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Once In A Lifetime Review

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Documentary tracking Warner Communications founder Steve Ross in his bid to bring proper football to America during the 1970s via his investment in the New York Cosmos, the footie equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters, and his signing of soccer giants Pe

★★★★

In footballing parlance, if a manager is shorn of his two most significant stars and still conjures an awesome performance, he’s acknowledged as having “done well” (sorry, “done good”). Here, helmers Crowder and Dower have exceeded such perfunctory plaudits. They have, in fact, “done well good”, constructing a fascinating film that focuses on Steve Ross’ soccer obsession, and his achievement in bringing the world’s most famous player to a nation that thinks football is something akin to armoured rugby, all without securing contributions from the two main protagonists.

Deprived of Ross by the Reaper and of Pelé by his contribution to another film, the directors have proven tireless in their quest for primary sources, twisting and turning their interviewees to create a remarkably candid documentary.

This really is a film of two halves, the first kicking off with an exploration of why the game has failed to take root in the US before delving into the humble origins of the North American Soccer League — the scenes punctured by snazzy ’70s graphics — while the second concentrates more on the personalities involved in its major franchise. The tone is uneven, but the juicy gossip and rambunctious behaviour ensure this, unlike many actual games, holds the audience for the full 90 minutes.

An engrossing account of American soccer’s strangest episode — and you don’t even have to like footie to enjoy it.

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