That kick, tho
I love both war movies and sports movies so it should come as no surprise that 1981’s “Victory,” directed by the great John Huston (shortly after he did one of my favorite films of all time, the Kipling tale, “The Man Who Would Be King”), in which a team of scratch Allied soccer players drawn from across numerous German stalags during WWII to play an elite German team, is high on my list.
Starring a number of international World Cup-level footballers with acting from the likes of Sir Michael Cain up front and Max Von Sydow’s Major Karl von Steiner adding just enough honor to the opposition, the film is very loosely based on the often over-told semi-true story of the “Death Match” between Ukrainian and German teams in occupied Ukraine in 1942.
However, the big guns on the field are brought by Brazilian football phenom, Pele, who was in his 40s when “Victory” was filmed and had retired from the sport already, with three World Cup wins in his rearview– a record not bested to this day.
Still, Pele was both funny and delivered a perfect bicycle kick photographed by English cinematographer Gerry Fisher (of “Aces High” fame.)
Truly art in sport.
When I saw the film as a kid, I was playing soccer in a Y8 league and, every time I put on my cleats for my next five years in the sport, I thought of “Victory.” Much later in life, while coaching it for my kids’ teams, watching it at team parties was required, although I will admit, it was more of an acquired taste!
Thank you, Pele,