Tribeca 2014: ‘Next Goal Wins’ follows biggest underdogs in soccer history

- Advertisement -

next-goal-wins-documentaryNext Goal Wins

Directed by Mike Brett and Steve Jamison

United Kingdom, 2014

For sports fans, there’s nothing more hopeless than cheering for a perennial loser. Die-hard supporters of the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, and Kansas City Royals, among other notoriously bad franchises, know the agony of defeat all too well. But they’ve got nothing on the people of American Samoa.

The soccer team that represents this small Pacific Island nation is all kinds of awful. In a 2002 World Cup qualifying match, American Samoa lost to Australia 31-0—the worst margin of defeat in the history of the event. Prior to the events depicted in the documentary Next Goal Wins, they’d only won one international match. Ever. That was all the way back in 1983, which meant they were going on 30 years of nothing but losing when directors Mike Brett and Steve Jamison’s cameras started rolling.

Heading into 2014 World Cup qualifying, American Samoa soccer was still rudderless. They were a rather tightly knit crew, but the game wasn’t their biggest priority in life, and understandably, they came up a little short in the confidence department. Enter Thomas Rongen—an eccentric Dutchman who was the only person crazy enough to apply for the American Samoan national team’s head coaching vacancy.

He has a tough time assimilating at first; an avowed atheist, Rongen doesn’t quite understand American Samoan religious traditions or why they take precedent over practice. This leads to a major blowup between him and American Samoa soccer executives. The film also paints him as a stubborn ass, but he’s so much deeper than such a simple characterization would allow. He shares his tragic story—of losing a daughter in a car crash—with the audience and slowly comes to understand these people and this culture. It’s an arc rarely found in non-fiction filmmaking, but one that helps this film rise above its familiar athletic underdog formula.

Next Goal Wins‘ other big “character” is Jonny “Jayieh” Saelua, a defender for the American Samoan team who is also FIFA’s first transgender player. Jayieh is a sweet soul and a real charmer—maybe not the most talented player on the team, but one who absolutely earns playing time. It’s nice to see the filmmakers give her story its fair shake, but it also occasionally feels awkwardly shoehorned into an otherwise simply told sports story. Social commentary and athletics absolutely belong in conversation together, but Brett and Jamison don’t exactly nail the landing in their attempt to marry the two.

These asides excepted, Next Goal Wins is an inspiring, smartly executed, and immensely watchable documentary. It follows well-worn conventions, but those conventions are well-worn for a reason. Underdogs don’t come more “underdoggy” than American Samoan soccer, and seeing them rise up and fight for victory is intoxicating.

– John Gilpatrick

Sharing is caring!

10 Different Types of Financial Aid
Top 10 Richest American Idols
V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
The 5 Most Expensive Wireless Headphones: Ultimate Auditory Clarity
Business man watching business go bankrupt
25 Iconic Companies that Filed for Bankruptcy
Book genres of fiction and nonfiction
22 Different Types of Books (Genres and Non-Fiction Options)
The cast of Married...With Children
25 Little-Known Facts about Married…With Children TV Show
Ice Cube at Straight Outta L.A. at Tribeca Film Festival in 2010
10 Best Ice Cube Movies When You Want to Watch Ice Cube
Luke Evans at the Los Angeles premiere of Beauty And The Beast held at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood
10 Best Luke Evans Movies (He did that?)
whiskey with ice
6 Types of Whiskey – Do You Know Them?
50 Different Types of Nectarines
10 Different Types of Nut Butter
10 Different Types of Papaya (Plus Interesting Facts)
Cars lined up on the road
26 Types of Cars You Can Choose From for Your Ride
Man Riding Bicycle
11 Types of Bicycles – Do You Know Them All?
16 of the Best Online Auto Parts Stores
28 of the Best Online Bicycle Stores
15 Different Types of Goggles
13 Different Types of Dumbbells
15 Awesome Alternatives to Skateboards (Plus Interesting Facts)
Baseball player hitting ball
10 Types of Baseball Bats that Rip the Leather Off the Ball
man holding smartphone with vintage case
11 Types of Cell Phone Cases and Covers to Protect Your Expensive Smartphone
Black and Red Tablet Covers
8 Types of Tablet Cases for Kids, Protection, and Convenience
Camera, lenses and other photography equipments.
45 of the Best Online Photography and Camera Stores
9 Different Types of Website Hosting