Simon Says: Next Goal Wins (2014)

The_poster_for_the_film_Next_Goal_WinsNext Goal Wins (2014) – dir. Mike Brett and Steve Jamison.

This is  a remarkably entertaining documentary about a football team with an astonishingly dismal record – only 2 goals scored in 17 years and a humiliating 31-0 defeat to Australia – no, it isn’t England! It is American Samoa.

fullwidth.c005d2a3This tiny Pacific island team is now facing the prospect of a world cup qualification campaign and, for the first time, turn to a foreign coach in the shape of Thomas Rongen, a maverick Dutchman whose persona could not be more different to many of these islanders.

After a somewhat  troubled start, we share in a wonderful friendship that develops between coach and players, including one of the team, Jaiyah Saelua (a fa’afafine – the third sex of Samoa, born male but having both male and female characteristics and very important in Samoan culture), whose gender is not only accepted within the team, but welcomed with open arms. Hard to imagine it happening elsewhere in the world of football!

What follows next is not just a football documentary, but a wonderful into this extraordinary island culture with the highs and lows wonderfully filmed, and a moving recognition from the coach about what effect the American Samoan philosophy had on his own outlook to life.

A wonderful tribute to the power and purity of sport.

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Interview with goalie Nicky Salapu

Interview with director Steve Jamison

Telegraph article on Jaiyah Saelua

The Observer feature on the transformation of the team

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