A football fiction connection between Pele and Shakespeare? Of course there is. Cynics reading this might think I’m playing the long ball here, but the move is there and the passes have been strung together…
Keeper rolls it out. The bold Bill put quill to parchment in 1601 and knocked out the comedy, The Twelfth Night. Loosely put, it’s about a lovely wee lassie who, pretending to be a boisterous, though we’d have to say fairly effeminate, boy falls in love with a boy. Opportunities for revelations of her gender are forbidden, obviously, and she can’t find a way to tell him without coming across as a boy who prefers other boys and he’s no buying it. This kicks off a two-halved game of uncomfortable moments, comic problems and general hilarity. People wouldn’t still be telling it if it wasn’t a good story regardless of what you think of the premise.
Pass.Recently I caught the latest interpretation on the telly. It’s called She’s the Man and it’s pish. Except for one thing – it’s about football. Which, I would argue, entitles it to a spot, allbeit at the shite end, on the DVD shelf in my football fiction library.
Essentially it’s a vehicle for some young empty-headed Hollywood starlet to play a boy playing football and more importantly shine. Euphemism about polishing poo aside, for me, a football fiction fan, the inclusion of the glorious game suggests a positive future for this wee genre.
This notion is readily supported. Goal!, despite an absolutely stinking sequel, did really well. ....Jimmy Grimble is very likable. A couple of Dougie Brimson’s books are being turned into films as you read this. He told us that himself (see his interview in an earlier blog). Then there’s that clever eedjit Will Ferrell’s Kicking and Screaming and less recently Vinnie Jones’Mean Machine, a remake of a Burt Reynolds film which was originally an allegory for the Nixon administration (apparently).
Header. There are a host of others too - Disney’s made for TV monotony Her Best Move, the Olsen Twins had a crack at the soccer film before they started messing around with Heath Ledger (sharp intake of breath); it’s a dreadful number called Switching Goals. There are plenty mediocrities - Sean Bean’s banal effort When Saturday Comes is a great example.
John King’s Football Factory Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch and Jonathan Tulloch's The Season Ticket warrant future blogs of their own.
(And just when you thought the thread was getting away from the needle…)
Knocks it down. None of these films have gained the cult classic status of the incredible satire Mike Basset or the unrivaled success of Knightley’s career-launching Bend it Like Beckham which also spawned a reasonably successful novel tie-in; arguably the only bona fide example of football fiction in this post.
Pele’s legendary “I juggled oranges in the market" crack in his unforgettable movie debut role in Escape to Victory stands today as a major part in probably the best football film ever. Shoots and scores.
With the all drama, intrigue and eh, plot sophistication, it’s entirely possible (with a room full of monkeys) it could’ve been knocked out on a laptop by a silky skilled Shakespeare had he been alive today. Whose to say? If JC Thring, the inventor of the rules of the game, had been born 300 years earlier, wild Bill could just as easily have scratched his inky feather across …Victory and had it played to the final whistle at the Globe back in the day.
Whether it’s Pele or Shakespeare, Dougie Brimson or the Olsen’s, if football is gaining popularity enough for film people to take notice of its value, it means the market for football fiction cannot be too far behind…hopefully.