Tag Archives: Next Goal Wins

Failed Critics Podcast: A Place Of Learning

D4D_1901.DNGSteve Norman? Here. Owen Hughes? Here. Callum Petch? Here.

Now that the register has been taken, the latest Failed Critics Podcast may commence. Please take your seats, spit your chewing gum in the bin and we’ll start this week’s quiz and hear Owen’s reaction to Steve’s choice of film for winning last week with the sports documentary Next Goal Wins. We also have a triple bill where the team each pick three films set in a place of learning – and that’s all the criteria they were given! It really is as broad as that. Good? Bad? Overrated? Underrated? Obscure? Well known? You’ll have to listen to find out what they pick.

We also have reviews of new releases Trainwreck (reviewed by Brooker on the website), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (er, also reviewed by Brooker) and Pixels. I say “review” of Pixels, but it was more like an uncontrollable rant by Callum.

Join us next week for the next entry to our Corridor of Praise, the inevitable induction of Danny Dyer! Where we’ll be joined by Paul Field and one or two special guests… Class dismissed.



Interview with Nicky Salapu (Next Goal Wins)

Nicky Salapu holds an unenviable record. He conceded more goals than any other goalie in international football history. Back in 2001 his American Samoa side lost 31-0 to Australia in a World Cup qualifier.

He stuck with the national team though as they looked to improve. Ahead of the DVD release of Next Goal Wins this week, a documentary telling the story of the American Samoan national team, Nicky took time out to chat to us.

ngw 2Steve Norman: What was your initial reaction when you found out that people from the UK wanted to make a documentary about the American Samoan national football team?

Nicky Salapu: I felt blessed and shocked at the same time. I kind of felt ‘why us?’ Why have these guys come over to film us? I was shocked when I went to New Caledonia for the South Pacific Games and I saw these guys, I thought ‘are we in trouble?’ It’s a blessing and I thank them for making American Samoa more known around the world and making this film.

SN: It is an interesting story, especially with American Samoa being, at the time, bottom of FIFA’s world rankings and on the end of the heaviest ever defeat in international football to Australia. You played in that game, how did you feel going into that game? How did you approach that match and how did you feel playing against the best team in your region?

NS: I knew it was going to happen. Back then most of the good players didn’t have a passport and FIFA have this rule that says if you don’t have a passport, you can’t play. I was the only experienced player back then because I was playing for the national team. I thought ‘I don’t know how we’re going to face these guys’, especially guys like Mark Viduka, for God’s sake, who played for Leeds United and Mark Schwarzer, you know. How am I meant to face these people. The only reason I’m playing is to make sure my team don’t get beat 50-0. But I knew what was going to happen, I knew the score would be high. I can’t go back and change those things. Whatever happens, happens. It’s embarrassing. It’s a shame.

SN: How did you deal with things after the game, after losing by that scoreline? It seems, from the documentary, that the result affected you a lot.

NS: Yeah, I carried that around with me for a long time, for 13 years. It’s something that I never forget. After the game we walked into the locker room, I bowed down my head and I cried a little bit. I felt very embarrassed and like I don’t want to play soccer anymore. But I also felt that I am a soccer player and I’m not the kind of guy to just give up on it. I felt like I wanted to put my team and my country in a different perspective and get them out of the embarrassment.

SN: Thomas Rongen had experience of playing at Ajax and in the USA with the likes of George Best and Johan Cruyff and had coached the USA youth sides, what did he bring to the American Samoa set up?

NS: The experience and knowledge we never had before. The professionalism we never had before. He brought and installed a commitment that some of the kids don’t have. He said that if you don’t commit yourself fully to the team, we will cut you off, you know. This made a lot of people think ‘oh, this guy is serious’. Thomas was more professional and had a lot of passion for soccer. We have to thank him for bringing his experience and the way he motivated a lot of the kids and make them want to keep playing. His knowledge, experience and professionalism helped us a lot.

SN: At the time Thomas came in as coach, you were living in America. How did he convince you to return to the national team?

NS: [Laughs] good question. He asked me if I wanted to remove the embarrassment of that game, the 31-0 to Australia. He said this was a good moment, that he was a professional coach, that we had good players and some from here in the States [Rongen called up two players based in the USA with American Samoan heritage]. He kept telling me all these things. I was working hard for my family, they really needed me. I didn’t feel like going. When he told me all these things – and telling me he wanted to put the embarrassment of the 31-0 to the side and become winners – he said that this was the best squad with the best players and the best coach. I was like, ‘ok, this will be the best moment to go back and come out of the embarrassment.’ I’m glad he called me and thankful to him for letting me come back to play.

SN: Under Thomas, the team achieved its first ever victory, against Tonga, how did that feel? Especially considering your journey with the team from the loss to Australia to the first ever win.

NS: Oh, it felt incredible. Amazing. I thought I was dreaming. Is this happening? Did we win a game? At the time I felt like we were never going to win but I believed in my team, and the management and the support from our country that came over to support us. I believed we had something and that we would accomplish something. It felt exciting. It was the best thing that ever happened to me in football.  I even forgot that the 31-0 ever existed. It was a joyful moment. I have the movie at home. I watched it last night with my son and my wife and every time I see that part where we won the game I still cry no matter what. I still cry. It means a lot to me and I cannot thank enough Thomas, the coaches and my team-mates for helping that happen.ngw

SN: One of the most uplifting and engaging things about the film was the sense of togetherness between the squad and players and inclusion of the people who may not have come from American Samoa but were of American Samoan descent, or and the people from different backgrounds on the island. Did this help the team?

NS: It helped us a lot. With the culture and religion of the island it makes us come together as a team as we have a respectful way of living. It makes us respect other players and our management. We always show respect everywhere we go. Down in the islands it’s like almost every family is related and that is why we call each other brothers and sisters because we are close and it helps us a lot. Being spiritual was the best thing for our team. Lots of people say that it has nothing to do with God but if you believe in God and believe in football, things happen.

SN: Are you still involved with the team?

NS: Yeah, I’m still connected with Larry [one of the coaches] and I practice with his youth soccer team and I still maintain myself because most of the people say they want me to come back and play. I play six times a week here in Seattle, although I don’t actually play that much in goal. I’m actually pretty decent on the field, in midfield. I sometimes play sweeper as I am taller than most of the opponents. I play goalkeeper when it’s a hard game to make sure we secure our rank as I play in a tough level. At the moment we are top of the league and every time we play a top team I go in goal.

SN: What next for American Samoa?

NS: In June we will start training and finding some teams to play against. We will have a camp in Hawaii and the first match in July with the World Cup Qualifiers starting in November.

SN: What did you think of the movie, Next Goal Wins?

NS: What I say at the end of the movie is true; I still want to go back and play against Australia. I really want to. If it doesn’t happen to me, my son loves football and he always tells me he wants to play Australia if I don’t. I hope the movie motivates the kids to play football. I hope the defeat to Samoa doesn’t put them off and they get the motivation to play football. I love football, it’s my world. I can’t live without it.

SN: You’re not the only one.

NS: My wife gets mad at me and says when will you stop playing football? And I say ‘never, I will surely play until I die’. My son keeps telling me he will one day play for the American Samoa national team. Hopefully. I want to thank Steve, Mike and Christian for coming down to make this movie.

Next Goal Wins is out on DVD now. You can find out more information about this extraordinary documentary on their website and find all of our coverage (including interviews, podcasts and reviews) here.

Competition Time: Win a Copy of ‘Next Goal Wins’ on DVD

NGW-300x225In conjunction with our sister site, Born Offside, we have been given 3 copies of Next Goal Wins on DVD to give away.

The documentary tells the story of the American Samoan national team, the victims of the heaviest ever defeat in international football, 31-0 to Australia, and at one point the worst national team in the game, as they look to achieve their first ever win.

To enter just tweet @FailedCritics the answer to the following question:

In what position are American Samoa in the current FIFA World Rankings?

with the hashtag #NextGoalWins

The competition will close at 11pm on Tuesday the 2nd of September when the winners will be chosen at random.

Next Goal Wins is out on DVD to buy from Monday the 1st September.

Keep your eye on Failed Critics for an interview with the American Samoa goalkeeper Nicky Salapu. In the meantime, you can read our interview with the film’s director Steve Jamison, listen to our podcast review of Next Goal Wins, or read the written interview from back in May.

Failed Critics Podcast: Obligatory World Cup Special

Escape to VictoryWelcome to this week’s podcast, and due to the fact that we’ve all been watching football rather than any new cinema releases we decided to bandwagon-jump and bring you a World Cup Special!

Steve, James, and Owen are joined by Born Offside’s (and regular Glasgow Film Festival podcast contributor) Dave McFarlane to discuss the uneasy relationship between film and football, and in Triple Bill we choose our favourite football stories that we want to see made into films.

Next week sees us return to normal with reviews of 3 Days to Kill and Jersey Boys.



Interview with Steve Jamison (Next Goal Wins)

Following his review of the exciting new documentary on the American Samoa national football team, Next Goal Wins, Steve got chatting to one of the co-directors, Steve Jamison:

NGW3Steve Norman: First off thank you for inviting us to see Next Goal Wins and for doing the interview for both Born Offside and Failed Critics.

Steve Jamison: No problem, thank you for your interest and your support of the movie. I’m very happy to talk about it, it’s been an amazing experience.

SN: What made you want to make a documentary about the American Samoan national team?

SJ: It’s a really good question. Our inspiration really came from two sources. First of all me and my co-director Mike (Brett) have been working in the commercial space for a few years now and for four or five years have made a lot of sports related brand films for some big sports brands and we were looking for a purer form of story I suppose.

We had been making these short brand films of like a minute, a couple of minutes or half a minute and we really wanted to dig a little deeper and tell more engaging, character driven story. What we really wanted to do was capture the purest form of the game that we love.

Mike and I are long time friends and actually met playing football back in university so we really wanted to capture the purest form of this sport that brought him and me together.

We met with Kristian Brodie who works for Agile Films and he said how about American Samoa? They were defeated 31-0 in 2001 by Australia and he was pretty sure at the time they were bottom of FIFA’s world rankings.

Of course Mike and I were aware of the 31-0 defeat, it is something that has gone down in football folklore so it seemed like a great place to start if you wanted to explore the purest form of football. The best place to start would be with a team that still come out for the second half if they are 15 or 16-0 down.

I think, at the time we started filming with them, their best result was a 4-0 defeat, which was a kind of benchmark for them.

So that was our inspiration, football is an amazing game with the power to bring people together. I know that sounds very cliché but it’s true. This film has led me to meet so many people and it all stems from this sport.

So out we went to American Samoa to see if we could find out what kept this team playing in the face of almost certain defeat.

SN: How difficult was it to get the ball rolling and get out to American Samoa? And how helpful were their football association? I read that previously that they were wary of people giving them coverage because they thought people were coming to poke fun of the fact they lost 31-0 and were bottom of the world rankings.

SJ: You’re absolutely right, in the first few minutes of the film we have a montage of all the newspaper headlines that followed that famous defeat. Some of the headlines are really quite cruel and there was a lot written in 2001 that was mickey taking.

The football association of American Samoa had endured many an enquiry from many a film-maker or journalist who were quite keen to come and tell a funny story. So you’re right. It was quite difficult. In fact just to get in touch with them is quite difficult because the time difference is about 13 hours and they’re not big users of email so to get through to them on their landline took a few weeks.

Once we were in contact it took a few weeks to earn their trust and convincing them we weren’t interested in telling the story that had been told before and we weren’t interested in ridiculing them for past defeats or the negative headlines and in fact we wanted to celebrate the fact that these guys should be held as example of true sporting heroes because they go out there and play for the love of the game.

They are not playing for a win or a big money contract or sponsorship, they’re just playing for the love of it.

I think once we convinced them of that fact they were happy for us to head out there and start filming with them. Then we had to work out how to get 300 kilos of filming equipment 10,000 miles to the middle of the Pacific, which was a 52 hour trip door to door.

The funny thing is I don’t think they believed that we would actually show up because they agreed to pick us up from the airport but they never showed up. I think they thought we said we would come but never actually would. When we did start filming with them we put out cameras down and went and had a kick a bout. As I said before football has this power to bring people together. It’s such a cliché to say it’s a universal language but it genuinely is.

SN: It’s an interesting contrast with the World Cup coming up where we will see the best of the best in football. This documentary is coming out just prior to that. With respect to American Samoa and the team this is very much the opposite end of football. It’s quite interesting to see what teams go through at the other end of the game.

SJ: Exactly. First things first, in every World Cup I can remember, and I suppose the first one I can remember was in 1986, my favourite moments were never when the star player has done something incredible. It has always been when a small nation or developing country has staged an upset and I think and there is something about that sport that gets people drawn in by that.

Whether it’s Roger Milla for Cameroon in 1990 or four years ago in South Africa when South Africa took the lead in the opening fixture they’re really the things that captivate an international audience. It’s the little guys, the underdog story, that people like to get behind and I think there’s a little bit of that in our documentary.

When we went out there to start filming it was not long after the last World Cup. The English game had suffered a few little dents with the behaviour of some players, clubs or managers catching the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I don’t need to go into those specific cases now but the sport had been a little bit dented, or its reputation had, and that frustrated us. I don’t want to make it sound more grand than it was but we kind of wanted to rescue the reputation of soccer in our own minds and prove that these few isolated incidents weren’t representative of the sport as a whole.

That’s why we went to American Samoa, football is so pure there you can’t help but fall back in love with the game.

SN: At the start of the documentary Thomas Rongen, the Dutch coach, was not involved with the team. Did you know of his impending arrival before you started filming?

SJ: Absolutely not, we weren’t aware of it at all. When we first went out there we went to film with the local teams and local coaches and we filmed there for almost six weeks and then we came back to the UK.

It was only then after the poor initial results in the South Pacific Games that the CEO decided to ask the US Soccer Federation for some help but we had no idea if it would happen and we were quite worried that Thomas’s arrival might mean the emphasis of this film might shift.

He came in from the MLS, the highest level of soccer in the United States and he might actually turn round and say we can’t film his training sessions because they need to concentrate or they need less distractions.

Far from thinking that this guy might be the making of our film, we were worried that he might break our film but in the end it very much played into our favour in terms of the overall narrative because Thomas arrived and was another amazing character to add to the story and he goes on an amazing journey.

I think Thomas, by his own admission, arrived there and had some preconceived ideas and working with the guys on the island really softened his approach. He builds this relationship with the team where they kind of soften him up but he really toughens them up.

It was quite an amazing thing to witness. Some of those scenes, to witness first hand from behind the camera was pretty amazing and I don’t think I’ll experience anything like that again.

SN: Before Thomas arrived the players all seemed really committed and really dedicated but lacking professionalism which is what he appeared to bring to the team.

SJ: When Thomas arrived he took one look at the squad and said ‘I can’t make you technically any better.’ Tactically his work was cut out because he didn’t have long to make any big changes to the way that the team is organised. He tried to make them a little more organised but a lot fitter. In three weeks he worked them really hard and improved their fitness.

SN: How much did the 31-0 loss to Australia affect not just the players but the country and its mentality towards football? Nicky (the goalkeeper from the 31-0 loss) seemed really affected by the result.

SJ: Nicky has been carrying that defeat around with him, and the scars from that defeat, for over 10 years. It really did play on his mind. I mean in the film Thomas jokes that Nicky plays on his XBOX against Australia, leaves the Australia controller on the sofa and just plays against the computer to try and exorcise himself of those demons.

That was absolutely true. Nicky said exactly the same thing to us. He really suffered from that defeat and the same was true on the island. There weren’t many players left from that day. Ace, the coach was around on that day and Larry was involved as well but the rest of the team didn’t really wear the scars of that day.

American Samoa has trouble getting a competitive team on the field. For a start you can’t naturalise to America Samoa because they have US passports. They have an immigrant population with talented footballers, either from Samoa, or Fiji or even some Koreans who have all ended up there because of the fishing industry but none can naturalise and play for the national team.

Also soccer is perhaps the fifth sport on the island. It comes way after American Football, rugby, basketball, baseball and even a form of cricket they play so soccer is not the most popular sport.

Then when you reach 18 or 19 and graduate from high school there aren’t many jobs there so they join the US military or try to find further education or employment in the US. So if you look at the age group of 18-25, the age group most other national teams would be made up of, there really is slim pickings.

I think what their FA is trying to do now, and I’d love to think the film could help with this, is try to get football played at a grassroots level from around 5 years old and make it a more popular sport there and hopefully that will encourage some of the guys leaving the island to come back and represent their country and all take pride in it.

When you’re bottom of FIFA’s world rankings it’s hard to get people to come and engage with the sport so hopefully that won’t be the case in the future.

SN: Finally, have you planned in the future to go back and revisit the team and some of the people from the film?

SJ: Yea, 100%. Mike and I, and Kristian, and everyone involved, weren’t just in this for just one film. We’re really in it for the long haul and we’d love to find ways we can help develop soccer on the island.

Soon after the upcoming World Cup American Samoa have to start qualifying for the next one (Russia 2018). Not far into 2015 they begin their qualification process. Hopefully by then people will be more aware of the team and we can find ways of supporting and developing the game on the island.

We’d like to make American Samoa everyone’s second favourite team. The response here in America to the film was electrifying and if we can direct some of that positive energy towards the next qualification campaign then who knows, maybe American Samoa can go beyond that first stage of qualification.

NEXT GOAL WINS is out on 7 May (nationwide previews) and 9 May (select cinemas)



Failed Critics Podcast – COP: Paul Verhoeven (& Next Goal Wins)

PaulVerhoevenThis week sees us welcome Matt Lambourne back to the podcast to help us induct the Dutch maestro Paul Verhoeven, director of Robocop, Total Recall, and err…Showgirls, into our Corridor of Praise. We also get Steve’s review of the highly anticipated documentary Next Goal Wins.

Elsewhere we’ve got Owen talking about the Saw film series, the team’s thoughts on the Star Wars casting and Justice League movie confirmation news, and the longest and most interminable quiz yet.

Join us next week for more of the usual nonsense, plus reviews of Bad Neighbours and Pompeii.



Next Goal Wins

ngw2By Steve Norman

American Samoa are an unlikely team to be etched in football folklore. The small Pacific island nation are in the record books with the heaviest defeat in international football, a 31-0 defeat to Australia in a qualifying match for the 2002 World Cup back in 2001.

The result had a number of effects on football. It led to preliminary rounds in Oceanic World Cup qualifying to reduce the chance of other embarrassing and crushing results and it kick started Australia’s campaign to move into the Asian Football Confederation as they looked to become more competitive. It also turned the American Samoan team into the butt of many joke and the answer to many a football quiz question.

Next Goal Wins, directed by Steve Jamison and Mike Brett, starts just prior to qualification for this summer’s 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Most telling about the quality and standard of a team who were, at the time, ranked bottom of FIFA’s world rankings, were heavy defeats, to fellow minnows such as Vanuatu and Fiji.

The players try hard, and the coaches are certainly encouraging, but there is a lack of professionalism and nous among the camp which limits this team. The American Samoan FA use their connections with the United States to bring in a professional football coach for the opening round of qualifiers where the team will face Tonga, the Cook Islands and Samoa.

That man was Thomas Rongen, a graduate of the Ajax academy, one of the most renowned in football, and a veteran of American soccer, having played with the likes of George Best and Johann Cruyff as well as coaching DC United and the US under 20 national team.

His impact on the team was massive. After struggling initially with a negative mentality he had to change the way the team thought as well as improve them physically and tactically. Rongen, whose wife accompanied him in this new venture, threw himself in, took on the challenge head on and endeared himself to the team.

He is just one of many characters in this documentary that make it so entertaining, funny and heart-warming. Another is goalkeeper Nicky Salapu. He was the ‘keeper in the 31-0 defeat to Australia and for many defeats after. He seems a glutton for punishment and keeps coming back for more. The heavy defeat seems to have affected him deeply and really left its mark.

Perhaps the most important person in Next Goal Wins, especially from a football perspective, is Jaiyah. She is the first transgender player to play in a FIFA sanctioned match. In American Samoa transgendered people are accepted, certainly more than they are in other parts of the world, and there is even a name in American Samoa for this ‘third gender’ – ‘Fa’afafine’.

Jaiyah is accepted as one of the team and is perhaps one of the most important in the team. She is constantly positive and Thomas recognises her importance to the mentality of the squad, however on the pitch she really shines as well.

It is refreshing to see how she is accepted by a team full of men, especially when you consider the problems surrounding gay footballers, or the lack of those who are out, in football at the highest professional level.

Homosexuality and transgenderism are of course two completely different things but the inclusion of somebody ‘different’ is great to see when the likes of Tomas Hitzlesperger feel they have to wait until they retire before they can come out. Saying much more would ruin the film for people, although you could search online and find out the team’s results under Rongen and in the time since he left.

Next Goal Wins transcends football and is a story about togetherness, ambition, and triumph over the odds and against adversity. While Next Goal Wins will find fans among the football community it has something for everyone and will serve a broader audience than just football supporters. And with a World Cup fast approaching that will feature the world’s best, and best paid players, this fantastic documentary shows what football is, or at least should, really be about.

NEXT GOAL WINS is out on 7 May (nationwide previews) and 9 May (select cinemas)

Failed Critics Podcast: 2014 Summer Preview

Guardians of the Galaxy - released August 2014
Guardians of the Galaxy – released August 2014

Welcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast, and in the absence of any new releases that we could be bothered to go and see, we instead look forward to our most anticipated films coming this summer.

Steve also teases us with a few hints about the highly anticipated (by us) football documentary Next Goal Wins, James celebrates the return to our screens of Chris Morris, and Owen continues his Korean odyssey with a review of Mother.

Join us next week as some of us yet to be determined review Captain America 2 and Muppets Most Wanted.