World Cup Watch: Indie soccer movie “Next Goal Wins” released on DVD today

I wrote about the documentary “Next Goal Wins,” which stars former Chivas USA coach Thomas Rongen, when it was released in April and today it was released on DVD.

The film is highly recommended. Check out the clip above and more about the movie below:

In 2001, the tiny Pacific island of American Samoa suffered a world record 31-0 defeat at the hands of Australia, garnering headlines across the world as the worst soccer team on the planet. A decade after that humiliating night, they remain rooted to the bottom of FIFA’s World rankings, having scored only twice in seventeen years. They have lost every competitive game they have ever played. It would take a miracle-maker or a madman to turn the team’s fortunes around – and in maverick Dutch coach Thomas Rongen the islanders somehow find both. With the team about to embark on a grueling World Cup Qualification campaign, Rongen has just one month to transform this ragtag group of losers into a winning team – and perhaps learn a little about himself along the way.

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Book review: “Soccerland”

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Guest book reviewer and Torrance resident Paige Brandt, 14, is a freshman at South High and a goalkeeper for the Under-16 Silver Elite Palos Verdes SC Exiles. In her spare time, she enjoys playing volleyball and reading.

We asked Paige to review the book “Soccerland” by Beth Choat, a novel aimed at teenage girls:

When trying out for the Under 15′s National Team, Flora Dupre was competing with a hundred other soccer driven girls to show coaches why they should make the national team.

The book “Soccerland” by Beth Choat gives girls the message that if you work hard you can accomplish anything. This book relates to many girls who come from a small town and have big dreams with their soccer career. The story was believable not just because the story shows you that it doesn’t matter what your background is, all that matters is that you work hard and dream big.

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I would recommend this well written book that draws you in from the first sentence to anyone who plays or loves the game.

“Soccerland” is not limited to just “soccer players”; this book shows a young girl chasing her dreams.

The book gives girls hope that if you work hard and want to go big with your soccer career anything can happen. The characters in “Soccerland” were lifelike, they all pertained to people you would meet when you went to a soccer academy.

“Soccerland” is a book to read for anyone who loves soccer or just loves to read!

The book is available here.

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Tuesday’s Column: “Pelada” strips game down to its roots

i-4cfdc5446fa6788ee29593693a995f0e-villa31slum0022.jpgPick-up soccer in the Villa 31 slum, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Poverty can create great soccer players.

It’s why we see more Brazilians or Africans who can do magical things with a ball than Americans.

Once you learn how to control a tennis ball or small rock, deftly kicking a regulation ball is not much of a challenge.

And it’s free-flowing pick-up soccer in those countries, where no one tells a kid to stop dribbling or endlessly playing keepie up, that creates great players more than the regimented, over-coached youth soccer system we have here. And, of course, those players not only have the hunger to escape poverty, but spend hour after hour day after day honing their skills on dirt lots rather than play a couple of hours here or there when mom piles the kids into the car for weekly practice.

You rarely see kids or adults for that matter playing casual pick-up games on a patch of ground here.

But that doesn’t mean Americans don’t have an appreciation for it. And “Pelada” is a celebration of that sub-culture around the world.

I highly recommend the movie. Read more about it here in this week’s column.

And here’s the trailer for the film:

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Waiting for the Weekend (World Cup Edition)

First things first: the excellent movie “The Damned United” opens today in Los Angeles.

The studio and producers face an uphill battle persuading American soccer fans in general (most of whom have probably not heard of late English manager Brian Clough, who is the film’s subject) let alone general movie-goers to see this film, but both constituencies will enjoy this film that I highly recommend. Read (and watch) more about it here.

Not everyone agrees with my assessment of the movie though.

Incidentally, Michael Sheen, the actor playing Brian Clough, will appear at the 7:20 p.m. showing at the The Landmark in Los Angeles.

For those who prefer actual competitive football, there’s plenty to choose from this weekend.

The Galaxy are off this weekend and there’s an abbreviated MLS schedule due to World Cup qualifying, but Chivas USA take on Kansas City at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Home Depot Center (delayed at 8 p.m. on Prime) with a playoff spot on the line. The Goats reach the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year with a win over the Wizards coupled with a San Jose Earthquakes victory or draw Saturday against Toronto FC.

Of course, the U.S. game against Honduras is not on broadcast television, but there are at least two closed circuit television English-language locations locally including one across the street from the HDC. Read more about those here. A complete list of viewing locations is here.

WCQ got under way at 8:30 a.m. today with New Zealand-Bahrain on Fox Soccer Channel, while both the Ukraine-England game Saturday (England have already qualified) and Sunday’s Bolivia-Brazil game are on pay-per-view.

For a complete list of games on TV click the link to the right, but here are the ones I recommend in addition to those already mentioned:

3 p.m. Saturday KVEA Mexico-El Salvador
4:30 p.m. Saturday FSC New England Revolution-Columbus Crew
5:30 p.m. Saturday Tecos-CD Guadalajara
6:30 p.m. Saturday Vancouver-Montreal (USL final, first leg)

Turning to college soccer, Pepperdine (5-1) beat Cal State Bakersfield 1-0 Thursday in Malibu with freshman Michelle Manning (Agoura High) notching the winner over a team winless in last six outings. The Waves host Loyola Marymount (8-3-1) in the annual multi-sport PCH Challenge (trivia of the week – the schools are 19.1 miles apart) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Tari Frahm Rokus Field.

And in a couple of Wednesday games I managed to overlook, the Cal State Northridge men (6-4-1) lost 2-1 against Cal State Fullerton (5-1-1) with the winner coming with just 33 seconds left in the first OT, while the Long Beach State women (5-6-1) tied San Diego the same day at George Allen Field.

The Cal State Northridge men open Big West play at 3 p.m. Saturday against UC Irvine at Matador Field, while the 49ers host Cal State Bakersfield at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Other local college games this weekend include:
*The Pac-10 opener for the No. 3-ranked UCLA women (9-1-1) against Arizona (3-7-1) is at 7 o’clock tonight at Drake Stadium with a limited number of team posters to be given away to fans. The Bruins also meet No. 20-ranked Arizona State (7-1-2) at 1:00 p.m. Sunday at home.

*The No. 14-ranked USC women (8-3) also open conference play at home hosting Arizona State at 3 p.m. today at McAlister Field and Arizona Sunday at 1 p.m.

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Pasadena Appearances by Author of Book “Finn McCool’s Football Club: The Birth, Death and Resurrection of a Pub Soccer Team in the City of the Dead”

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Stephen Rea, a native of Northern Ireland who moved to New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina leveled the city, will make two appearances in Pasadena today and Tuesday promoting his book “Finn McCool’s Football Club: The Birth, Death and Resurrection of a Pub Soccer Team in the City of the Dead.”

(It’s the story of a Sunday pub team and the eccentric collection of largely British ex-pats that play on it set against the backdrop of the worst natural disaster ever to hit a major American city).

Rea and two ex-Chelsea players will take part in a Q&A session tonight beginning at 8 o’clock at Lucky Baldwin’s, 17 S. Raymond Ave., ahead of Tuesday’s Chelsea-Inter Milan game (Rea is a Chelsea fan). The pub has an excellent beer selection BTW, which if you’ve read Rea’s book was probably a prerequisite for his presence.

On Tuesday Rea will autograph copies of the book beginning at noon at the Fan fest in Rose Bowl Area H before the game (thankfully, given the heat it includes a wine and beer garden).

I’m still making my way through the book between watching Beckham melt down (those boos don’t bother him, huh?) and the match marathon we’ve seen on TV these last few days (I’m on page 243 of 336), so out of fairness I’ll refrain from a full scale review.

But here are a few random thoughts so far:

*This is not a bad summer read, but readers who find racial and ethnic stereotypes, expletive-laden sentences and a general preoccupation with drinking heavily offensive or boorish might want to give this one a miss. Here, for instance is the opening line to Chapter 11: “You cheating f****** c***.” You get the idea.

*This is one of those books that cries out for a separate section to help the reader keep track of the numerous players (many named Stephen) who flit in and out of the team and the story with regularity. I was forever pawing through pages to remind myself who so and so was.

*The book is more than a tad repetitive as we are regaled by tales of the pub team’s (all too similar) games or the author’s (often futile) searches for American bars carrying Northern Ireland games. The book would have been half as long if Rea had just signed up for DirecTV. And there’s about 175 pages of this stuff before the storm actually hits.

*Forgive me this thought given the devastation wrought on the city and its inhabitants, but it was hard to whip up much sympathy for some of these characters given how generally oblivious they are to the scale of the impending natural disaster. For instance, the team’s coach goes on a hours-long bender before the storm hits, is baffled to find the city empty when there’s eventually no where else to drink because everything is shut down and then improbably goes home to bed to ride the storm out by pulling the covers over his head in bed. By the time he’s literally swirling down the street in flood waters, I’m thinking that this guy is the epitome of the law of natural selection. As for Rea himself, you’ve got to wonder about anyone who moves to New Orleans and then writes “New Orleans had hurricanes? It was news to me.”

*All that aside, the book has a certain colorful charm that you would expect set in a place like New Orleans. Here’s an excerpt wherein a Liverpudlian named Adrian explains how he ended up in the city erecting scaffolding:

After a day they said, ‘You’ve never done this before, have you?’ but they were cool and we were the only two white boys on the crew. We were living in the Quarter and they showed us the city and we got second-degree burns working on a hospital roof and I went to a transvestite’s funeral after meeting a guy dressed as a nun and we had a fantastic time.

The hardcover came out earlier this year with the paperback to follow this fall.

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Tuesday’s Column: “Rudo Y Cursi” Review

The review is here.

Anecdote: I went to see a screening of “Goal” in Redondo Beach a few years ago when a whole bunch of Galaxy players were there including goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. After the movie was over I asked Hartman what he thought of it and he said it was good – but then admitted he didn’t hold films in general to a very high standard. Well, I do. If I have two hours to spare I’d rather see a soccer game than a soccer related (or any) movie. But I made the trip to West Hollywood for this one. And it was, for the most part, worth it. The ending was not what I’d hoped for – but then after watching the Galaxy, you get used to it.

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