Instant Replay: Goal!

By Alex Mitchell

Welcome to Instant Replay — our new series to help you kill time through the wild times we are currently living in.

Alex Mitchell and friends will be linking up each week to rewatch an old sporting match or movie, before reflecting on the literature that has been provided in a light-hearted and free-flowing manner.

It is important we give one almighty hat-tip to The Ringer podcast The Rewatchables; we are shamelessly inspired by its innovative concept and would not want to borrow from that without shouting it out.

Without further ado, let's rip into Danny Cannon's 2005 masterpiece — Goal! — with the legend of the game that is Liam Nash.

Overall thoughts?

Alex Mitchell: As a child growing up in the Naughties, few films tickled the fancy like the banger that was Goal! Sport-obsessed kids had no choice but to fall in love with Mexican-American forward Santiago Muñez on his magical journey from Los Angeles, his father's gardening business and his part-time job in a Chinese restaurant to famed English football club Newcastle United and the lifetime that comes with professional sport.

Goal! Is a special movie among football fans Coach — why do you think that’s the case?

Liam Nash: There are more than 250 million players of the beautiful game worldwide. The dream for a large percentage of kids globally is to make a living out of playing football, and this film — while possibly considered far-fetched — illustrates the journey that millions wish to happen in their own lives.

AM: And that was half the charm of watching Goal! originally — the rags-to-riches, fairytale element of the flick had you firmly in Santi’s camp as he escaped his rough life to gamble on a trial with the footballing power that is United. Watching the movie again, it’s fair to say you notice the lack of subtlety in the acting a touch more, but that charming nature remains.

Acting/casting notes

AM: You wouldn’t call it an A-list cast would you? Kuno Becker, who plays Munez, did little before or after this trilogy, Alessandro Nivola, who plays bad boy striker Gavin Harris, is much the same, while other leads Anna Friel (Roz Harmison) and Stephen Dillane (Glen Foy) are certainly not household names. Watching the movie back, would you call it well acted?

LN: One of the constricting factors in casting the lead was that they needed someone who could somewhat play football, and fitted the required age bracket. Becker adequately fills the role, but some of the scenes do come across as corny thanks to a lack of acting finesse. Other supporting characters do a good job in holding the film together (case-in-point Glen Foy), but the sheer originality of the film’s premise is what makes it a success — not the acting.

AM: Wikipedia tells me the movie's budget was $33 million, and after doing $27.6 million at the box office sold its socks off on DVD — so it was certainly no bust.

How realistic was the sporting action?

AM: I’m a stickler for detail when it comes to sport in films — Goal! was a mixed bag for mine. I appreciated Newcastle was not winning the Premier League, but rather qualifying for the UEFA Champions League — United hasn’t won England’s top-tier since 1954-55, but did qualify for Europe in the two seasons preceding the film to make this outcome certainly no outlandish proposition.

But some of the on-field play was obscene. Munez passed the ball 11 times in 10 football scenes (training and matches), making many a run with the ball the great Diego Maradona would have been proud of. It would be hard to represent high-level football talent in film without this, but the idea all that makes a talented footballer is the ability to take on opponents and score goals is silly.

LN: For its time, the CGI used in Goal! was not too noticeable coming from the perspective of someone who isn’t a trained eye football-wise. The camera angles used mask the majority of in-game sequences well, but some minor issues arise in instances where ball trajectory is measured, which does stick out like a sore thumb to an older audience.

AM: The matches weren't even too outlandish. To make the Champos, Newcastle beats Fulham 1-0 with a late penalty, before sealing the deal with a 3-2 win against Liverpool in which Munez scores a stoppage-time winner. I doubt a player has ever had a goal and two assists in their first two games after debuting in the English Premier League though.

Favourite scene?

LN: When Santi rocks up to his Sunday league with his team losing. Cue Munez — late, cardboard shinnies, jumps on, does a madness and nicks off. This was our first taste of just how talented the great man was.

AM: A truly iconic scene that. If we’re looking for heart-warming, Munez’s grandma buying him bus and plane tickets to Mexico and then England after his father stole his life-savings to buy a truck tops the lot.

Funny moments? What an absolute flex from the great Alan Shearer; Munez is struggling to pump out leg curls at 15 kg, but Shearer trots over, says “Are you finished with that?”, before proceeding to put the weight up to 50 kg and go HAM.

But memorable from a football perspective would have to be United manager Erik Dornhelm’s absolute obliteration of Munez for not passing the ball, repeatedly making Munez run after the ball as he kicked it away to illustrate the ball is faster than a man.

LN: Perhaps when Munez attempts to cut the banter and reach out to Harris on a personal level about his turbulent lifestyle, to which the flashy striker has a blunt retort; “p*ss off”. Really shows the disconnected nature of some professional footballers and portrays the effect ridiculous wages can have on an individual’s ego.

Best quote?

AM: All right, I've got a list of nominations here.

“What is this bullsh*t?” — Munez’s father asks him as a former scout offers him a trial at Newcastle United, only one of England’s biggest football clubs.

“Quite tasty.” — A schoolkid describes Munez's tekkers as in his thick Geordie accent.

“Do you know Charlize Theron? She’s a cracker alright.” — A random man in a pub asks Munez after learning he was American.

“That was late”. “I got there as quick as I could” — Munez's enemy-turned-ally Hughie McGowan tells a referee after just ending an opponent with a tackle.

“Why are you 20 minutes late and dressed for discotheque?” — United manager Erik Dornhelm asks Harris after he rocks up for training one time.

LN: Ding, ding, ding — we have a winner.


AM: Would an ex-scout really be able to call up Newcastle United’s manager and just tell him with no video footage to give a player a trial? Would the manager go along with that?

Further to this, Glen and Santi just turn up at the club and essentially walk to the middle of St James’ Park where they find the manager and ask him for a trial, which just doesn’t seem right.

And clearly the directors had never heard of transfer windows — United certainly wouldn’t have been able to sign a player, even a free agent, for the last three games of the season.

How re-watchable is this movie?

AM: Very. Goal! is the sort of movie you can pick up at any point and watch the rest. You know which lines are coming, you know the iconic scenes and you know which footballing heat Munez will provide — and you still find yourself cheering on the magical Mexican.

Next week on Instant Replay

Alex and a cast of his friends sit down to Australia-Japan from the 2006 FIFA World Cup.