Matthew Monk is a school teacher
from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
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Hero, G'ole and Goal! - The Worst and Best of the
When I was growing up the choice of football on
British TV was rubbish. In the early 1980s all we
were allowed to watch was five or six live games a
season (mostly England games and the FA Cup final) and
highlights of one or two big matches each weekend.
Today I can watch live English, Scottish, Irish,
German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Brazilian, and even
American football every week, as well as almost every
Champions League or UEFA Cup game. But recently I
have realised that something has disappeared from my
TV, something that if I was very lucky I might catch
hidden away on a Sunday afternoon. It was something
very special, something utterly unique, it was the
bizarre world of the Official World Cup Feature Film.
These strange, far too long and utterly serious films
were exactly what they said in their titles -
official, FIFA sanctioned films that were designed to
be watched in a cinema. They were also (depending on
the way you look at them) the greatest or worst things
you could ever hope to see.
As I said though, they seem to have totally
disappeared from TV. At the time these films
received full theatrical releases in cinemas all over
the world, yet today it is almost impossible to track
down any of them even on video. Today, the only one
that Amazon.com carries is Goal!, the 1966 film, but
after that they seem to have ceased to exist.
If you think about it, there must be a whole
generation of fans that have never even heard of the
official films, let alone seen them. A whole
generation of fans that have never seen the bizarre
sideshows that seemed to once follow the World Cup
around recorded in garish 'Technicolor'. But
salvation is at hand. For my sins I own most of these
films, and must admit to occasionally watching them,
so here is my guide to the best and worst of the
To start with there is Goal! - the 1966 film. Now
this is a strange film - all the teams are accompanied
by 'incidental music', so when you see a German you
hear 'oompah' music, when you see a Russian you hear
clockwork and machine noises. Worse, when Pele
appears on screen you hear an experimental jazz
version of the James Bond theme! The sound effects
are from some other realm as well. We see a ball
being kicked, we hear gunfire; we see a foul, we hear
the sound of lions devouring a zebra. Then there is
the commentary by Brian Glanville where everyone is
either 'magnificent' or 'stout'. To cap it all, you
get a glimpse of some of the absolute lunatics that
were allowed in the stadiums. First when Antonio
Rattin is taking about twenty minutes to walk around
the Wembley pitch after his sending off, one man
stands perfectly still, and makes gestures like he is
pulling a toilet chain. Next, after a Portugal game
someone gives Eusebio a hot water bottle - he takes a
drink from it, and gives it back. But best of all is
the footage of the final. Now this was probably the
most exciting final ever, but why has a member of the
crowd been allowed in with a rifle? Honestly, at the
end of the match you can very clearly see a man
brandishing a gun.
After that, the 1970 film is very tame, with the
action very sensibly focussing on Pele, Tostao and
Jairzinho. However, to make up for it, 1974 goes mad
right at the very end of the film. Following a
straightforward first hour of the film, instead of
following the teams as they prepare for the final we
get to watch Jack Taylor (the referee) eat his
breakfast (which he tells us he enjoyed), and then
talk very loudly in English to his assistants even
though he has just been told they speak no English!
Then we get one of the facts that only these films can
provide - the entertainment for the fans before the
final was a display of the official Scania team
coaches being driven very slowly around the
The 1978 film is a bit of a mystery. There are two
versions of this film, but the only one I have been
able to buy is one made it 1991, and while you see all
the highlights, it is a bit dull. The other version
is much better (worse?) but I have only seen it once,
on Eurosport before Italia 90. It starts out with a
five minute conversation supposedly between an officer
from the Army junta and a member of the Monteneros,
who were a revolutionary group active in Argentina in
the late 1970s. This is set in a darkened street, and
is very obviously two actors, but this section is the
closest we ever get to seeing what the country was
really like during the World Cup in anything
sanctioned by FIFA. This sets the tone for the film,
with the normal match action being interspersed with
'scenes' from around the country which purport to be
'real', but which are very obviously a collection of
poorly paid actors.
The golden age of these films though was in 1982 and
1986, with G'ole and Hero. G'ole stars the commentary
of Sean Connery and the weird music of Rick Wakeman.
This film seems to focus on New Zealand for some
reason, and we see their manager swearing for five
minutes (this it appears was his team talk) and
Cameroon. Again we get lots of lingering shots of the
Scania team coaches (did they really drive them at
five miles an hour through country lanes?) and some
superb footage of Claudio Gentile trying to maim Diego
Maradona. Right at the very end, banners for Colombia
86 are everywhere in the Bernabeu. Now this would be
the best film easily, if it were not for Hero, or
Hero-Maradona to give it its full title.
This is a great film from start to finish. Unusually
for these things, the commentary is very subdued (even
though Michael Caine must have charged a lot of money
to do it) and we get to hear real radio commentaries
on all the important events. So when Maradona is
ripping England to pieces at the Azteca, we hear Bryon
Butler from the BBC explaining that Maradona truly is
the greatest player on Earth, and when France beat
Brazil in the Jalisco, we hear the Brazilian radio
commentators crying into their microphones. Again the
film brings us the real facts of the tournament in its
own unusual way - why for instance did the English
players have to drink water out of little plastic bags
instead of bottles? And why were all the French fans
kept behind barbed wire fences, while the rest of the
fans were allowed to move freely around? One
extremely worrying moment though is shown right at the
end, when we get to see most of the Argentinean team
naked, and have to listen to Maradona sing. Superb.
After this, 1990 (Soccer Shoot Out) was a little anti
climatic, with lots of footage of a drunken Irish fan,
and the oldest looking ball boys ever. Which brings
us to the last official film (as far as I am aware),
which is easily the worst. The 1994 film was made
very cheaply by Eurosport, and is just a collection of
clips from their programmes - with commentary by
Archie MacPherson, who is the worst commentator ever
allowed to go to the World Cup.
I suppose these things have been superseded by wall to
wall TV coverage and the Internet, but watching one of
these does feel like you have actually been to the
finals. They were an excellent way to spend a wet
Info on how
the World Cup was founded and about the trophy as well.
on every match in every tournament.
Interesting columns about the past, present and future of the World Cup.
with appearances in the World Cup. Detailed info on every country.
of many of the most influential players in history.
An A-Z collection
of strange and different stories in World Cup history.
A big collection
of various statistics and records.
since it was introduced in 1966.
knowledge about the WC. Three different levels. No prizes, just for fun.
lots of stuff. For instance Best Goals, Best Players and Best Matches.
of links to other soccer sites with World Cup connection.
and buttons for you to link to us if you want.
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on who keeps this site available.