Reviewed by: David Stanners

Santiago (Kuno Becker) is an ordinary working class Hispanic boy from L.A. with an extraordinary talent for kicking a ball. Playing in the local league with cardboard for shin pads, he dreams of making it out of the ghetto and into the big time.

Soon his skill on the field is spotted by Glen (Stephen Dillane), a Scottish talent scout, who takes him under his wing and arranges a trial with Newcastle United. Against the wishes of his hard-nosed father, who refuses to let his son dream of a future away from family life and hard honest work, Santiago raids his piggy bank and buys a flight out.

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Hitting the toon delivers him all the culture shocks you'd expect and more. Realising that the English language, as he knows it, no longer exists in Newcastle, he finds himself having to come to term with chippies, ale, hostile weather and sceptical teammates. After a disastrous first game, played in mud, Glen begs the Magpies' boss to give him another chance and so Santiago is granted a four-week trial. Soon into it, he discovers that his silky footwork is the envy of the less talented team members, as well as superstar Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola), and so finds himself on the receiving end of some serious new-kid-on-the-block treatment.

This is conveniently cushioned by team nurse Roz (Anna Friel), who falls for Santiago's shy Latin charms. Other sub plots involve family problems back in L.A, more jealous teammates and the precarious subject of securing a professional contract with the first team.

Goal! is your atypical rags to riches story that probably uses every cliche in the book, which goes with the territory in a film of this sort and matters not. What you get is a highly watchable movie, with a protagonist to root for. Santiago's modest character is well written and well played by Becker, a household name on Mexican TV. The sub plots, particularly the one about his family, add vitality to the narrative, and detract from what could have descended into formulaic sentimentality.

There are also cameo appearances from the real deals, including David Beckham, Alan Shearer, Raul Gonzalez and Zinedine Zidane. None of them should give up their day jobs.

Because of the game's popularity, Goal! is a sure sell, good or bad. Fortunately, it's pretty good and deserves all it gets.

Reviewed on: 30 Sep 2005
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Rags to riches story about a talented working-class Hispanic footballer from LA with dreams of making it big in the English Premiership.
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Director: Danny Cannon

Writer: Mike Jefferies, Adrian Butchart

Starring: Kuno Becker, Alessandro Nivola, Marcel Iures, Stephen Dillane, Anna Friel, David Beckham, Raul Gonzalez, Kieron Dyer, Patrick Kluivert, Alan Shearer, Zinedine Zidane.

Year: 2005

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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