I hate bringing realism into stuff like this, but I’m intrigued, so …
First things first, if you read this title and thought ‘who the f*** is Santiago Munez’, then I have two responses for you. In order, a) wash your mouth out and, b) you’re too young, so get away from me, please and thank you.
For you philistines, to not know him means not knowing one of the most generational and iconic football films ever created.
The glorious production known as ‘Goal!’
(Exclamation mark sold separately).
Which, if you haven’t figured it out, features a young Latinex-American starlet by the name of Santiago Munez at its core. With the residual direction of the film all pointing as to whether or not he could make it as a big-time professional footballer.
Of the clubs who threw their hat in to stage this film, Newcastle United won the bid.
In my opinion, it couldn’t have worked better with many other teams.
Partly out of the fact that Newcastle would be the kind of team to properly embrace the film, and had the heritage / prestige that made the film’s storyline seem more likely.
But also, a club of that stature would be in a better position to take a punt on some unproven youngster when the injury list got out of control.
In the film, Santiago Munez’ talents were uncovered by Glen Foy – an ex-Newcastle scout who still held some pull with the Geordies and was vacationing in LA at the time.
Thereafter, a Foy didn’t ship the boy to Newcastle himself.
Instead, there was an interesting sub-plot line with Santiago struggling to raise the money before his loving grandmother donated her savings under the eye of his disapproving father.
The kid from the barrio made it to Geordie-land.
Well, technically, he made it to London.
With the iconic line of “so, how do I get to Newcastle” when he used a payphone to contact Foy once he touched down in the UK.
How he remembered his number, I don’t know. But it’s a nice scene.
Santiago Munez made steady progress in the Newcastle United setup.
Earning a shorter-than-most trial after a series of fortuitous events earned him a regular place in their reserve setup under the tutelage of the enigmatic forward, Gavin Harris.
Gavin, apparently not loved in Newcastle, took to ‘Santi’ very well.
Which, given the tendency of senior players to tutor / look after youth players, isn’t the most unrealistic thing either. Tbf, what happens later, without Harris, would be unrealistic.
Soon, Santi got a nice run in the reserves as the season’s end unfolded.
Whereupon a series of injuries introduced him into the first team as a matter of necessity. Not as a key player from the get-go, but as a bright spark from the bench.
Throughout the film, it felt like Santiago Munez had to progressively earn his way into the Newcastle lineup. Where he faced adversity and support from various teammates who either agreed or disagreed with his involvement in the developmental teams.
Not everyone loved him, nor hated him – and it keeps the viewer on edge.
Then, when he gets to play for the first team, Santiago Munez gets a solid few minutes (in a shirt with some random number you’d usually give to a reserve) and he provides a key assist in Newcastle’s run-in for European football.
All realistic things for a club like them at the time and for someone of his supposed ability when compared to the rest of the squad.
The last match of the film is where it all gets a little bit mad.
The plot first takes an emotional turn with Santi’s dad passes away, and he’s moments from boarding a plane back home before turning away and rejoining the Newcastle setup until the end of the season.
Again, a 50/50 way of doing things but altogether believable given the storyline and how much his involvement would have meant to him.
His return speech could have been better, but that’s just me.
The final game is probably the least realistic bit. Where they superimposed Santiago Munez’ body and face onto Laurent Robert’s body to curl in a superb free-kick against Liverpool to confirm a perfect end to the season for Munez and co.
But that’s Hollywood for you.
All in all, I think they balanced the film out perfectly and it’s wholly believable.
South American prospects have punts taken on them all the time (and at even bigger clubs), and some youngsters do have a tendency to burst onto the scene (easy, Micah Richards, easy …). So, why can’t the same be said for Santiago Munez?