‘The Naked Man on the Sports Field’ (1974)

Der nackte Mann auf dem Sportplatz is not really a soccer movie. This 1974 film from the East German director Konrad Wolf is about a sculptor (Kurt Böwe) in a small town, who gets a commission to create a monument for the local football stadium. Since the artist is fairly well known, the local authorities hope such a public artwork will help increase game attendance.

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‘The Keeper’ (2018) – when good play heals divides

The Keeper (2018)

The Keeper is based on the young life of ManCity goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, whose worldwide fame is due to having weathered the last 20 minutes of the 1956 FA Cup Final with a broken neck.

But fittingly, that incident is a smaller part of the movie, because the real story is how a Nazi soldier and POW became a First Division GK in English football in just a few years after the end of World War 2.

The film gives insight into life in a British POW camp, where Trautmann and other soldiers were re-educated and put to work. There may have been 1,026 such POW camps in Britain, holding 400,000 captives who were eventually repatriated.

The Story

In the story, which may be quite fictionalized, merchant Jack Friar (John Henshaw) manages St Helens Town FC and spots Trautmann (David Kross) in the POW camp, stopping penalties to win cigarettes. Trying to avoid his club’s relegation, Friar induces the camp commander to let him borrow the GK to work in his shop and, on the sly, play football. There is anti-German sentiment from the players, fans and Friar’s family, but Trautmann’s goodness and footballing ability win them over.

At the same time, having been in the Hitler youth corp and later won an Iron Cross, Trautmann faces up to what his country has done. He also faces the guilt of knowing that he could have been a better human. The romance between Trautmann and Friar’s headstrong daughter Margaret (Freya Mavor) plays a large part of the story, and her acceptance of him is emblematic of a country trying to heal.

The second part of the story is Trautmann’s move to ManCity and his performance in the FC Cup. He overcomes the antipathy of fans, especially the large contingent of Jewish ManCity supporters. The third part of the story is the tragedy that befalls the Trautmanns just a few months after the neck injury.

The Importance of Trautmann’s story

I was able to attend a JCC zoom talk with Bavarian Writer-Director Marcus H Rosenmüller, in which he talked about what he was trying to do. The story was presented to Rosenmüller 10 years earlier. To him, a driving force was for Germans to talk about the war, something the German people could not bring themselves to confront for decades.

After interviewing Trautmann over 10 days, Marcus decided there are different types of Nazis. Some just kill cold-bloodedly, and others go along and then realize what is happening but hide it. This is where the shame comes from, when we don’t see people as humans and we just follow along and don’t fight for Democracy.

Last year and this, I missed several opportunities to watch The Keeper at Jewish film festivals and online JCC streaming events. I was surprised to be able to find and enjoy it on Kanopy through my library. And this is my point, that this film should not be relegated to ethnic film festivals. The Keeper has valuable messages for this time in our lives, especially for Americans. Doing one’s duty or being a good soldier is not enough. As in #BlackLivesMatter, Silence is Violence.

Other notes about the production

Although The Keeper is Rosenmüller’s first English language film, the first part could easily be mistaken for a typically excellent BBC production, with an emphasis on authenticity. While that part of this British-German production was shot in Scotland, the Manchester scenes were filmed in Bavaria to satisfy a grant requirement. They had to make a Bavarian stadium look like Manchester and use Bavarian footballers (one of them a bit chubby). The soccer is very well done.

Scotsman Gary Lewis plays ManCity manager Jock Thompson. Gary Lewis is probably most recognizable for playing the dad in Billy Elliot, but I noticed that he has acted in 4 soccer movies on my site: The Keeper, Goal!, Joyeux Noel, The Match, plus My Name is Joe.

Lastly, I found it rather interesting that most of the reviews of this film tend to focus on Trautmann’s career and the neck injury that made him famous. After doing some research, I became very unsure how fictionalized the first part of this film is. So my goal now is to read Catrine Clay’s book on Trautmann’s Journey and get a better view of the facts on being a German POW in the UK, and how Trautmann really became a GK. Isn’t it interesting what you can learn from soccer movies?

7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7

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Derby Days Berlin (2019) will make you a fan

Copa90 Stories logo

You might expect that as a reviewer of soccer movies, I would be well aware of COPA90, a company that claims to be “The world’s largest independent football media business”, delivering stories on “football like you’ve never seen it before”. I knew the name, but I hadn’t looked at their content until I watched Derby Days Berlin, an episode of their Copa90 Stories youtube channel. 

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Shakhtar Donetsk is ‘The Other Chelsea’ (2010)

The Other Chelsea: A Story from Donetsk (2010)

Although The Other Chelsea is 10 years old, it is a valuable film to watch in the context of today’s impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump. First-time Writer-Director Jakob Preuss lays out the struggling lives of coal miners in Donetsk and compares them to Kolya, a young rising local politician and businessman who drives a Lexus and drinks very old cognac. What ties them together is the success of their football team, FC Shakhtar Donetsk (Шахта́р Донецьк).

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‘Morris from America’ (2016) is not a soccer movie

Morris from America (2016)

Morris from America might come up when you search for “soccer movie”. But even though it takes place in Germany, and is ostensibly about a black American soccer coach, the film is not about football and actually has no football in it except as a visual reference. I’m reviewing the film on my website really, just to let you guys know.

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In ‘Die Mannschaft’ (2014) teamwork is key to victory

Die Mannschaft (2014)
aka The Team

German fans still recovering from the team’s failure to advance at WC 2018 should return to watching Die Mannschaft. It is a nicely crafted love letter to Joachim Löw and the 2014 German National Team. It is a tribute to German football, showing everything the German Federation (DFB) did to optimize the team to win WC 2014. 

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The poverty around WC 2010 is ‘Meanwhile in Mamelodi’ (2011)

Meanwhile in Mamelodi (2011)

During the month the 2010 World Cup is played in South Africa, Director Benjamin Kahlmeyer shows the life that goes on, meanwhile, in the impoverished township of Mamelodi. The township is only 16 miles from Loftus Stadium, but residents’ interaction is mostly limited to buying noisy vuvuzuelas and enjoying Bafana Bafana’s games on small black and white TVs.

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‘Trainer!’ (2013) may stifle your coaching aspiration

Trainer! (2013)

How good is Trainer? It’s so good, you will never want to become a soccer coach in Germany. Director Aljoscha Pause follows 3 coaches in the 2nd and 3rd divisions of the German leagues during the 2012-2013 season. The men are under constant pressure from the media. But they are also constantly pushing themselves to excel and to someday reach the Bundesliga.

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Imaginative combo of parkour + soccer in ‘Teufelskicker’ (2010)

Teufelskickers (2010)

Teufelskicker is a kick of a football film. It is a well-crafted movie based on the eponymous German children’s books by Frauke Nahrgang.

Discovering Coach Dad to be unfaithful, Moritz and his mom move in with Grandpa. In an unfriendly new school, Moritz is bullied by the local club team. He has to find new friends and build his own team, which they name Teufelskicker (Devil’s Kickers).

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From Russian enslavement to ‘The Miracle of Bern’ (2003)

The Miracle of Bern (2003)
Das Wunder von Bern

Das Wunder von Bern is one of the top soccer movie money-makers. It portrays the WC 1954 final, known as the Miracle of Bern, from the standpoint of a struggling mining town post-Hitler. A German POW returns from 11 years in the Soviet Gulag to a young son he didn’t know existed, and to a family that has grown up in his absence. The young boy is a talisman for local striker Helmut Rahn, who is called up to play for Germany but has trouble getting playing time.

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