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Review of ‘Soccer For Socrates’ from Day 2 of the Kicking and Screening Film Festival

Soccer to Socrates

Day 2 of the Kicking and Screening Soccer Film Festival in New York City provided the option of watching two films that were very different in style and content. The first option was a film called Soccer For Socrates, which was about how Northern Ireland’s appearance in the 1986 World Cup united the country that was still in the middle of The Troubles. The other, titled United We Fall, was a satirical film about five boys who “play for the same team David Beckham played for” and try to conquer the world and ultimately fail. It was supposed to be a spoof on the Class of ‘92 documentary but the other film seemed to have much more significance culturally so I decided to watch the one about Northern Ireland.

I was very excited to watch this film, as I knew very little about The Troubles of Northern Ireland so I was hoping to see a film that was predominantly focused on the social fabric of Northern Ireland with the soccer being a uniting theme. Unfortunately, I was left very disappointed by this film. The film tried to integrate four or five different storylines into one and it just turned into a very confusing conglomeration that did not effectively portray the (admittedly powerful) message that the film was trying to portray.

The film cuts in and out between four different plots. The first, and most prevalent plot is of the team preparing for and then competing in the World Cup in Mexico. The film takes a closer look at twenty-year-old Nottingham Forest midfielder David Campbell who receives a surprise call up to the team and the manager. Neither of these characters seemed to add anything with the message that the film was trying to convey and were pretty annoying distractions. There was also a young boy growing up in Belfast who loves the sport and sees a riot in the streets one night but it does not really seem to affect him. This lack of emotion was a missed opportunity to portray a powerful message. There is also the Brazilian player Socrates, who helped take down the pro military government in Brazil, who evokes fear in the Northern Irish players and public before their final group stage match. Again, his character was badly misused, as the references to his political history were vague and mentioned in passing.

These loosely related plot lines come together for the final group stage match between Northern Ireland and Brazil, a match that the Northern Irish needed to win to have any hopes of progression to the knockout stage. There are more vague references to the Troubles in Northern Ireland and that “Catholics and Protestants have come together to support their country” by showing a Belfast pub and not indicating who has Catholic and who was Protestant. Northern Ireland lose the match 3-0 and everyone looks heartbroken after the match and the film ends there.

This film was a missed opportunity to portray an extremely powerful message about a turbulent time in the relationship between Great Britain and Ireland. By using some fictitious characters and fake clips of the matches, the movie seems almost fake. Oh, and to sum it up… Sepp Blatter makes a cameo appearance when revealing the groups for the tournament. This might be a film worth seeing but expectations must be managed before viewing and it was a massive letdown on a very promising storyline.

SEE MORE — Review of ‘Jack To A King’ documentary that chronicles Swansea’s magical flight.

On a brighter note, after the film, Kicking and Screening held a panel where representatives from “Soccer without Borders” and “Spirit of Soccer” were invited in to talk about their experiences helping children in third world countries lead a better life through soccer. This panel was very moving and an example of the power of our beautiful sport, something that in the current climate of the world’s game was a very welcome reminder.

Kicking and Screening continues tonight with two films about supporters groups — one about the Philadelphia Union’s Sons of Ben and another about the supporters of Standard Liege.

 

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