Unbreakable: The Steve Zakuani Story is an extremely well-made documentary of a man reviewing his chance hit footballing career that ended just short of meteoric. By telling his story, Steve Zakuani hopes to convince every young teenager that they can be at rock bottom but still rise again and ultimately give back.
“It’s not a soccer story, it’s a life story. Everyone is unbreakable.”– Steve Zakuani, soundersfc.com Nov-16-2018
Opportunity in America
About a third of the film is Steve going back to visit his old stomping grounds in England and the friends and coaches who helped him. Signed at an early age with Arsenal, he was cut at 14 because he was too small. He got into some trouble, had a knee injury and stopped playing.
Later, he joined Abbey Casal’s club for 16 year olds who were without a team. One of his teammates got the attention of University of Akron’s scout Ryan Higginbotham, and Steve was offered a scholarship. He went to America to play for Caleb Porter, where as a sophomore, MLS offered him a 5-year contract.
The peak and the valley in MLS
Until I watched this film, I didn’t understand how short Steve Zakuani’s pro career was. I only remembered how tough it was for the Quakes to defend him. Most people assume he was headed for the big time. But in his second season in Apr-2011, his leg was broken in a game against the Colorado Rapids.
Zakuani published a book about his 500 day recovery to return to the pitch. But the 9 surgeries for that injury probably led to a sports hernia and more injuries. Zakuani retired from play at age 26.
While Zakuani has continued to stay in the game with broadcast work for Sounders games, a podcast, writing for MLSSoccer.com, motivational speaking, and founding Kingdom Hope, a charity that pays it forward by reaching out to young players. The film makes it clear that he intends to do even more.
A comment on Brian Mullan
The film briefly shows Zakuani’s reconciliation with Brian Mullan, the Rapids player who committed the foul that ended Steve’s potential. One benefit of the foul was that MLS refereeing changed. Such 2-footed tackles are no longer allowed.
But it is useful to remember that at the time, such tackles were fairly common. I remember watching Richard Mulrooney on the Quakes where he would practically fly like a missile across the field to tackle away a ball. Brian Mullan was Mulrooney’s Quakes teammate, and I don’t recall his playing that way very much.
But I do remember a game at Spartan Stadium where fans, in response to a goal, threw their seat cushions on the field. Brian Mullan was the only player trying to pick them up. He is now a nurse working on the front lines of the pandemic.
For me, the fascinating part of the documentary was Zakuani’s path to MLS. His father Mao Zakuani figures prominently in the film, in a way that is entertaining. Writer-Director Serge Rashidi-Zakuani is a cousin who grew up with Steve and knows him well, adding to the charming craft of the film.
Many interviews with soccer pros are sprinkled throughout to attest to Zakuani’s talent: Caleb Porter, Sigi Schmid, agent Rich Motzkin, and Landon Donovan. Entrepreneur and producer Dan Price also contributes opinions as a fan and a businessman.
8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8