ESPN Soccer Stories: The Opposition (2014)

Directed by Ezra Edelman & Jeffrey Plunkett

The film Of Miracles and Men from the 30 for 30 (proper) series tells the tale of the Miracle on Ice in 1980 when a group of American college kids took on and beat the most vaunted hockey team on the planet, the Soviets, to win the Olympic gold medal on home ice in Lake Placid, New York. Jonathan Hock’s film is a fascinating look into the game American’s know and love, but from the perspective of the Soviet team (see also Red Army). One of the better of the series, the film examines, in many ways, what it means to represent your country, especially when your country is viewed negatively on a global level. Such was the case with the Chile national soccer team in 1973. An upstart team with World Cup hopes, Chile was under a political coup.

Edelman and Plunkett deliver a very taut political history mixed in with their sports documentary. Spending time with the players on the national team, it is apparent that the struggle the nation and the team went through as a result of this coup strained their success and their personal lives. But viewing the national team as an extension of the country at large brings interesting questions about national pride and how we define it. Some may look at the national team and pan them for representing something they hate. But by the same token, most of the players realized the horrific reality of the coup, the violence to its fellow countrymen and women, and the exploitation of the national stadium as a prison for prisoners of war, and a haven for violence.

So what does it mean to represent your country? And what does it mean to stand opposite of its beliefs? It is a hard line to toe, but even in the face of horrific crimes to its own country, national soccer players showed a sense of pride to represent the country they know and love, and not the one it has come to be under a new, evil regime. Standing up and representing your country, especially during difficult times, is greater even than the athletic exploits this Chile soccer team displayed on the field. I think it is very important to take pride in what you know and love, and to fight to return it to what you know and love. To give up on it, to quit, would be a disservice to what you know and love of your country.

*** – Good

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