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New Movie Will Tell Story of US National Soccer Team - 2002-11-08

An American movie production company, Crusader Entertainment, is going to produce a movie about the 1950 United States national soccer team. Crusader is currently doing a casting call across the country to find soccer players who will appear in the movie. One of the stops for tryouts was here in the nation's capital, and VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer caught up with the director and the film's consultant.

The movie will be titled Game of Their Lives, and will focus on the 1950 U.S. Soccer team's historic 1-0 upset win in the World Cup over heavily favored England. The unlikely group of American players comprised semi-professionals and amateurs, most of them working-class immigrants.

Game of Their Lives will be directed by David Anspaugh, who also directed the successful sports movies Hoosiers, about Indiana high school basketball, and Rudy, about American-style football at the University of Notre Dame.

Anspaugh is working on this soccer movie with writer Angelo Pizzo, with whom he collaborated on Hoosiers and Rudy.

"Angelo and I were attracted to this story because of the remarkable aspects of it - what these guys did in 1950, and, also, because it speaks of another time in this country, when things were a little, perhaps, simpler, and guys played this game purely for the love of it," he explains. "Most of these guys from St. Louis, who the story is about, were World War II vets, home from the war. One was an undertaker; a couple were mailmen; you know, a guy worked in a bar, whatever. And in a period of three short weeks, they were plucked out of their sort of normal everyday lives in St. Louis, and all of sudden, found themselves on the grandest stage of sport in the world - you know, playing in a World Cup, and representing their country and succeeded in pulling off one of the greatest upsets in the history of sport."

Director Anspaugh said that 1950 U.S. soccer team celebrated its victory over England for only about 20 minutes with a group of Brazilians in the town where the match was played. The Americans then returned to the United States, and went back to their jobs. Very few people realized what they had accomplished.

Anspaugh told VOA Sports he was not really looking to do another sports movie, but this story really caught his attention.

"The reason is always a good story. It's not just to do it about sports. I'm a big sports fan, but I don't go out trying to make sports movies," he says. " I look for the best stories. I'm more excited about this than I have been about anything since we did Rudy (released in 1994)."

Also excited about working on the movie is Eric Wynalda, the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. National soccer team. The 33-year-old Wynalda, has been injured much of the last three Major League Soccer seasons, but was hired as the film's technical consultant. He is responsible for evaluating the soccer players, who are trying out for parts in the movie.

"This thing has taken over my life, and it's awesome, because I'm very excited about making a movie about soccer and doing it right," he says.

About 500 players, ranging in age from 18 to 30, gathered on the RFK Stadium Auxiliary Field, Wednesday, Nov. 6 here in Washington to try to see if their soccer skills might meet the demands for the movie. They did not have to have acting ability. Wynalda told VOA Sports he liked what he saw.

"I'm really excited about this. We were out here today in D.C. It was what I expected," he says. " You know, there's a lot of talent in this area, and I think there's about a hundred people who were here today that may have a chance to be in the movie."

Wynalda said they put the players through very specific drills.

"We have to see how they hold their body, how they control the ball, run with the ball, look believable as a soccer player, and then how they strike the ball," he explains.

In addition to Washington, casting calls are also being held in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Saint Louis and Denver. Shooting for the film begins early next year, and Game of Their Lives should be ready for release by mid-2004.