The Big Picture
- Next Goal Wins is a hilarious and heartwarming underdog story about the world’s worst soccer team seeking redemption.
- Michael Fassbender shines as coach Thomas Rongen, who brings out the hidden potential in the American Samoa team.
- The film highlights the inspiring journey of transgender player Jaiyah Saelua, who stands out among the team and adds depth to the story.
Next Goal Wins tells the story of the world’s worst soccer team, and Collider is thrilled to give football and film fans an exclusive look at new images from the most unlikely of underdog stories in Taika Waititi‘s latest hilarious addition to his ever-expanding and impressive filmography. After suffering a demoralising world record defeat of 31-0 against Australia in a competitive international football match, the American Samoa national team sought to discover a hidden spark among their players. Their approach involved appointing an innovative coach with unconventional ideas. This extraordinary voyage, which was the subject of a 2014 film also titled Next Goal Wins captured the attention of Waititi.
Michael Fassbender takes on the role of Thomas Rongen, a Dutch journeyman coach who flies to the other side of the world in a bid to find that magic touch and, lo and behold, something deep within is unleashed, leading to a miracle in the South Pacific. In 2011, he was appointed as the head coach of the American Samoa national soccer team. This team gained international attention for being one of the weakest and lowest-ranked national soccer teams in the world at the time.
Under Rongen’s coaching leadership, the American Samoa team made significant strides in improving its performance and began to rebuild its soccer program. One of the most notable achievements during his tenure was their first-ever international win. On November 22, 2011, American Samoa defeated Tonga 2-1 in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match. This victory marked a historic moment for the American Samoa team, as it was their first-ever win in an official FIFA competition, and ensured Rongen’s name would go down in folklore as the man who took them there.
Who Is in ‘Next Goal Wins’
Collider’s Ross Bonaime enjoyed the film, and particularly the performance of Jaiyuh Saelua as Kaimana, a fa’afafine football player. Fa’afafine—meaning “in the manner of woman”—are assigned male at birth but embody both masculine and feminine gender traits in a way that is considered unique to Samoa and wider Polynesia. As Bonaime said:
The beating heart, however, of Next Goal Wins is Kaimana as Jaiyah Saelua, a transgender woman who is also one of the most promising players and the biggest help to Rongen. While the rest of the team are mostly known for some one-note joke or gag about their playing (one player can’t quit sliding and another is known as football’s D’Angelo because of his ripped body), Jaiyah gets a well-rounded arc and is one of the few players who stands out among the team.
The film also stars Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Rhys Darby (who also works with Waititi for Our Flag Means Death), Oscar Knightley (Duckrockers), Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale), Uli Latukefu (Young Rock), Angus Sampson (The Lincoln Lawyer), David Fane (800 Worlds), and Beulah Koale (Hawaii 5-0).
Next Goal Wins had its World Premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival and comes to theaters on November 17. You can check out more exclusive images for the movie down below: