As the best footballing nations on the planet prepare for the World Cup, a new documentary celebrates how the game's worst team,
The film, Next Goal Wins, tells how an unlikely group including international football's first transgender player, a psychologically scarred goalkeeper and a chain-smoking Dutch coach restored the tiny Pacific nation's footballing pride after the 2001 humiliation against
The low point was the 31-0 loss to the Socceroos in 2001, when striker
Brett and co-director
"That 31-0 result is like the punchline to a joke or the answer to a pub trivia question," Brett said. "We wanted to go behind the headlines and tell the human story."
Brett and Jamison were keen amateur footballers but ended up filming advertisements for sports brands such as
After working with top clubs including
"We slightly fell out of love with the game that we remembered from when we were kids and when this came along it was an opportunity to really go back to our roots," he said.
But first they needed to persuade the American Samoans they were not planning a mockumentary that would take cheap shots at the team's already wounded pride.
"We had to explain to them that we weren't looking to take the mickey," Brett said. "We were genuinely in awe of these guys, who were clearly in love with the game so much that they'd play for 17 years straight without winning a single match. It says something about the purity of their commitment to the game and their utter unwillingness to give up, even in the face of defeat after defeat."
Once they had gained the team's trust, the film-makers encountered a fascinating group of individuals desperate for footballing redemption. Among them was defender
Saelua is a fa'afafine, part of a Polynesian tradition which - in her words - recognises that someone who is born male can have the spirit of a woman.
While a transgender player may attract prejudice in some western teams, Saelua's Samoan teammates who grew up with fa'afafine simply accepted her as another member of the squad.
"I'm just a soccer player, even though I run like a girl," she says in the movie. "I'm not a male or a female, I'm a soccer player."
And then there was Nicky Salapu, the goalkeeper traumatised by the 31-0 defeat, who would wake up at night a decade later reliving the experience of picking the ball from the back of his net time after time.
Other squad members included a overweight midfielder named Rambo and a player who smoked during training.
The coach charged with bringing the disparate group together was Dutchman
The film follows their fortunes as they struggle to find form, culminating in the country's first-ever win against
Brett said the Samoans' never-say-die attitude had rekindled his love of football and professional players such as former
With the World Cup around the corner, he said the film, which will screen at the
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