We’ve all seen it before, the sports team that comes up from behind to win the championship. There’s nothing really new about underdog sports movies. That is until you take a team that just wants to do the bare minimum and combine it with the unique storytelling ability of Taika Waititi.
Next Goal Wins is the story of the 2014 American Samoa team and their journey to at least qualify for the World Cup. But before they can even do that, the team has to be able to make a goal. After an embarrassing loss in 2001, the team is in shambles. When they get a new coach, Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) they think their luck has changed – but Rongen comes with his own issues and dark past as well.
With a team in shambles, Rongen quickly finds out that his strict approach to coaching won’t work with the team. The more laid-back culture of the American Samoans and his rigid approach to the sport are instantly at odds. But it’s not just their sports ability that will make Rongen question his decision to coach. The team and island’s deeply religious devotion and acceptance of their Faʻafafine (third-gender/non-binary) teammates make him question everything about why he’s even there.
Through a lot of trial and error, Rongen and the team find common ground and are able to work together towards one goal. And it’s this journey that makes the movie so interesting.
Next Goal Wins isn’t your typical sports movie. Yes, it focuses on the sport and the team’s desire to qualify – but more so it focuses on the culture and the stories of the characters. It isn’t just about the down-on-his-luck coach or a team that can’t function. It’s about how working together, understanding each other, and pushing they might just see some results. It shows that boundaries and misconceptions can be pushed past, and that family can be found not just made.
Now the movie doesn’t hide the fact that some parts of the movie have been tweaked or embelished. But part of that is in the creative storytelling and that doesn’t change the feeling of the story overall. It will have you laughing throughout the film and it really is the type of feel-good story that we like to see this time of year.
Next Goal Wins in in theaters everywhere this weekend.
About Next Goal Wins:
NEXT GOAL WINS follows the infamously terrible American Samoa soccer team, known for a brutal 2001 FIFA match they lost 31-0. With the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers approaching, the team hires down-on-his-luck, maverick coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) hoping he will turn the world’s worst soccer team around in this humorous and heartfelt underdog story.
Directed by Taika Waititi
Starring Michael Fassbender, Oscar Knightly, Kaimana, David Fane, Rachel House, Beulah Koale, Will Arnett, and Taika Waititi