Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ONCE IN A LIFETIME - the Purse of The Black Pearl

You can throw a lot of charges against ONCE IN A LIFETIME: THE EXTRA-ORDINARY STORY OF THE NEW YORK COSMOS. The original UK cinematic release was a shameless cash-in on World Cup hysteria. Plus, dubbing your own doc an EXTRAORDINARY story is pretty shameless. And then there was the fact that the press for the doc pimped the name of Pelé - La Perola Negra - to drum up interest in this slice of footballing trivia. That's pretty much like transforming a movie about a football team that was destined to become a Trivial Pursuits question into a must-see for all serious soccer fans.

Shameless marketing aside, though, this is a brilliant documentary. It takes us back to New York City in the 1970s, when football players had long hair and side-burns, drank Chevas Regal, smelt of Brut, schtupped airline stewardesses in the bathroom on the way to league matches and posed nude for gay porn magazines. It was an innocent time: when football players were skilled tacticians who jogged up and down the pitch in straight lines, rather than buff stamina-machines covering the pitch like a bad case of acne. It was the sort of ass-backwards world where a stroppy successful record producer could get his parent company to buy him a pro-soccer team full of the biggest stars from Pelé to The Kaiser to Giorgione to Pythagoras in Boots in order to keep him at his mixing desk! (Free gift to any Yanqui readers who can e-maiil with the correct identity of those players!)

So this documentary is about more than football - although fans of Pele won't be sorry - it's also a macabre story about how American Big Media tried to create a football phenomena with phat cash and little else. As a movie, it's at its most funny when you just sit back and listen to the Yanks talk about Pay-Lay or worse P'Lay. I mean, ye gods, if you can't pronounce the name of the Black Pearl, how do you expect to be able to play him to his full potential?!

Of course it all ended in tears. Big names don't always rub along, especially when one of the stars is sharing trousers (ho ho) with the manager. (You couldn't make this stuff up.) Americans had no patience for a game that didn't stop for a breather every five minutes. And as Chelsea are finally finding out, you can't build a successful team out of a bunch of over-paid prima donnas. More to the point, you don't create an iconic sports team from the top down. They emerge from decades of grass-roots support - from youth leagues and junior teams, trading on local rivalries, giving young disenchanted men the chance to beat each other up of a Saturday afternoon...

My own theory is that in America there will never have proper grass-roots support for football because all the rough young men have guns. Who needs a Firm in Compton? If you're armed to the teeth, a friendly bottling must seem rather quaint. That doesn't mean that twenty years worth of soccer scholarships later, the US won't kick Italy's ass in the World Cup. But that's another story...

Of course, if you love football, you need to see this picture. It's available on Region 2 DVD this week and comes out on Region 1 DVD on October 3rd.

No comments:

Post a Comment