If you haven’t heard, the European Championships are under way in France right now, with an expanded line-up of 24 of Europe’s best teams battling it out for the title of best footballing nation on the continent.
In case watching three matches a day isn’t enough football for you, here is a list of six football-related films you can watch to kill time while waiting for that highly-anticipated match…
Ola Bola! (2015)
Story: A journalist is sent to research the story of the 1980 Malaysian national football team, and comes away inspired not only by their achievements, but also the unifying spirit of the team.
Match report: Inspired by the story of the team that qualified for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow (although Malaysia eventually ended up boycotting the Games), this is an uplifting, inspiring movie that all Malaysians should watch, regardless of whether or not you are a football fan. As the movie’s tagline suggests, after watching this, you will believe again.
Match highlights: It has to be THAT final, decisive goal scored by Ahmad Ali, which gives Malaysia a 3-2 victory over South Korea in the final match.
Shaolin Soccer (2001)
Story: Sing is a Shaolin kung fu master who dreams of a world where everyone is practising kung fu. Seeing the popularity of football, he decides to form a professional football team with his brothers to spread awareness of Shaolin.
Match report: This classic Stephen Chow movie may not have any serious football action, but it more than makes up for that with some hilarious kung-football action sequences that put the “fantasy” in “fantasy football”.
Match highlights: After Team Shaolin’s Bruce Lee lookalike goalkeeper is taken out by Team Evil’s relentless barrage of super-powered strikes, Vicki Zhao takes over the goal and uses her tai chi skills to not only keep the goal safe, but also win the match for Team Shaolin.
Story: Santiago Munez is a Mexican immigrant in Los Angeles who dreams of becoming a professional footballer. He later gets his chance with a trial at English club Newcastle United, and helps the club qualify for the Champions League. In the two sequels that followed, he moves to Real Madrid, and then participates in the World Cup Finals.
Match report: As far as football stories go, this is actually a pretty decent rags-to-riches flick that has some cracking football action and cameos by real-life footballers like David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Alan Shearer, and many more. Too bad the second and third films weren’t as good though.
Match highlight: There are lots of goals, of course, but the highlight of the first film has to be the goal Santiago scores against Liverpool to send Newcastle into the Champions’ League. Newcastle fans who are still sore over last season’s relegation would want to watch this.
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Story: British-Indian teenager Jess (Parminder Nagra) loves to play football, but her parents are against it because she’s a girl. Without their knowledge, she joins a women’s team and takes them to the top of the league.
Match report: More of a coming-of-age romantic comedy than an actual sports film, this was nevertheless a great movie that was also Keira Knightley’s breakout role.
Match highlight: That free kick Jess takes at the end, of course, in which she actually does bend it like Beckham.
Escape To Victory (1981)
Story: Set in a German prisoner of war camp in WWII, a team of Allied soldiers train for a football match against a German team, while planning their escape at the same time.
Match report: Although the stars of the movie were Michael Caine and Sylvestor Stallone (as the most unconvincing goalkeeper ever), the highlight of the movie was the central football match, which featured some of the best on-screen footballing action ever, thanks to the presence of professional footballers like Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, Mike Summerbee, Hallvar Thoresen, Werner Roth, and, best of all, Pelé, in the cast.
Match highlight: Pele’s majestic overhead bicycle kick goal, replayed in glorious slow-motion not once, not twice, but THREE times.
The Damned United (2009)
Story: No, the “United” in the title does not refer to the one from Manchester. The film is about legendary football manager Brian Clough’s brief and ill-fated 44-day tenure as manager at Leeds United back in 1974.
Match report: Most of the football action is shown through stock footage, but the real draw of this movie is Michael Sheen’s magnificent performance as the eccentric Clough.
Match highlight: After being told he is being let go, Clough demands a huge severance package, and while walking away, he is asked: “Who do you bloody think you are?”. His simple answer? “Brian Clough. Brian Howard Clough.” What a legend.
Dishonourable mention: United Passions, a 2014 movie funded by Fifa about the origins of football’s world governing organisation. Starring Tim Roth as the much-reviled Sepp Blatter, it was a vanity project and is regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, taking in just US$918 on its opening weekend in the United States.