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Soccer season’s screen test

Soccer season’s screen test
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Football fever has gripped India like never before. With stars like Alessandro Del Piero, Robert Pires, Freddy Ljungberg, Luis Garcia, and David Trezeguet in action, the ISL promises a dazzling display of fireworks on the pitch this festive season. So, how about getting into the mood by watching some terrific cinematic soccer?

Fever Pitch (1997)
No, I’m not talking about the one starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore set in Boston. Hell, that’s not even real football! The 1997 film version was a romantic-comedy, which starred Colin Firth as an Arsenal supporter, searching for love in-between trips to Highbury. The autobiographical book, author Nick Hornby’s first (before hits like High Fidelity and About A Boy), charts the highs and lows of his life and the club’s, culminating in the latter’s historic last-minute goal against Liverpool to clinch the 1988-89 league title.

It’s a gripping film, a certain must-watch for the ladies (Firth!) who’d like to know more about the world’s most beautiful game!

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
While most of us have, at some point, fantasised about taking David Beckham’s girlfriend/wife Victoria’s place, some like Jasminder ‘Jess’ Bhamra didn’t. Gurinder Chadha’s delightful film about a gifted teenaged girl of Indian-origin who wants to play professional football charmed audiences with its easy mix of comedy, drama, and romance. The film, though predictable, examined both race relations in modern Britain and the changing role of women in society, through the story of Jess, whose strict parents forbid her from playing the beautiful game.

Starring Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the film is a crowd pleaser, and so warm that even after 12 years since it first hit the big screen, it remains one of my go-to movies every time I’m low and want to perk up!

The Damned United (2009)
Legendary English manager Brian Clough is remembered as much for his volatility and eccentricities as he is for his managerial brilliance. It’s no surprise then that one of the greatest football films ever made is about one of the game’s most colourful characters.

The film tells the story of the 44 infamous days Clough spent as manager of Leeds United in 1974. The football scenes have been shot skillfully, and Michael Sheen sinks his teeth into a role that couldn’t have been easy to play. Part funny, part bittersweet, the film is quite the tribute to a great man!

Escape To Victory (1981)

The Nazis take on a POW team in an improbable exhibition match held in Paris. Bizarre as it may sound but, against all odds, the film is both entertaining and exhilarating! Starring Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, and footballers Pelé, Bobby Moore, Ossie Ardiles, it’s, perhaps, the most loved and most ridiculed of all football films! In the rousing finale, Stallone saves a penalty, the Wehrmacht sit humiliated in the stands, Pelé immortalises the bicycle kick, and it finally ends with a great escape. Phew!

Offside (2006)
My favorite Jafar Panahi film is his delightful feature film debut, The White Balloon (1995), but Offside comes a close second.  It’s about a group of girls attempting to get into the men-only stadium to see Iran’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Bahrain. Of course, they fail and don’t get to see a kick. Shot mostly at Tehran’s Azadi stadium on the day of the match, Panahi captures the atmosphere of mass emotion, and the inherent tragicomedy of having to miss it completely. It’s warm, full of hope, and bound to bring a smile to your face!

Malini Banerjee is a snotty single child, mountain junkie, playback singer, Austen addict, hopes to soon finish writing her debut novel, and dreams of singing alongside Buddy Guy
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