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Once in a Lifetime (2006)

Cast: Johann Cruyff, Johann Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, more...
Director: Paul Crowder, Paul Crowder, John Dower, more...
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Miramax
Genre: Documentary, Sports, Sports, Sports Documentary
Running Time: 97 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish, French
    see additional details...

While professional soccer is still struggling to find a firm foothold in the United States, in the 1970s the North American Soccer League marked the brave first attempt to introduce the game to American sports fans. While most teams had only limited success at best, one did manage to break through to genuine mainstream popularity -- the New York Cosmos. The brainchild of Steve Ross (a passionate soccer fan who was also a major executive at Warner Communications) and Ahmnet Ertegun and Neushi Ertegun (the founders of Atlantic Records), the Cosmos got off to a rocky start in 1971 (no one was especially happy with the playing field at Randall's Island, and some rowdy fans were known to throw broken glass onto the grass), but things changed in 1975 when the world's most celebrated soccer star, the Brazilian champion Pele, signed with the Cosmos for a five-million-dollar payday. With the arrival of Pele, the Cosmos became a hit with both fans and the media, and the players became the toast of the town, earning their own private table at Studio 54. A number of other international soccer stars were soon lured to the Cosmos, including Franz Beckenbauer, Rodney Marsh, and Carlos Alberto, but with the turn of the decade, the team began losing favor with fans and folded in 1985. Once in a Lifetime: The Rise and Fall of the New York Cosmos is a documentary by Paul Crowder and John Dower that looks at the team's remarkable history and includes interviews with many of the Cosmos' star players (with the notable exception of Pele, who declined to participate). ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

A must for soccer fans by underdog October 2, 2006 - 12:40 PM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
Exceedingly well-made documentary - if anything, a little too polished - about the one famous, dominant team in American pro soccer history, the New York Cosmos. That team, full of European and Latin all stars (in addition to plenty of Americans) was put together by American media moguls, who saw the opportunity to turn the American public in its favor. This film does a fine job giving the history leading up to this watershed moment in sports (including America's one previous foray into world soccer headlines - making the 1964 Cup finals vs. England), the formation of the team itself in the 1970s - which many people thought was destined to be a disaster, and the team (and league)'s ultimate flameout. Using a mix of catchy music of the era, fun footage and interviews new and old, Once in a Lifetime is never less than engaging. Besides being a chronicle of a sports team, it's also a still-relevant look at America's obsession with celebrities.

While it never fully makes the case for the overall importance the filmmakers think the Cosmos had, and feels a bit rushed at times, Once in a Lifetime is still a must for any soccer fan. I grew up both a soccer fan and a player as a kid, just barely old enough to remember the NASL - and even then, I was enthralled by the play and personalities of this all-star team, and wanted nothing less than to someday be one of them. (I even played for a kid's team called the Cosmos. We weren't quite as good.) Seeing this film brought back one of the first reasons I became enchanted with the game. While the team's existence was, alas, only fleeting, watching this makes one hopeful that such a team could exist again. (My childhood memories also made me a little frustrated that the film seems to discount the fact that youth soccer was already pretty huge by the time that the Cosmos and the league were in existence.)

The one other real flaw of the film isn't the fault of the filmmakers: Pele - the biggest name and most spectacular on the Cosmos and arguably the most famous soccer player in history - was not interviewed for it. His missing presence there is sorely felt, though the film does include plenty of archival footage. But the stars of the film are the Cosmos as a whole - with the flamboyant (and generally disliked) Giorgio Chinaglia and the skillful Franz Beckenbauer also prominent in the film - and the beautiful game itself. The film's a fun romp.

The DVD also includes a talky, gushy salute to Pele and, more of a plus for hardcore fans, highlights of the TV broadcasts of several NASL championship games featuring the Cosmos.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.43)
7 Votes
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Soccer Movies: From A to Zzzz.
The goallllllllll of this list is to collect the soccer-themed movies out on DVD, of which there are relatively few and even less that are "great." But many are worthy films for fans of the "beautiful game." UPDATED: JUNE '10 for World Cup.

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