Director: Paul Crowder
Starring: Pele, Franz Beckenbauer
A movie starring football players? No, this isn’t Escape to Victory. This is the story of the New York Cosmos, an American soccer team, founded in 1971. Starting out on Astroturf pitches, such disinterest led them to worse grounds, pitches strewn with glass. But in 1977 the signing of Pele, aged 34 and coming to the end of his career, bolstered the teams appeal leading to what we see here.
Pele originally refused to sign, but with the strange intervention of Henry Kissinger citing international relations issues, he agreed. Perhaps his undisclosed fee helped (rumoured to be somewhere between 2 and 7 million dollars), but what followed was the stuff of legend.
After Pele a league was started, with attendance figures growing from 400 to 70,000, but owner Steve Ross was still unhappy. Travelling to Italy he signed troubled Juventus star Giorgio Chinaglia. In Chinaglia Ross found a kindred spirit, someone who shared his vision of the team as a business venture.
The Cosmos stormed to the top of the league, with Chinaglia handpicking coaches and teams, but the growth of the spoiled Italians ego, cracks began to appear. Several bust ups (including on with Pele) led to the demise of the team.
After the great man retired, Ross signed Beckenbauer and Carlos Albero. But the team collapsed under the weight of Chinaglias inflated ego and the financial cost of keeping such a team together.
Narrated by Matt Dillon Once in a Lifetime is an unashamed celebration of the beautiful game. With snippets of dream-like football and unabashed dressing room bust ups, this movie is one for any fans of soccer. Probably not the best one to bring home to your girlfriend though.