Goal! The Dream Begins
Do you call the game played with a round, black and white ball, soccer or football? Your answer will likely reveal your geographic location -- as well as the probability of your fascination with the sport.
Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) from Los Angeles calls it soccer, and he has been passionate about the sport since his childhood. Yet despite an exceptional skill for the game, any ambitions of playing professionally are an unobtainable Goal due to his illegal immigrant status and humble circumstances. Then one day, he happens to catch the attention of Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane), a former scout for Britain's Newcastle United football (soccer) team. Impressed by the Mexican-born youth's talent, Glen pulls a few strings and arranges a tryout for the promising player, if he can get to England. For Santiago, that opportunity is when The Dream Begins.
But for his father (Tony Plana) the whole idea is a nightmare. Having lived in poverty his entire life, Hernan Munez has learned to depend upon the labor of his own hands, and not silly fantasies, in order to survive. Lending no emotional support, and having no cash to contribute, Santiago is left to figure out the financial arrangements on his own.
Money proves to be only the first hurtle the young hopeful will face. In his quest to be classed among the top soccer players (footballers) in the world, he will have to cut his family ties, cross an ocean, find his inner confidence, let go of his secrets, take a beating from the big boys, and get by on the good graces of others. It's a daunting journey requiring a lot of hard work (although not with his hands!).
Because this is a movie, there is really never any doubt Santiago will accomplish his goal. Instead, the unanswered questions are: How will he leap the many obstacles in his path and is he able to deal with the problems associated with success? Thankfully, the script manages to sidestep much of the possible sentimentality by providing room for character development, reasonable challenges, and ample evidence of effort expended for the rewards received.
Parents should be aware the heartwarming film includes depictions of sport violence and injuries, partying, alcohol abuse, and a mention of illegal drug use, along with a smattering of profanities, sexual slang terms and innuendo. As well, a soccer/football star (played by Alessandro Nivola) is portrayed as a playboy, whose implied sexual relationships involve one where he wakes up with two women. However, the story is quick to point out the negative consequences of such indulgences and exploits, while praising the virtues of determination, teamwork and pursuing one's dreams.
Those who identify themselves as football fans (and who likely reside outside of North America where the sport commands enormous audiences) will appreciate the appearances of many real life athletes, such as David Beckham, Raul Gonzalez, and Alan Shearer. There are also some of the team members from Newcastle United. Those who call it soccer (and live on the continent only recently made aware of this phenomenon) may find this fictional tale makes a great feel-good introduction to what the rest of the world is so excited about.