The best film about football: A Captain’s Tale

 The World Cup: A Captain’s Tale

“let’s show them iron”

1982, Tyne Tees production. The true story of the first world footballing competition, the Sir Thomas Lipton World Trophy, won by a bunch of miners from Durham, beating Juventus in Turin in the final.

Dennis Waterman [with half-dodgy Geordie accent, and half decent left foot] stars in this television film chronicling an amateur working men’s football team’s unexpected victory at  international level. In 1910, Sir Thomas Lipton decides to host the first ever football World Cup in Italy. The British Football Association refuse to put together a national side, however, instead opting to pluck West Auckland’s small mining team from obscurity – and their position third from bottom in the Northern Amateur league table – and send them abroad to represent their country.

This is a lovely film with a cast of great British male actors – Dennis Waterman, Nigel Hawthorne, Timothy Healy, Richard Griffiths, even Barnsley lad Dai Bradley. It’s based on a true story – in 1910, Sir Thomas Lipton wanted to sponsor the first World Cup competition. The English FA thought they were the best and above competition, and anyway felt unable to interrupt their “professional programme” – they refused to let the national side take part.

So that England would be represented in the four-team competition that featured Germany and Italy’s finest, Lipton asked for the best club side to be invited. This was Woolwich Arsenal, but the secretary, who know nothing about football made a note to contact WA, and mistakenly invited West Auckland, a team of miners who were 3rd from the bottom of the Northern Amateur League.

A long wonderful story later, which is very revealing about class conditions in Edwardian England, they beat Juventus and won the first World Cup. Even better, they defended it in 1911 – thus winning the cup in perpetuity. The trophy was until recently displayed in the Working Men’s Club in the village.

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