This semester I co-teach (with journalist Tony Karon) a media politics class on Global Soccer, Global Politics at The New School. It is turning out to be the best thing I’ve done in a while. It also means watching lots of football-themed films. Some good ones and not all of these are good films. The latter includes a number of films with depressing themes. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against films that focus on the ugly side of football. Like Current TV’s 30 minute “Soccer’s Lost Boys” (this is a link to the film; that’s the trailer above) about football factories in Ghana. Instead it is part of a pattern when it comes to African football: It’s mostly gloom and doom. When European football appears on film, at worst it will get the hooligan treatment, otherwise it is all about greatest hits and childhood wonder. (Recent examples include “A Night in Turin” about the England team–with Paul Gascoigne at its heart–that crashed out in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup; or just check the trailer for the new film about Liverpool’s 2005 European Champions League final triumph.)
Which is I could recognize The Offside Rules‘ anger in a recent post on his blog:
I’m sure someone will find a way to twist the following statement to make me look like a prick or self-hating negro but here it is anyway: I’m tired of seeing soccer movies about poor, brown people.
Documentary makers, you know we’re not a monolith right? There are well-to-do brown folks that play soccer as well. Bring your cameras down to a youth game in [Prince George County, Maryland], MD or Cascade Heights, [Georgia] if you don’t believe me. Also there are disadvantaged Europeans and Asians who play soccer as well, give them some shine from time to time.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be films about underprivileged brown kids and the uplifting power of soccer. Not at all. But the frequency with which these things have dropped over the last few years is just ridiculous and extremely disproportionate. Here’s a list of the titles that I can think of without Googling:
The Anderson Monarchs project.
And that’s just in the past year.
Seriously y’all we’re dangerously close to “Magical Negro” territory with these types of films. Why do they keep getting made? At this point it is certainly not original and I’ve yet to see a follow up film where it shows some drastic improvement in the lives of the subjects since the original film. Come on y’all, we can do better.