THERE have been numerous attempts to portray the beautiful game on the big screen. Some go wildly off-target, while others have no problem finding the back of the net. Then there are the players who hung up their boots to take on the silver screen and found a new career in the process. Here are five of the best shots.
Zidane’s arthouse treatment
It’s fitting that one of the finest players to ever grace the game should be captured in a film almost as elegant as his playing style. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait focuses solely on the player known as Zizou as he turns out for Real Madrid in a home match against Villareal in 2005. Filmed in real time by 17 cameras located around the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the resulting footage feels like you’re watching the game while being carried on Zidane’s back, or from a seat placed squarely in the centre circle. Created by artists Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, the film benefits from a superb instrumental score by Mogwai.
From hod carrier to Hollywood
Vinnie Jones was the no-nonsense defender from North London who started his career playing non-league football while supplementing his wages by working on building sites. He joined Wimbledon in 1986 at the height of the Crazy Gang era and would help the club lift the FA Cup two years later against Liverpool, a result that still ranks as one of the greatest cup shocks of modern times. Almost as unlikely was Jones’ post-football career. Cast as a gangland enforcer in Guy Ritchie’s still-enjoyable 1998 crime comedy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the former centre half delivered an assured performance that led to several similar roles in Hollywood productions of varying quality.
Robert Duvall’s road to Hampden
It still seems scarcely believable that a Hollywood A-lister would decamp to Scotland to star in A Shot At Glory – a low-budget production featuring Ally McCoist – principally shot at Dumbarton’s former Boghead Park ground. Robert Duvall, a man with seven Oscar nominations and a place in cinematic history for his performances in The Godfather trilogy, was reinvented for this 2001 film as the bunnet-wearing manager of fictional Scottish side Kilnockie. Can Duvall, sorry, Gordon McCloud, steer his side of misfits to Scottish Cup glory against Rangers? You’ll need to track down one of the second-hand DVDs still circulating to find out. Or alternatively, watch it on YouTube.
Pele’s overhead kick defies the Nazis
For many, Escape to Victory remains the quintessential football film. It has a lot going for it. The cast is a mixture of Hollywood heavyweights and footballing superstars, with Michael Caine and Sly Stallone rubbing shoulders with Pele and Bobby Moore - and also several Ipswich Town players there to make up the numbers. The plot - a team of Allied POWs takes on a German side led by their Nazi camp commanders - is classic good versus bad. And then there’s that Pele goal, which the great man allegedly completed in just one take. Hackneyed? Slightly. Predictable? Definitely. Great entertainment? No question.
Eric Cantona’s burgeoning cinematic career
The midfielder Manchester United fans still refer to as King Eric played football with the air of a man who was starring in a film about his own life. His celebration - or lack of one - following his now-famous goal against Sunderland in 1996 is pure cinema, the look of a man who knows the world will be rewatching this moment for years to come. The Frenchman has subsequently played a variety of roles in films, commercials and shorts, never losing that inimitable air of nonchalance. Veteran English filmmaker Ken Loach brilliantly captured Cantona’s enduring appeal in 2009’s Looking for Eric.