subtitles
SoccerMovieMom Rating = 7
Released: 1983-10-11 (Hong Kong) as 波牛
Good synopsis: http://www.lovehkfilm.com/reviews/champions.htm
Director: Brandy Yuen
Stars: Biao Yuen, Kwok Keung Cheung