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'Goal!' was released in the United Kingdom 17 years ago today, it remains an absolute classic

Josh Lawless

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| Last updated 

'Goal!' was released in the United Kingdom 17 years ago today, it remains an absolute classic

17 years ago today, the greatest football film ever produced was released in the United Kingdom.

In 'Goal!', Santiago Munez went from being an illegal Mexican immigrant working in a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles to the man who sealed Champions League qualification for Newcastle United.

It's a true rags-to-riches story, with Munez travelling to England after his grandmother Mercedes gives him some money in order to pursue his dream.

He meets scout Glen Foy, who gives him the opportunity to overcome adversity and make the grade.

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You're not a true football fan unless you got choked up when 'Santi' walloped a free-kick in against Liverpool and later found out his father saw the game against Fulham.

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Interestingly, Kuno Becker, the man who played the beloved Munez character, was anything but a footballer or even a football fan growing up.

He had spent his time playing the violin as opposed to playing five-a-side growing up but as part of his audition for landing this lead part, he linked up with Newcastle's reserve team for a couple of weeks and so what you saw in the film is partially true to real-life events.

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Becker ended up breaking both of his ankles because he was "training so hard" and was told he couldn't make the movie if his skills on the pitch didn't improve.

Wanting the role 'so bad', his sheer drive and determination paid off and the story of how the actor never gave up almost mirrors what we all saw on screen from the greatest fictional footballer of all time.

"I wanted the role so bad; I loved the story but I didn't play football, I really sucked at football, " Becker told SPORTbible.

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"When Danny Cannon, the director and a great guy, came back to Newcastle where I was training for the movie with the team, he saw me and although I improved he was just like ,'There's just no way, you just can't do it'.

"I didn't tell anyone I broke my ankles because otherwise I would lose the role so I was taking motrin like it was M&Ms.

"But the day of the audition he wanted to see what I had learned. I couldn't even run and he was like, 'Kuno it's impossible, go back to Los Angeles - at the end of the day you're just not going to get the role, I'm sorry'.

"When I was in the car taking me to the airport I just thought 'F*** it! I've already lost the role' so I came back to the pitch and told him I broke my ankles because I trained too hard. I wanted him to know I did learn things so I said, 'You say you play a bit of football, why don't you try to get the ball off me?' I can show you I did learn something and didn't just waste everyone's time.

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"He tried to get the ball off me just standing there and he couldn't get it. Out of five times he got it just once. 'Dog', one of my coaches, great guy from Newcastle - he taught me how to keep the ball.

"I went back to the car and then he called me to the production cellphone he gave me. He was like, 'You know what you've got the role.' F*****g hell, it was crazy.

"When you think you've lost it and you f****d up, you have to keep going. There's always a step further you can go."

Santiago Munez remains the best fictional footballer of all time. Image: Alamy
Santiago Munez remains the best fictional footballer of all time. Image: Alamy
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The impact of the Goal franchise is monumental. Becker gets called 'Santiago all the freakin time' and was told by a tearful Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez that one of the reasons he loves football so much is because he used to watch the film with his mother growing up.

Becker had only been to the United Kingdom once before he ended up tearing it alongside the one and only Gavin Harris and 'didn't know anything' about Newcastle.

However, 'the Mexican Geordie' grew to love everything about the club and city on the whole - from black pudding right through to Geordies - even though he thought they were speaking German at first.

Fans have joked that Miguel Almiron is the real-life version of Munez, while Newcastle have a close namesake on the books in Santiago Munoz, a 20-year-old Mexican, at the moment.

But the real Munez is keen on heading back to St James' Park in the future.

"I love Newcastle more than anybody maybe because I 'played' there in the movie and I got to know the guys, as well as the previous owner," he added.

"I saw this one player say that he knew the team because of the movie and I was just like 'What?!'

"I haven't been in Newcastle since the movie. I would love it. Why not? I love that place. I had a great time there, incredibly great experiences and the movie means a lot to me.

"I love Geordies. There's always a smile, a 'good morning' and there's always patience and gratefulness. Small town people in a good way. Passionate and happy."

Image: Alamy
Image: Alamy

Munez became a Real Madrid Galactico and rubbed shoulders with David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Ronaldo Nazario for the second film.

The less said about the third the better. Becker called it 'a piece of s***" ' and says those at the top 'did a horrible job in every single way'.

So where next for Munez? Is the story done? Becker, having directed movies with his own production company, has written a script for a fourth film with the help of a team of writers.

The plot catches up with a much-older Munez, who has transitioned from a football player to a football coach.

Becker feels it would bring some closure to the first two films after the big disappointment of the third. The problem, however, is he does not own the rights.

Image: Alamy
Image: Alamy

He explained: "I wrote the Goal 4 movie because I think it's a beautiful story. It picks up Santi as a trainer and it's a life lesson about failure and success. I think it's very moving and so do the people around me that I worked with.

"But they're still thinking about money [regarding the rights] - which is the wrong way to think in a movie.

"There's people with the rights who are like, 'If I don't receive this amount of money'. If you're thinking like that, f*** it I'll just write another movie and make something else.

"I think the worldwide audience that the first two movies have, they need some closure of the story and it would be nice to see what happened with the characters but with a good story that has something to say and respects the first two.

"The script that I wrote for Goal 4 is actually very commercial but it has a lot of feeling and a lot of heart - which is what I think made the first one work so well. I may try again but I'm not going to keep trying all my life.

"At the end of the day I would love to do it but I'm not going to be begging these a***holes to do something they don't want to do."

SPORTbible Stories is the brand-new podcast from the SPORT team at LADbible. The latest episode features a chat with WWE legend Triple H who opens up on his long in-ring career, his rivalry with The Rock during WWE's Attitude Era and Logan Paul's fledgling wrestling career. You can watch the episode here.

Featured Image Credit: Image: IMDB & Alamy

Topics: Newcastle United, Premier League

Josh Lawless
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