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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Escape To Victory

World War Two was to become a well spring which fed the film world a steady stream of inspiration. As the event itself faded further into history, so too did the cinema’s link to truth, with heroic tales such as the Great Escape and A Bridge Too Far giving way to star vehicles such as Where Eagles Dare in the 60s.
By the time the 80s arrived even fictional ideas were starting to run dry and so the screenwriters turned to football to create the film Escape to Victory.
Escape to Victory was in fact inspired by the 1961 Hungarian film "Half Time To Hell" which played fast and loose with the heroic true story of the Dynamo Kiev team which was forced to play the occupying Nazis.
Escape to Victory transferred the story to a German prison camp where a team of Allied prisoners is gathered to play the Nazis. One link with the original film is kept with the main action being filmed in the Stadion Hidegkuti Nador in Budapest.
Presided over by Oscar winning Director John Huston, the key attraction of the film was the presence of a galaxy of football stars to complement lead actors Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow. Lending them authenticity were Pele, Bobby Moore, Ossie Ardiles, Kazi Deyna and the Ipswich Town squad. Before you start sniggering remember that under Bobby Robson Town were then one of the best teams in Europe and would end up winning the UEFA Cup in the year of the film's release.
Having agreed to play an exhibition match the Allied team are shocked to learn that instead they would be taking part in a Nazi propaganda rally in Paris against the finest German team of the era. Determined to scupper the Nazi plans the team aim to escape during the half time interval.
This means the team has to change to get the best escapees involved leading to the sickening moment when Town reserve keeper Kevin O'Callaghan has his arm broken to allow Stallone to join the team.
The match itself initially went to the plan as with the help of the referee the dastardly Huns took a 4-1 lead at the break. No matter the Allies were soon off down a very different kind of tunnel, but with escape in sight it fell to Russell Osman to utter the immortal line "Come on lads we can still win this" stopping his teammates in their tracks and after a surprisingly brief discussion heading back from whence they came to play the second half.

Inspired by Pele the Allies pull it back to 4-4 when Germany are awarded a last minute penalty. Needless to say the hitherto hapless Stallone pulls off a blinding save and releases the ball straight to the by now maimed Pele. With his bandaged arm switching between shots, Pele runs the length of the pitch to score only for a linesman's flag to rule out what would have been the greatest goal of all time.
Enraged, the watching Parisians begin to shout "Victoire", the stadium swiftly erupting with the chant with even Camp Commandant Von Sydow smiling and joining in. Soon some people are on the pitch despite the armed guards surrounding it and the spectators sweep the Allied footballers off to freedom without a hint of dissent from their captors. Isn't war great on the silver screen?

Watch it: Escape to Victory is often screened on TV, usually at Christmas. The DVD is still available from Amazon and your local video emporium.

Wear it: The Allies kit including Stallone’s goallkeeper jersey in available to buy from TOFFS www.toffs.com/icat/escapetovictory

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