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Football in Balkan films
25 June 2014
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Having being characterised as the most important of the unimportants in life, football was always a perfect setting in the hands of filmmakers around the world, a lot of them being fans themselves, like Greece’s Pantelis Voulgaris, an admirer of the game who never misses a good match; so he decides to film a couple of them back in 1988. The Striker with the No. 9 tells the story of a young and talented player geting crushed by football establishment, press and romance. Up north in Serbia and in a different time, the cobblestone streets of Belgrade neighborhoods and the formation of the national team for their consequent departure for the first World Cup in faraway Uruguay of 1930 form the story of Dragan Bjelogrlic’s Montevideo, Taste of a Dream (2010), a financial hit in Serbia.

Montevideo, Taste of a Dream

Another big hit, the biggest of then-young Yugoslav cinema, is the 1950 Blue 9 by Kresimir Golik, a Soviet-style romantic comedy with wonderfully directed football sequences. Romania’s Corneliu Porumboiu is also a filmmaker interested in the game. His 2014 The Second Game is an experimentation of the kind his earlier 12:08 East of Bucharest was. The film is an actual, TV form, football game of the late 80’s commentated by Porumboiu and his father, referee of that match. Moving to the documentaries, in Darko Bajic΄s O Gringo (2011) we follow the story of a European player who became the greatest footballer in Brazil, the Serbian-born Dejan Petkovic, considered as one of the greatest by many experts.  

In Vuk Janic’s The Last Yugoslavian Football Team (2000) we see the rise of Yugoslavia’s youth 80΄s team becoming World Youth Champions and their expected fall in the early 90’s with war braking out. On the opposite of fame and big tournaments, Michael Agrafiotis’ documentary Ball Is Ball (Be It Ever So Humble) from 2009 deals with amateur football in Greece’s small cities and the whole culture of the game outside of the metropolis, while, Nazi occupation, football and romance concist the basics of F.Y.R.O.M’s The Third Half by Darko MItrevski (2012) where a local coach hires a German one to galvanize his rag football team when the first Nazi tanks enter their city. Also, Emir Kusturica’s Maradona (2008), a documentary showing a filmmaker’s admiration on a fellow “artist”, talking on politics, sports and art.

The Striker with the No. 9

Beside the Balkans point of view on the Game, there are a load of films Hollywood and big European studios made on football with veteran players, big actors and a universal message on their luggages. Out of this number of films and documentaries we single out two with their own, special “message”. The first, Wim Wenders’ The Goalie΄s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, back from 1972 where a goalkeeper misses blocking a penalty kick and loses the game for his team. An existential portray of the sportsman and his modern anxieties. In the second film, Jafar Panahi’s black comedy Offside from 2006, we watch a group of Iranian girls attempting to enter Tehran΄s Azadi Stadium dressed as boys in order to watch a big football match with some getting caught and arrested. 

Football then, essential in calming and tensioning the spirits, more ancient than music or rapsodies: all we have ever needed was a round object and the right mood for it.


  The Striker with the No. 9
  12:08 East of Bucharest
  Montevideo, Taste of a Dream
  O Gringo
  The Third Half
  The Second Game
  Ball Is Ball (Be It Ever So Humble)
  Blue 9
  The Last Yugoslavian Football Team
  Dragan Bjelogrlic
  Emir Kusturica
  Corneliu Porumboiu
  Pantelis Voulgaris
  Darko Bajic
  Darko Mitrevski
  Kresimir Golik
  Michail Agrafiotis
  Vuk Janic
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