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.
Fuera de Juego (Offside) has won awards for pondering the question: why aren’t there openly gay male pro soccer players in Spain? This question could equally be asked in many other countries. The sad truth for LGBT players is that coming out of the closet could destroy one’s career.
FC Barcelona is “Més que un Club” – More than a Club. And if you had any doubt, you should watch the documentary Barça Dreams. At 2 hours, this is probably the longest soccer documentary I’ve ever seen. Writer-Director Jordi Llompart covers the club’s history and culture, which has fermented and evolved since 1899. There is a lot of ground to cover, and it goes way beyond the pitch at Camp Nou, their fútbol stadium.
I am mystified that the Spanish media was mostly critical of Que baje Dios y lo vea (Holy Goalie), faulting it as clichéd and unimaginative, with actors in roles not much different from what they portray on popular TV shows. One writer even complained that there were too many jokes. Does Spain have the best television comedy in the world, so that this film pales in comparison?
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.
As much as I like parts of the film Eighteam, much of it circumnavigates the tragic plane crash that killed almost the entire Zambian National Team on April 27, 1993, off the coast of Gabon.
Soccer cannot unite the world. But for a few hours, the motivation to watch a game allows people to set aside their differences. La Gran Final is a triptych of disappearing cultures joining with the modern forces that swallow them, to watch, with ebullient shared enthusiasm, the 2000 World Cup Final of Germany versus Brazil.
Carlitos and the Field of Dreams is predictable but enjoyable. Carlitos, a 12 year old orphan, sneaks out of the orphanage with the help of his fellow inmates, in order to play for Spain’s junior national team. The orphanage’s maintenance man becomes the team’s coach, and the pair help win the European Junior Cup.
Días de fútbol, or Football Days, is a pretty funny Spanish buddy film about 7 men who resolve to enter and win a soccer league in order to cheer up Jorge, who has been dumped by his long-time girlfriend. All of the men have troubled love lives, and they are all terrible soccer players. They are led by Antonio, an ex-con with anger management issues, who wants to become a psychologist and tries to solve everyone’s problems.
In El Portero, a former Real Madrid goalkeeper known as the King of the Penalty Kick, travels the Spanish countryside, wagering men to score against him. The villagers and the underground openly express their opposition to the repressive military dictatorship via a comedic penalty kick shootout versus the soldiers.
The Longest Penalty Kick in the World is a Spanish film that is so horribly boring I had to keep rewinding to watch the parts I had dozed through.