Football
01/05/2017
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When we think of football tours, the world’s top clubs travelling the globe for exhibition matches might spring to mind. But it’s not just the professional teams. In 1995, an amateur pub team embarked on a tour of their own in the Far East. This is the story of Wild Westerners FC.

What started as a conversation between mates over a few beers developed into an organised, three country tour of India, Vietnam and the Philippines. Stewart Cruttenden, a travel writer and journalist made regular trips to the Far East for work, during which time he joined up with some local expat teams, just for fun. He enjoyed playing so much that he decided to form his own team.

Wild Westerners came together as a group of friends, playing in tours around Asia for several years. However, on their third tour in ‘95 things started to get a little more serious. By then, Cruttenden had made a few friends in the region and had right the contacts when it came to arranging matches. Although, being the early nineties, most of it was done via fax machine.

WWFC would usually play two games at each destination against some expat teams who would then help them set up a match with a local team in the same or similar location. Enter Cantho City FC, full time professionals and one of the top clubs in Vietnam at the time. In fact, they’d won the national cup competition the year before, finishing second in the league. They also had ten Vietnamese Internationals on their books.

Upon arrival at their hotel in Cantho, it was clear to Cruttenden that there had been a serious misunderstanding. They were greeted by an excited crowd, held back by police and a welcoming party of military and local sports directors. Between the faxes back and forth, something had certainly been lost in translation.

Cruttenden met with the head of the local sports committee who wanted a list of their players and squad numbers for the radio commentators. He then began explaining the etiquette of marching out and presenting bouquets to people in the crowd. Yes, the crowd. The 25,000 capacity Cantho Stadium had been sold out for weeks. Bewildered, but not really in a position to back out, Cruttenden decided to play along.

Come match day, Wild Westerners piled onto the bus which drove into the stadium like it was an FA Cup Final at Wembley. Torrential rain delayed kick-off by 90 minutes but the locals deemed the match too important to postpone, so it went ahead. The wet weather would be in Wild Westerners advantage though, keeping the scoreline somewhat respectable, given the contrast between the two sides. 12-2 the final score in favour of the locals.

Only 5,000 spectators remained in the stadium but it didn’t matter. The local fans weren’t disappointed the this team from England turned out to be complete amateurs. Actually, it wasn’t clear whether they even realised. But they were just as excited as they’d been at the hotel days before, cheering both teams and the efforts on display. In response, the Wild Westerners signed autographs and gave away their playing shirts and gear to all the kids in the crowd before departing.

It’s important to note that during the early nineties the Vietnam War was still firmly in people’s memories and Westerners had only just started going back to the country. But this was a perfect example of the power of football to transcend and unite.

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01/05/2017
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In 1992 the European Cup was rebranded as the. Along with changes to the competitions format, including the introduction of a group stage, UEFA called for a complete design overhaul and commissioned the marketing company, TEAM (Television Event And Media) to carry out the rebrand. It was the process that gave us the distinctive.

Britten used the first few bars of Handel’s rising string phrase, adapting them into a full three minute orchestral composition, performed by the. Britten employed a linguist to translate numerous superlatives into English, French and German – the three official languages of UEFA.

Since its introduction the anthem has become synonymous with the competition and is now loved all over the world by fans and players alike.

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As a global sport, football is integral to so many cultures around the world and naturally, we see it represented in many different art forms, including film.

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery is recognised as one of the first adaptations of the world game to the big screen. Released in 1939, the film focuses on a fictional exhibition match between Arsenal and amateur club, ‘The Trojans’ at Highbury Stadium. During the match, one of the Trojans players drops dead and a murder mystery ensues. It’s still highly regarded as an important film of its era.

Football films came in and out of fashion quite consistently over the following years, hitting a peak in 1981 with the release of the cult classic, Escape to Victory. Known simply as Victory in North America, the film tells the story of World War II Prisoners of War who agree to play an exhibition match against a German team. Learning that the match is a German propaganda stunt, the Allies devise a plan to escape from the stadium.

It’s held up to be one of the better football films and is supposedly (very loosely) based on a real match. The story portrayed on screen however is very much dramatised, as movies tend to be. Starring Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone and featuring big name players, including Pele and Bobby Moore, employing footballers who can’t act and actors who can’t play football was always going to be a challenge. But surprisingly, it’s quite an enjoyable film and is actually one of few examples where the scale of a real life match is presented fairly accurately.
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Both of these films certainly have some charm about them but unfortunately, the same can’t be said for so many other movies. Football has a difficult relationship with the big screen, not to mention the direct-to-video small screen. A common narrative is the football fairytale, an unlikely star overcoming various obstacles to make it at the top level of the game. Like the Goal! Trilogy.

There’s also been several films centered around football hooligans. I.D., released in 1995 is one of the better examples but Green Street (and its two sequels) was a terrible film on nearly every level. It starred Elijah Wood as an American journalism student who gets mixed up in a football firm in London. Honestly, the less said about it the better.

Notable films such as Bend It Like Beckham, When Saturday Comes, Gregory’s Girl, The Damned United and even Fever Pitch manage to steer clear of being truly dreadful. But while they have their appealing elements, they’re far from special. There are a some great feature films about sports but when it comes to the world’s most popular game, football films tend to disappoint more often than not.

Although, there is one feature film in particular that does stand out. Offside, released in 2006. If there’s one advantage that film can offer football, it’s a platform to explore social and cultural issues that often go unrecognised. And Offside does this superbly.

The film focuses on a group of Iranian women who want to watch a crucial World Cup Qualifier at Tehran’s national stadium between Iran and Bahrain. However, women are banned from attending football matches and other sports events in Iran. This leads the women to adopt disguises in order to sneak in.

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Director Jafar Panahi has stated that he used football to highlight the wider discrimination against women in his home country. The Iranian government have since banned the film and Panahi was placed under house arrest and banned from leaving the country.

Great feature films may be few and far between but where football really shines is documentaries. The Four Year Plan, Hillsborough, The Two Escobars, I Believe in Miracles and Next Goal Wins are all fantastic films.

Another, that certainly set itself apart is Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Filmed in real time, it follows Zinedine Zidane for an entire match with 17 cameras, all focused on the player during a La Liga match between Real Madrid and Villarreal. Although Zidane doesn’t have a particularly good game, the film gives you a unique insight into the kind of player and person he was, when you strip away all of the glamourous elements of his career. It’s definitely not for everyone but it’s an incredibly refreshing take on the beautiful game that allows you to view football in an incredibly unique way.

 

We certainly haven’t seen the last of terrible football films but as long as the game is embedded in our lives, expressing that through film will always be valuable.

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