Before The Outcasts, aka El Matareed, Egypt had a pretty long history of funny football films. While much of this film is silly and over the top, I actually watched it twice and enjoyed it both times. The performances are entertaining, and the storylines are more complex than you initially think. In fact, for Egypt, the characters and their situations might be considered Western-light.
In the story, Salah (Ahmed Hatem) returns to Egypt after having lived in the USA for 20+ years. His estranged father has passed away, and Salah plans to collect his inheritance and go back to the States in two days. But it turns out that his father has left him a house and a football club, and the club is in deplorable shape. It has a mountain of debt, the water and power have been cut, and they are about to be relegated. After an unpleasant attempt to sell the club to his cross-town competitor, Salah decides he must improve the team to avoid relegation and increase its value for a sale.
Farida (Tara Emad) is a social worker at the club who is writing her masters thesis on human development through team sports. She agrees to help Salah contact the players who failed past tryouts, so that they can be signed without needing any agents. As part of her deal, she insists on becoming assistant coach. She genuinely wants to help the players and to make the club a success.
The players of course, are all outcasts from other teams or from society. The GK has been a sub for 7 years. Shahine is possessed and uses voodoo and charms to channel Bruce Lee and Maradona. The hefty be-wigged Boyka has an anger management problem and refuses to sub off. Bata is obsessed with stealing shoes and can run very fast from the law. Nebla is homeless. Hafi can only play well when barefoot. And old man Gaber has been the captain for 20 years, and for him the fans chant “Age is just a number”.
In addition to these characters, there is cross-town rival Abham (Eyad Nassar), a bad, rich, violent guy who once worked for Salah’s father and therefore is interested in destroying the Outcasts. There is also the inept but well-meaning team lawyer Ezzat (Mohamed Mahmoud), who is not just the caretaker of the club, but the bridge between Salah and his father.
In the end, to avoid relegation, the Outcasts must defeat Abham’s team, which will at the same time prevent Abham from promotion to the Premier League. Of course, the filmmaker’s goal is to accomplish this in comedic style. The funniest scene in the film is when Shahine uses a Maradona charm to channel the player dribbling through defenses, but then handles the ball into the goal (but this time, disallowed).
This is one of those football farces that doesn’t pretend to replicate a game, and in this case, it’s all the better for it. Watching Salah is fun both in the locker room and on the touchline, as he portrays a coach who realizes he has no control of the situation.
Of course, the relationship between Salah and his social worker/coach Farida is the romance angle of the film. What surprised me at the end was how the two express their love for each other and then neither hug nor kiss. The most they do is hold hands. It just surprised me, considering how Western-like many of the ideas in the film seemed to be.
I really don’t understand why I liked this movie, as I’ve had terrible reactions to similar farces. But something about this film from first-feature director Yasser Samy made me pay attention. It wasn’t the club’s wedding celebration in goal for old Captain Gaber and his bride Fatma. It wasn’t the armless ping pong player. It wasn’t that Farida likes to release negative energy by going to a junkyard and smashing things. I didn’t even get to see that much about Egypt, although the club stays in a nice place called MAS Resort, which I could not find anywhere on the internet.
So I can’t tell you why you should watch this film. It’s on Netflix, it’s a nice diversion. Maybe I just needed an escape from Gaza, Ukraine, the GOP, and climate change. The Outcasts is good for that. Enjoy!
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7