Next Goal Wins opens with a montage of footage of American Samoa’s record-breaking defeat at the hands of Australia in 2001. They lost that soccer match 31-0 and have lost every international match since. It’s absolutely painful to watch Goalkeeper Nicky Salapu get pelted over and over. Ranked dead last in the FIFA ranking, the team is working to turn its luck around, improve its standing, and try to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Enter Dutch Coach Thomas Rongen.
He comes in as head coach and cleans house. Using strict discipline, he helps the team reform and function better as a unit. This is all very jarring to the team that is used to a much more laid back, relaxed type of team. Coach Rongen reaches out to American Samoans from the states to come back and help improve the skill pool ahead of the qualifying matches.
The documentary is a fascinating look at not just an underdog national team but also the community and culture that love and support them. American Samoa is just a much a character here as we see their people and the way they rally around the team, with dances and speeches from the governor. The team itself struggles against incredible odds on and off the field, at one point losing their field and equipment to a tsunami.
Next Goal Wins is a fascinating film that goes far beyond being just a sports documentary. Diving into the lives of the team, the coaches, and their families; it is a warm and touching story the really made me root for their success. The way they embrace diversity and comradery is truly inspiring. Soccer fans and non-fans alike will enjoy this endearing tale of struggle and achievement.
Next Goal Wins is available now on DVD. Buy it HERE!
Adam Ruhl is a writer and life long Cinephile. He is the Executive
Cinema Editor of Pop Culture Beast’s Austin branch; covering festivals,
conventions, and new releases. When not filing reports, Adam can be
found stalking Alamo Drafthouse Programmers for leads on upcoming
DrafthouseFilms titles. Adam once blocked Harry Knowles entrance to a
theater until he was given extra tickets to a Roman Polanski movie.