There are sporting underdogs, then there’s the American Samoa national football team. Drawn from a tiny population of 55,000, these amateurs languish at the bottom of the Fifa rankings after results including a record 31-0 defeat by Australia in World Cup qualifiers. Then a tsunami wipes out their training facility… Foolproof material for a sports doc, then – yet this unexpectedly stirring British production goes the extra mile. It refuses to treat the struggling Pacific Islanders as a joke and responds instead to the sheer commitment and pride involved in playing their guts out for zero reward as the challenge of another World Cup campaign approaches.
Memorable characters include the grizzled Dutch coach who’s initially appalled at the enormity of his task but comes to appreciate the special sense of community on the island, and an androgynous member of Samoa’s readily accepted third gender who’s a tough-tackling fullback on the pitch. Other soccer docs may showcase better talents, but few display the crucial understanding that the game is less about scoresheets than courage, respect and togetherness. A fist-pumping, heartlifting triumph from an unlikely footballing nation