The low-down on NEXT GOAL WINS

‘Next Goal Wins’ tells the true story of the worst soccer team in the world, who famously lost 31-0 to Australia in a World Cup qualifier match. The calamitous loss became the worst defeat in international football history, a humiliation that hung over the small Pacific Island of American Samoa for years. The cast includes Irish actor Michael Fassbender, Elisabeth Moss & Will Arnett.  With cameos from Rhys Darby & Luke Hemsworth.

‘Next Goal Wins’ is the 8th movie directed by Taika Waititi. The New Zealander has also directed 8 TV shows, including ’Flight Of The Conchords’, ‘Our Flag Means Death’, ‘The Mandalorian’ & an American version of ‘The Inbetweeners’.

The movie was inspired by a 2014 documentary of the same name, Producer Jonathan Cavendish calls this new film a re-imagining of the documentary because they didn’t want to just remake the events of the dramatic documentary film.

The film took 30 days to shoot, For logistical reasons, shooting in the team’s home country American Samoa was too difficult, so filming moved 2,500 miles south to the Hawaii island of O’ahu.

Michael Fassbender did not base his portrayal on the real life team coach Thomas Rongen himself, but he did allow his backstory to inform many of the choices he made for the role. “The Thomas Rongen that I portray in the film is not the Thomas Rongen that exists in real life,” Fassbender joked. “I just want to say that in case Thomas comes after me.”

Jaiyah Saelua, the team’s striker was the world’s first ever transgender football player in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match, making her one of the most influential person on the island of American Samoa. Jaiyah is played in the film by non-binary actor Kaimana.

The majority of the cast had never played much soccer before starting the film & required training to improve their skills. Just like the characters they are portraying, the cast’s training mirrored how the real players’ game and fitness levels evolved and improved as the film shoot progressed.

In line with American Samoan tradition, the team participates in a haka before each soccer match. The haka is a ceremonial war dance that represents a display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity. Actions include the stomping of the foot, the protrusion of the tongue and rhythmic body slapping to accompany a loud chant. The team recreated their Haka dance on the red carpet at the film’s LA premiere.

When director Taika Waititi approached Fassbender, the actor was taking time away from filmmaking, with many assuming the actor had retired from cinema. Waititi recalls that Fassbender “was off in Europe, racing Porsches or something. I called him up, and he was in his hotel bed with a glass of champagne. He said. ‘Look, I was going to take the year off, but I love the script.’ So, he decided to do it.”


NEXT GOAL WINS is at Irish cinemas from December 26th