When Wichita was hopping – ‘God Save the Wings’ (2020)

God Save the Wings (2020)

Very good things can come out of obsessive fan behavior*. …such as this feature length documentary, God Save the Wings. Producer and life-long Wings fan Michael Romalis took his 40 year old collection of memorabilia, facts, and videos, and with co-producer and fellow fan Timothy O’Bryhim wrote a book and then made a movie.

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Revisit Barça under Pep in ’Take the Ball Pass the Ball’ (2018)

Take the Ball Pass the Ball (2018)

The Year of the Pandemic has been wickedly bloodthirsty as it feasted on the faltering FC Barcelona. Internal scandals led to Barcelona’s crunching 2-8 exit in the 2019-2020 Champions League quarter-finals, the messy Messi situation, and the attempt of Barça’s fans to expel the board. Even if you’re not a Barça fan, it’s hard to watch such an admired club implode so quickly.

In these depressing times, it’s uplifting to remember a period just a decade ago when Barcelona was Camelot: the greatest and good King Pep and his round table of Knights, led by Sir Messilot, who were all about the Football and the Team.

And that’s why it’s probably not coincidental that Take the Ball Pass the Ball just became available on Netflix. As the producers recently tweeted, “It’s about Barça… when they were good.”

https://twitter.com/zoomsportint/status/1302539400916631552?s=20

The coverage

Take the Ball Pass the Ball is pretty long at 1 hour 49 minutes; it appears to be a first feature by Director Duncan McMath and is based on the 2012 book by his friend and football journalist, Graham Hunter. Hunter had written gloriously about Barça’s 2008-2012 reign under Pep Guardiola, and McMath visualized it as a film with additional player participation.

Players interviewed for the film
Players interviewed for the film

During an interview with DSpot, the creators said they interviewed 36 people. By the time they filmed, 5 years had passed. Media attention had waned, and players shared stories that knit together the shroud of greatness that surrounds Guardiola. 

The filmmakers break 2008-2012 into 6 segments (time markers are approximate):

  1. Wembley 2011 (2:50)
    • The Champions League Final versus ManU at Wembley on May-28-2011
    • Emblematic as the the peak of the greatest team ever
  2. The Road to Wembley (9:02)
    • Starts with Barça’s 2010 Champions League semi-final elimination by Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan (the eventual champions)
    • Mourinho takes over Real Madrid and spars with Pep, his former teammate, through the media
    • Eric Abidal’s role in the Final in the face of recovery from liver cancer that was diagnosed in Mar-2011
  3. The Barcelona Way (27:25)
    • The revival and reinforcement of tiki taka from Johan Cruyff to Frank Rijkaard to Pep Guardiola
    • The importance of La Masia, Barça’s youth academy
    • Highlights the difficulty of learning Barça’s style when a new player joins from the outside
  4. The Making of Messi (45:48)
    • How Messi was discovered and why he is so great
    • How it is near-impossible to compile a list of his greatest goals because there are so many
  5. The Local Hero – Pep Guardiola (1:00:50)
    • Pep’s playing career
    • How Cruyff spotted Pep early
    • Why Cruyff recommended Pep to succeed Rijkaard instead of Mourinho
  6. Life after Pep (1:33:49)
    • Pep burns out but maybe Xavi will eventually inherit the Barça mantle

What made Pep and Barça so great?

Through repeated statements in interviews, the film builds a case about what made that particular Barcelona team so great. It’s more than just having Messi, one of the all-time greats. Pep built the team around Messi, but he also convinces players that if they do what he tells them to do, it will work and they will win. While a control freak on player diet and activities, he was also at that time a player’s manager because he had only retired from playing a few years earlier and understood what that generation of players needed.

Out of favor Samuel Eto’o snidely remarks that the players were so good, they didn’t need a manager. But to see professional players watch themselves, hundreds of times over, scoring a favorite goal, you recognize that being the best in the world takes a different mindset. The manager who can coordinate 20+ players to be in that mindset at the same time — has to be a magician.

In conclusion

The film is an excellent way to educate yourself on the Barcelona style of play. We can only hope it will still be there after the current board has wreaked its havoc.

There is of course a ton of soccer in this film. I had an issue with the first half-hour, where the game footage was a mash of split-second frame clips, too fast and short to see what was happening, and cued to convey emotion. I almost stopped watching because it felt like a commercial. And Mourinho as the bad guy is a meme today. But once past that point, the coverage was enjoyable and informative.

For a more historical documentary on Barcelona, check out Barça Dreams.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8

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‘Jada’ (2019) soccer and suspense in Chennai

Jada (2019)
 ஜடா (2019)

Jada is an uncommon mix of soccer, drama, romance, comedy, and suspense. Some reviewers deem it a confused mess from first-time Director Kumaran. But if you go along for the ride, there is a lot of entertainment value in this multi-faceted football film from India. And if you’re shut in, it will occupy 2 hours and 12 minutes of your endless day.

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‘Streetball’ (2010) best Homeless World Cup soccer movie

Streetball (2010)

Streetball is not just another homeless world cup film, it is the best of its genre. Despite being 10 years old, this documentary is fresh, vibrant, and still relevant in its reflection of the world today. Streetball also stands out as one of the few homeless world cup (HWC) films where the soccer is as engaging as the stories of the people.

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A Costa Rican gem: ‘Buscando a Marcos Ramirez’ (2017)

Buscando a Marcos Ramirez (2017)

I was thoroughly enchanted by Buscando a Marcos Ramírez, the first soccer movie I have seen from Costa Rica. In the story, Marcos’ single mom has named him for the popular eponymous children’s book and given him a love of reading. But when she dies, he must move from the simple countryside to the unwelcoming home of his grandfather in the city of San José, Costa Rica.

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‘Mi Mundial’ (2017) is a cautionary tale

Mi Mundial (2017)

Mi Mundial is a charming Cinderella-like football tale, except this Cinderella returns to the ashes of his old life. This futbol pelicula is based on the 2010 children’s book of the same name, by former Uruguayan futbolista Daniel Baldi. A prolific author of mostly juvenile books mostly about football, Baldi uses much of his life in his stories, and he made sure that the film stayed true to its origin and message.

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‘The Workers Cup’ (2017) normalizes Qatar

The Workers Cup (2017)

Now that WC 2018 has finished in Russia (Congratulations to Les Bleus!), the eyes of the world turn to WC 2022 in Qatar. But as happened with Russia, the eyes of football fans are blind to the exploitation and corruption that FIFA has facilitated for these two tournaments. The Workers Cup might open your eyes a little, but to me, Adam Sobel’s film normalizes the conditions in Qatar.

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Football is medicine for ‘The Other Kids’ (2016)

The Other Kids (2016)

First-time Director Pablo de la Chica initially set out to make a documentary about the young Ugandan players who had a chance to visit FC Barcelona in 2007. While investigating, de la Chica found Mubiru Reagan playing soccer in a garbage dump near the Mandela National Stadium.

The landfill is heavy with the toxic smell of burned plastic, but Reagan plays joyously while wearing a Fernando Torres jersey. Reagan is only 5 years old, but his skill, confidence, and positivity make him the leading goalscorer.

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