Friday, July 30, 2010

30 July 1981 - Rocky Takes The Pitch

On 30 July 1981, Paramount Pictures released Victory, a film about a group of football-playing Allied prisoners of war in a German prison camp during WWII. Known as Escape to Victory outside of North America, the movie starred Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone alongside a group of real-life footballers including Pelé and Bobby Moore.

Based loosely on the 1941 "match of death" between Soviet prisoners and a German Army team, the film follows a group of POWs who agree to play an exhibition match against their captors and assemble a side led by Englishman Captain John Colby (played by Michael Caine). Pelé's character, Corporal Luis Fernandez, is from Trinidad and Tobago, while Stallone plays the team's inexperienced goalkeeper, American Captain Robert Hatch.

Hatch organizes a plan for several of the POWs to escape at halftime, but, despite being down at the break due in part to biased officiating, they are convinced to stay in attempt to win the match. Near the end, with the sides even at 4-4, Fernandez scores the potential match-winning goal, but is incorrectly ruled offside. Shortly afterward, as time is about to expire, the referee awards the Germans a penalty kick, but it is saved by Hatch, causing a celebration in the stands. Using the celebration as cover, the POWs then escape.

In addition to Pelé and Moore, the cast included Tottenham Hotspur star midfielder Osvaldo Ardiles, Manchester City midfielder Kazimierz Deyna, and several players from Ipswich Town.

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