Directed by: Danny Cannon
Written by:Adrian Butchart, Mike Jefferies
Starring: Kuno Becker, Alessandro Nivola, Marcel Iures, Stephen Dillane, Anna Friel, Kieran O’Brien
Released: February 16, 2006
Grade: B+

I confess that I’m a lot more interested in the game of soccer, or should I say “football”, than I was a year ago.  I’ve been to a few Queensland Roar games in the A-League and I watched Australia’s gripping World Cup qualifying win against Uruguay on television.  The sport is increasing its profile in this country and I’ll state the obvious in that the upcoming World Cup finals will only Australia’s interest in the sport.

Goal! is the story of Santiago Munez (Becker), a young Mexican living in Los Angeles.  He plays in the local league and dreams one day of being a professional footballer.  These are not the dreams of his over-bearing father who strongly wants him to follow in his footsteps and run the family’s cleaning business.

At a regular weekend match, Santiago is spotted by Glen Foy (Dillane), a former scouter and player for English club Newcastle United.  Foy calls the club and pulling in all his favours, arranges a trial.  The chance of a lifetime has arrived but there will be many obstacles to overcome…

The film chronicles Santiago’s trials with Newcastle United leading up to his eventually selection in the team.  The story doesn’t end there however because two planned sequels are in the works – one which sees Santiago transferred to Real Madrid and another which sees him compete in the 2006 World Cup.

It’s completely fictitious but I was captivated by Santiago’s story.  I’ll even admit to shedding a small tear of joy during the finale.  Cinderella-like sporting movies are my weakness.  This rags-to-riches story is filled with clichés and predictable obstacles but Santiago is a likeable character and you can’t help but cheer for him.

The film will be seen differently by those with a much more intimate knowledge of the “world game”.  Reading forums on the internet, I notice that some soccer fans are critical of the plot holes and inconsistencies.  I understand their annoyances because as a golfer, I am driven to distraction by films such as The Legend Of Bagger Vance, Tin Cup and Happy Gilmore.

Many scenes were filmed in Newcastle and their famous home stadium, St James Park, on full display.  Director Danny Cannon has mixed his scenes with footage from actual Newcastle games and it looks very believable.  Also keep your eyes peeled for cameos by real stars including as David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Alan Shearer.  Goal! is a winner.