WARNING: This Article May Contain Spoilers
The FA Cup is the reason most foreign players come to England to play football – there are few competitions where topflight, non-league and amateur teams can compete together. Starting in 1871-72, its history alone is probably the most special thing about it let alone the romance of the ‘giant-killers’ (that minnow team that defeats the league giant) – there is even a trophy for it now – originally called the Ronnie Radford Giant-Killer Award after Ronnie Radford who scored for Hereford, a Southern League club, against first division Newcastle in the 1971/72 third round replay. Obviously it’s rare that the minnows go on and lift the cup these days, I think there is too much money involved in the game that they are outweighed by the big clubs (since the inaugural season of the Premier league, in 1992, no non-Premier League club has done it), but the last time it happened was in 1980 when West Ham (Second Division) beat Arsenal (First Division) 1-0. But if you take a minnow as a club that is several levels below their competitors then we have to go back to 1901 when Tottenham (Southern League) beat Sheffield United (First Division) – the game was taken to a replay after a 2-2 draw in the first leg and Tottenham won the replay 3-2. This win also makes Tottenham the only non-league team to lift the FA Cup; only six other teams outside the top division have won it.
These films are all ‘feel good’ football films – some predictable endings (because you can’t always find feel good films about underdogs that aren’t predictable) but still lovely to watch. I almost included Gregory’s Girl (1980) in this article but on another watch realised my memory was wrong as I remembered it included more football but it’s more of a ‘coming of age’ film than football even though it was more forward thinking with girls’ football than other films that followed.
Britt-Marie Was Here (2019)
This definitely has the right criteria for an ‘FA Cup film’ – passion (and football obviously). All right there is very little passion or football at the start in this Swedish comedy drama, Britt-Marie lives her life with her husband of 40 years; he believes football is a metaphor for life, Britt-Marie can’t understand how “10 sweaty men on a muddy field solves problems” she believes “baking soda solves more problems than football” – you can probably see the way their marriage is heading. Britt-Marie finds herself alone, at the age of 63, after forty years of marriage but she is offered a job in Burg, a little town in the middle of nowhere, as a youth leader and football coach (how?). I had hopes for this film as I believe, there are times, when European cinema do films a lot better than Hollywood; they can handle humour and pathos in a way that others don’t. Britt-Marie Was Here plods along but always heading in the right direction, there is no big drama to distract you and you don’t get the outcome you’d expect from another film like this. Even if you ‘don’t do subtitles’ give this film a watch – I forgot I was reading them half the time.
Back of the Net (2019)
A film about Science and Soccer (that’s right I said it SOCCER! – it’s set in Australia so I have no choice). American science ‘geek’ Cory is supposed to be spending her summer on a boat in the middle of the Ocean but ends up in an Australian Soccer camp – it’s a tenuous reason for the mix up she arrives at the airport and there are two HSA buses waiting (Harold Science Academy and Harold Sports Academy) and she gets on the wrong one. Obviously the film has all the elements of a teen film – ‘geek’, bully, ‘love interest’ and underdogs – and pans out as you’d expect a teen film too BUT you can learn a little about the physics of football along the way. Nice to see a film that covers girl’s football*, there are too few around and it is should be promoted more.
*Caitlin Foord makes a cameo appearance in this film and she is the youngest women ever to represent the ‘Matildas’ (Australia’s National Women’s Soccer team) at the age of 16.
Holy Goalie – original title ‘Que baje Dios y lo vea’ (2017)
When the first scene sees a football being shot you’d be hard pushed to believe that this is a comedy but it is – and a very funny one at that. To save the monastery that he has been sent to, Salva persuades Munilla to compete in the ‘Champions Clerum’- despite the monastery not having a football team! They face all the trials and tribulations that come with any football competition, and life itself, but they have some big cojones (watch it you’ll understand) and persevere. You can probably guess the outcome but there are many funny moments along the way. The rules are obviously different for the ‘Champions Clerum’ as I’m sure they break a genuine FIFA rule but, hey, this is just a film what do I care, I’m just glad I found this little gem to watch. I’m sorry for those that don’t like subtitles – you obviously need them to understand the conversation but you can get the gist of it without them – but you are missing out on something good just because you don’t like to read your films. Make sure you watch it through the credits; there are cut scenes and the song is good (subtitled obviously) and sung by “El Langui”, one of the actors.