On The Other Final

Millions of people are preparing to watch the World Cup final today between Spain and the Netherlands.  I almost wish that the Netherlands hadn’t made it this far or, in fact, hadn’t managed to qualify for the World Cup at all.

This isn’t because I hate the Netherlands (though the few games this World Cup that I’ve seen them in, they’ve played a bit shifty), but because when they failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, a beautiful movie was born: The Other Final.

The Other Final is the story of a second World Cup final that took place in 2002, this one between the two last-ranked teams: Bhutan (ranked 202) and Montserrat (ranked 203).  Instead of millions of people, there were thousands.  The field was riddled with puddles.  The game, which took place in Bhutan, had no contingent of Montserrat fans on the sideline cheering them along.  In short and in small, it was played for the love of the game.

At least that’s what comes across mostly in this film.  I don’t know what the Netherland organizers of the game (or, Johan Kramer, the Dutch documentarian who put together the movie) expected from such an undertaking.  Maybe they thought that pitting the two worst teams against each other would be the prospect for laughs?  I mean, come on, who wants to watch such a soccer game?

Well, I did.  I watch soccer for the game, not for the win, and almost any game is interesting to me and can hold my attention.

And this movie is about soccer, obviously, but it’s more about the people who play soccer.  The Other Final uses the story of two teams who are FIFA-ranked but who have virtually no chance of ever making it to the world cup, and focuses on the players, on the people, and the countries.  Assuming you don’t know much about Bhutan or Montserrat now, you’ll feel like you’ve taken a guided tour after the movie’s done.

One of my favorite moments from the film is when one of the Bhutanese officials talks about the idea that every human being’s ultimate goal in this life is happiness, and if that’s true, then the government has a responsibility to help its citizens reach that goal.  The phrase he uses is Gross National Happiness (GNH).

This movie has some hokey-ish elements (even if I think they work) such as using soccer balls to transition from place to place (the spirit of soccer?), but I must admit that the movie, as a whole, makes me tear up when I watch it.  And not because I’m emotional (I am) but because the movie captures the people and the players of Bhutan and Montserrat so beautifully and so honestly.

If you love soccer, or you love learning about other countries, or you simply love stories about people, then you need (NEED! I say) to watch The Other Final.  You can see the whole thing for free on YouTube or you can order it from here.  But if you’re still not convinced yet that you need to watch this movie, watch this:

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