Next Goal Wins

An inspirational story about the power of hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, and an object lesson in what it really means to be a winner in life.


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  • ★★★★ review by Grimbo on Letterboxd

    American Samoa got beat by at least 30 goals to Australia in 2001 and they have been known as one of the worst team in the international stage of football (or soccer if you're an american).

    This awesome and emotional documentary charts the quest to make them better after this terrible result.

    A firey dutch coach is brought in to help them, but do they qualify for the world cup in Brazil this year???? Guess you'll need to watch this to find out (or check google or watch the world cup).

    This is not a spoiler to the end of the doc, but I would defo take this dutch coach over Ally McCoist for Rangers any day of the week!!!

  • ★★★★ review by Steven Sheehan on Letterboxd

    Australia 31 American Samoa 0. A record defeat for any international football side, inflicted back in 2001. Statistics of 292 goals against, no goals scored tell their own story. It isn't too hard to imagine they are rock bottom of the FIFA rankings. Nike Brett and Steve Jamison's documentary follows the team in their attempt to qualify for the last World Cup, unearthing a story full of heartwarming spirit.

    In this time of watching young footballing millionaires driving their sports cars, cheating at every opportunity and bearing no relation to the people that pay to watch them, a reminder of just why we love this game is needed. In fact, this documentary isn't just about football or even sport. The message is an obvious one of hope and determination so easily sneered at in this cynical age.

    Watching the team take the training field it is clear to see why they have struggled for so long. Basic passing, control and shooting ability is woefully missing. What they can't be criticised for is heart and an endearing commitment to represent their country no matter how embarrassing the score lines have become. They are a proud people, tapping into national tradition to find their seemingly endless inspiration to return after each thrashing.

    Help is sourced from the US Soccer Federation who send Dutch madman Thomas Rongen to help in their quest for qualification. His approach is confrontational mix of American ego and Dutch brashness that is not an easy fit with the genial atmosphere within the group. Rongen's arrival proves to be the pivotal moment in the film, the fulcrum around which the directors mould their narrative.

    Losing heavily is not the only record these guys hold. Their first game of the pre-qualifying stage of the World Cup included a transgender player, Jaiyah Saelua, a first for football. The machoism embedded in the game is still steeped in homophobia and a meaningful breakthrough is still some time away. Jaiyah identifies herself as a fa'afafine, a third gender officially recognised within Samoan society. Her gender or sexuality is not an issue for the team at all, a subject never even raised, as is her undoubted commitment to the cause.

    Without question the editing and the score are manipulative tools used to tell this story. But there are a few occasions when that doesn't matter at all and this documentary is one of them. The level of sincerity from all of those involved will warm the coldest of hearts and prove to be a true inspiration. Every now and then it is nice to be removed from the grip of mistrust and scepticism to be reminded of the basics so easily forgotten.

  • ★★★★½ review by JaumeMuntane on Letterboxd

    Part of March around the world challenge 2015 Film #5: United Kingdom

    National football team of American Samoa. 17 years of history without wining any game nor scoring any goal. Defeat record (Australia 31-American Samoa 0). At this point the documentary starts, providing a thrilling portrait of self-improvement. Furthermore, the documentary succesfully manages to portrait the players and coach. Another virtues? You' ll become a fan of this national team.

    Equip nacional de futbol de Samoa Americana. 17 anys d'història sense guanyar cap partit ni marcar cap gol. Rècord de derrota (Autralia 31- Samoa Americana 0). En aquest punt comença el documental, oferint un emocionant retrat de superació. A més, el documental aconsegueix exitosament retratar jugadors i entrenador. Altres virtuts? Et convertiràs en un fan d'aquesta selecció nacional.

  • ★★★★ review by Paul Wilson on Letterboxd

    Enlightening documentary on the American Samoa national football team and just how it feels to be the official worst team in the world. The movie begins with all the goals from their infamous 31-0 defeat by Australia in 2001 and we then meet the team and see just how tough it is at their level. Notable characters are the only member left from that team Nicky Salafu, the goal keeper who has to carry that burden round his neck and we follow his determination for redemption. Jaiyah (johnny) Saelua who becomes the first trans gender player to participate in a world cup qualifier and her own battles for acceptance.

    After we see them take part in a tournament (it doesn't go very well unsurprisingly) charismatic Dutch coach Thomas Rongen (the only man to apply for the advertised position of manager) arrives and we see the inevitable culture clash and how the players accept his new methods of doing things. Rongen's a fantastic character, instantly likeable, witty, determined and a damn fine bloke in his own right who obviously loves a challenge and watching him fall in love with the island and grow closer to his players is delightful.

    I'd recommend going in knowing as little as possible as it doesn't go exactly as i thought it would which helped me get invested in all of these hardworking top class people. The football is shot very well to add to the drama with a great soundtrack that had me kicking every ball with them and I was astonished by how much I cared how they got on and it truly is quite inspirational watching how much effort they put in.

    I'd recommend it to all football fans especially but this film deserves to be seen by as many as possible as I feel many won't be able to help getting swept up in the infectious energy of the players, the strong spirit, the culture and the island itself and next goal wins is genuinely as moving a film as I've seen all year.

  • ★★★★½ review by Alex H on Letterboxd

    Next Goal Wins tells the story of the American Samoa international football team, the lowest ranked side in the world. Most famous for their record 31-0 loss to Australia and never having won a game, this brilliant documentary highlights their training and participation in the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A month before the first qualifying game, the team brings in Dutch coach Thomas Rongen to try and turn their luck around, and what follows is one of the most heartwarming and enjoyable underdog stories ever put to film.

    In the current football climate where everything is dictated by money and fame, it's so refreshing to see a group of players whose motivation for playing and winning is pride and passion. None of these players are professionals, all taking time out from their jobs or education to train and play, and the standard of football is about as low as you're ever likely to see, but none of that matters one bit. You'll be won over by the colourful characters (including the first ever transgender to play in a FIFA-sanctioned match) and if you don't become emotional in some shape or form during the film, then you have a heart of stone.

    In the manner of all the greatest documentaries, you need to have no interest in the subject matter at all to become involved here. Football fan or not, this is a fantastic film that tells a wonderfully uplifting tale of culture and community. It's quite possibly the best film about football ever made, but it's also much more than that. It's charming, both intentionally and unintentionally hilarious, completely engaging and will have you punching the air with joy.

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