Although it’s soccer in the U.S. and football everywhere else, a love for the game proves one of the few common denominators on the planet. With docu “The Power of the Game,” versatile British helmer Michael Apted combines the sociological perspective that he brought to the “7 Up” sequels with his own passion for the sport, investigating its social impact and power to do good across continents. Exciting, inspiring pic could score the hat trick of niche theatrical, broadcast and DVD deals, but the backdrop of the 2006 World Cup Finals may limit its sell-by date.
Mixing interviews with players and officials, ample match highlights and scenes of rapt and raucous fans, pic offers six interweaving stories. Most examine football as a unifying force and illustrate how it’s used to tackle issues outside of itself, as in Argentina, England and Senegal, where current and former players give back to their communities by working with underprivileged youth.
Former Argentine pro Fabian Ferraro returned to Moreno, a tough slum area on the fringes of Buenos Aires, starting street football team Defensores del Chaco to keep local kids from a life of crime. The success of his endeavor facilitated the area’s regeneration.
In England, where there’s a disturbing element of racism and hooliganism among fans, British-born Zeshan Rehman, a Premier League player for Fulham and a member of the Pakistani national squad, serves as a role model for Asians.
Top African players Patrick Vieira, Bernard Lama and Jimmy Adjovi-Bocco created the Diambars (“warriors”) Institute in Senegal to give talented youngsters advanced coaching as well as a proper educational grounding, and to circumvent the flow of unprepared Africans used and abused by European clubs.
Meanwhile, South Africa looks to football to overcome the legacy of apartheid and unite the country as it builds the infrastructure necessary to host the 2010 World Cup.
One of pic’s most engaging figures is Iranian sports journalist Mahin Gorji. As women aren’t allowed into stadiums to watch men’s matches, Gorji was initially forced to watch on TV and conduct interviews over the phone. Now she’s the only woman in the country who can attend matches, thanks to a special dispensation.
The U.S.’ situation as “the one remaining culture in the world that football has yet to penetrate” produced one comic moment during the World Cup. Its qualifying game against Mexico was sited in a remote Ohio town — far from the Mexican border — to make sure home supporters outnumbered those of the guest.
Fast-paced film incorporates a mass of broadcast material, some of which loses resolution on the bigscreen.