Like “Offside,” several international films consider the way soccer fandom pits modernity against traditional ways of life, simply through the struggles of people attempting to watch a game. “The Cup” (2000) was the first film from Bhutan to be submitted for an Oscar, featuring real-life Tibetan monks swept up in the frenzy of the 1998 World Cup. A group of novices lead makeshift soccer games using a can of Coca-Cola as a ball, and at night sneak away from the monastery to watch the Cup in a nearby cottage. Granted permission to set up a television on monastery grounds for the final game between France and Brazil, the boys race to collect funds for a satellite dish and set up the device in time for kickoff.
The same dynamic plays out across three different remote locations in Gerardo Olivares’s gentle mockumentary “The Great Match” (2006), which is also structured around the struggle to watch a World Cup final — the 2002 showdown between Brazil and Germany. The film follows the misadventures of three unrelated groups of soccer fans: Kazakh nomads from the Eastern Mongolian steppes, camel-mounted Berber tribespeople in the Sahara, and Indigenous Amazonians.
Both films present the love of soccer as a universal bond, a bitter pill considering it might also be the only common ground between us viewers and these disappearing cultures — soccer, after all, is nothing if not a tool of cultural hegemony. At the same time, though the stakes aren’t a matter of life or death, the passion of these fans — the way they persist in their efforts to seize a small slice of pleasure in a world of tireless work, exile and material hardship — might say something about what soccer would have to offer were it stripped of its territorial fanatics and its billion-dollar pomp and ceremony.
Where to Stream These Soccer Movies
Stream “Les Misérables” on Amazon Prime Video.
Rent “Escape to Victory” on multiple digital platforms.
Stream “Shaolin Soccer” on Paramount+ or the Criterion Channel.
Stream “Diamantino” on major digital platforms.
Stream “The Workers Cup” on multiple digital platforms.
Rent “Forever Pure” on Apple TV.
Stream “The Second Game” on the Criterion Channel or Mubi.
Stream “Infinite Football” on the Criterion Channel or Kanopy.
Stream “Offside” on the Criterion Channel.
Stream “The Cup” on the Criterion Channel.
Stream “The Great Match” on Tubi or Film Movement Plus.