‘Boisko Bezdomnych’ (2008): a fictional tale of a homeless World Cup team

Boisko Bezdomnych (2008)
The Outsiders (2008)

Sometimes a drama can reveal more about society’s problems than can a documentary. From its Amazon Prime description, it might not catch your eye that, unlike all the other movies on this topic, Boisko Bezdomnych is a dramatic feature film. The idea for the film arose from a Polish team going to the Homeless World Cup.

Compared to all the other homeless World Cup documentaries that I have reviewed, Director Kasia Adamik is able to take a distinctly different approach. In her film, not just the players, but also the coach is dirty, disheveled, homeless, and alcoholic. They aren’t just invisible; people constantly look away from them, effectively denying their humanity. They maintain their own place in the world by binding together as a homeless community. Much of the film embodies this life and briefly but obtusely explores why some are alcoholic.

For example, Coach Jacek (Marcin Dorocinski) is a frustrated physical education teacher whose promising national team footballing career was cut short by a horrific knee injury at 17. The scene that leads to his homelessness is powerful and can be watched on vimeo. He abandons his wife and teenage daughter to essentially disappear amongst the homeless in the train station.

The story and the soccer

Living around the station, the group enjoys kicking anything that approximates a ball, and eventually someone gets the idea to enter the WC, with Jacek as coach to whip them into shape, arrange scrimmages, and raise funds. Amongst the play, they literally run into young tourist Sewka (Joanna Grudzinska as a sort of free-spirited Maggie Gyllenhaal type). She buys them a real ball and records the players’ stories.

The football in the film is what you would expect from a bunch of mostly unfit drunkards playing soccer. The exception is Marcin Dorocinski, who like his character Coach Jacek, was a promising footballer cut down by injury. The beginning of the film is eerie because it starts with what appears to be actual footage of the actor as a teenage footballer in a national team debut. And towards the end of the film, forced to join the play, Marcin demonstrates his impressive footballing skills while warming up against a wall.

An unfocused ending

After all the careful detail exercised throughout most of the film, the last act of the story is compressed and feels piecemeal. It’s as if the film production ran out of money, they were trying to keep it under 2 hours, or the editor went on strike. 

New bits to the story are brought in but not resolved on-screen. E.g., it’s not clear why Jacek’s wife goes to the trouble of doing a television appeal to find her husband. Also, Jacek blows up at his potential sponsors and it’s never explained how that’s resolved, or why/when his new girlfriend Sewka leaves. It is unclear how her videos contribute to the team’s funding or how her relationship with Jacek contributes to his rehabilitation. There’s also a gratuitous sex scene when one of the players briefly returns home.

Other thoughts

Despite a few flaws, Boisko Bezdomnych is an interesting film even though some of its situations are unrealistic. Someone unable to control his/her drug or alcohol dependency would not be allowed to coach a homeless WC team. Teams don’t just appear at the tournament, they have to qualify. A homeless street team would never beat a professional team. I can’t speak for the reality of the portrayed homeless situations, but I often feel that the existing homeless WC documentaries are perhaps too one-sided in their positive projections about the tournament’s effects.

I was surprised to see that the trailer emphasizes the football rather than the homelessness. I really felt that the film’s focus was the other way around.

I was also surprised to realize that the director was a woman, especially after watching the gratuitous sex scene. Director Adamik is having a good career and it’s interesting to note that she does mostly thrillers and action films. Such a resume is really unusual for a female director, but maybe it helps that she comes from a family of directors. However, as I noted in my article on Women Directors, she is definitely another example of a Director who emphasizes the characters and their stories.

In Polish with English sub-titles

The English title is The Offsiders (the literal translation is Homeless Pitch)

7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7 

Hey Guys! This is my 300th review!