It’s that time of year. Summer footy season has finished and for those of us who live in sub-zero temperature zones, we are moving inside to turf.
Also time to snuggle up and watch some great films after Champion Leagues games are over when the sun goes down at 6 p.m. (Canada time).
I have selected a few of my favorite films and highly recommend them.
They radiate with humor, great plot about determination and are all inspired by true stories.
1) Bend it Like Beckham (United Kingdom- 2002- Gurinder Chadha)
This comedy is an incredible fusion of British-Indian culture and football.
It features a fantastic story about a girl who struggles with balancing her family’s cultural expectations and her passion for playing football. It touches on gender inequality in sport, assumptions about feminine roles and racism in football.
As a South Asian woman I can completely relate to the struggle of the principal character. Her community doesn’t understand her interest in football and her need to participate. Her love for football extends beyond borders and typical ideas.
The moral is not to give up hope and that opportunities can come but one must grab them- regardless of color or culture. This is after all, the world’s game.
Hilarious script, great actors, brilliant soundtrack and PG rating make this one of my absolute favorites.
2) Offside (Iran – 2006 – Jafar Panahi)
A riveting film about six women who are desperate to attend a 2005 World Cup qualifying match but are restricted by Iranian Law. Very raw and convincing performances from the cast. Offside highlights gender issues facing women in Iran yet dispels myths that women are not interested in football. The movie illustrates their patriotism and bravery as they try to sneak into the Azadi stadium during an important match.
It shows their passion for their country and passion for the game. As the country is shown to be jubilant, it shows the anger and frustration of these women at being excluded from such an important event.
Shocking to see how quickly girls are dismissed despite their credibility in knowledge of football, players and stats. They do not have access to the same privileges as men. Due to the rigidity of the ruling Government, they may not have the chance any time soon.
The acting is raw and sincere. Very believable characters portraying different background and stories. It is impossible not to root for these young women and appreciate their spirit.
Excellent and important film. This film is a reminder of how lucky I am to have the chance to watch a match, support football and play in hijab in safety and freedom.
3) Dare to Dream (United States – 2005- HBO Sports)
This is a great documentary about the rise in women’s soccer in the USA. It analyzes the effect of the systems, the organizations and their prejudices against women’s sports. For a sport not as popular as basketball or baseball, that women carved out a name on the International stage is unprecedented. This film is filled with emotions, individual journeys and personalizes the players immensely. It features their stories, their individual struggles from deaths to illnesses. It chronicles the beginning of the manufacturing of women’s soccer in order to garner attention and corporate sponsors; an important piece of sports in the US.
Mostly, this is a story about a group of women who are an incredibly supportive of one another and exemplify the true essence of “teammate”. Together they overcome obstacles and succeed despite being told they can’t do it. They are honest about their disdain for losing and savor the joy.
Any player can relate to their emotion and honesty.
As a footballer who grew up being inspired by these women, I can attest that Mia Hamm put women’s sport on the map. It fostered a generation of girls to believe soccer was their game.
I am waiting for a new documentary to about the Canadian Women’s National Team to be made to share with my daughter.
4) Zanzibar Soccer Queens (Tanzania- 2007- Florence Ayisi)
Queens of Zanzibar is an amazing piece of work chronicling the lives and experiences of female footballers on the “Women Fighters FC” in Zanzibar- a typically conservative region in Eastern Africa. The players, most of whom, adorn hijab and cover modestly, change their clothes into full football kits with shorts and even play against men. They speak of freedom and happiness. Their coaches encourage them to play well and challenge a system where the role of an African woman is quite grounded in indigenous and patriarchal culture.
The film shows not only the women’s passion for sport, but its’ ability to improve their self-confidence, improves physical fitness and gives them an opportunity to travel. It also explores the sadness of a former player who has been ordered to quite by her new husband. She laments her loss and it is difficult not to empathize with her frustration. But this highlights the reality and struggles of women’s access to a popular sport in different areas in the world. Much like Middle East, Asia or South America, women must navigate through culture, society’s expectations to play and persevere.
They are met with opposition from a local Qu’ran teacher and also criticism from a university student who argues that the attire and the demeanor of the women are contrary to cultural values they need to uphold and protect.
Grassroots groups recognize the importance of sport and development programs in helping to develop communities and empower girls and women. It is the best route to positive social change. The women of “Women Fighters FC” also open a small store to fund their activities and engage in small business and commerce to help sustain their team. They are shown to be training on a beach, with very basic equipment but will full respect and attention.
One player poignantly acknowledges how football is preventing her from prostitution and drugs. They take their training very seriously as for many of the women; it is not simply the game of football- it is about bringing change and potential to the world. Showing the sons and daughters of Zanzibar that anything is possible.
The music of this documentary is incredible. It’s filled with emotions and the last shot (a squad line-up and camera panning across faces of the players) is particularly inspiring.