The tiny island nation of American Samoa is home to roughly 60,000 people. A beautiful set of islands set in the Southern Pacific, it is a nation that most people will never set foot on and many will have never heard of.
If you are a football fan though, you might know one fact about the nation of American Samoa. You might know that in 2001 the national football team faced Australia in a 2002 World Cup qualifying match and lost. This wasn’t any loss though, this was a 31-0 record-breaking loss that made headlines worldwide. The loss was so bad that FIFA had to change the way qualification was carried out to try to avoid another defeat like this.
Fast forward a decade and American Samoa are rooted to the bottom of the FIFA world rankings. They are the world’s worst team lying in 203rd place.
Step in filmmakers Mike Brett and Steve Jamison who want to chronicle the nation’s attempts at qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The country has appointed a new coach and has a new sense of optimism, but can they achieve something they have never achieved in the past? Actually win a competitive match? Even jut score a goal?
The documentary follows the team as they play in the South Pacific Games and the preparations for their qualifying tournament for the FIFA World Cup. It shows us the island and the community of footballers that play the sport there.
Next Goal Wins is a documentary but feels like a film. It must be the holy grail of documentary filmmaking to come across a story like this filled with wonderful characters, amazing back stories and unique moments but this is one such film. The sense of warmth you get from the American Samoans is wonderful and the way that the documentary makes you feel about football is really something quite special.
Individuals like the new Dutch coach Thomas Rongen have scenes of heartbreak but also laugh out loud moments that make you feel attached to everyone involved in this football team.
One of the film’s main stars (and there are many) is goalkeeper Nicky Salapu who introduces himself at the start of the film as one of the surviving members of that 31-0 team. He talks so passionately about how football is his life but that he has never been involved in a competitive win and that his life is dominated by thoughts of that night back in 2001. All he wants is a chance to be at peace with his footballing career and feel as though he achieved at least something in his time as American Samoa’s number 1.
Anyone who is a fan of football needs to watch this film. It really is that good. The DVD is available to buy now, you can get in on iTunes and online. This documentary will make you appreciate football more and it will introduce you to a small island community like no other.