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"Next Goal Wins": Transgender Soccer: It's About Time 

Wednesday, Apr 23 2014
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Like most great sports documentaries, Mike Brett and Steve Jamison's Next Goal Wins isn't really about sports per se, but about what drives the people who play the games. The subjects here are American Samoa's soccer team, that languished at the bottom of FIFA's world rankings ever since getting trounced 31-0 by Australia in 2001. Next Goal Wins follows its climb out of the bottom with the goal of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, painting a portrait of a team that is in it for the love of the game, notably lacking the venality found in most American sports figures. Though she's not the main focus of the film, this is epitomized by Jayiah Saelua, a fa'afafine two-spirit — essentially, a transgender woman — who is accepted by the rest of the team, and indeed the rest of traditional Samoan society, in spite of the incursion of Christianity. At a time when American sports is being dragged kicking and screaming beyond its most basic homophobic tendencies, the fact that Saelua became the first trans player ever to start a World Cup qualifying game speaks volumes. And when those games begin in Next Goal Wins' third act, even viewers who aren't into sports may find themselves cheering, and perhaps shedding a few tears.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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