USA Today - 05/12/2006
"[T]he film is capably acted and somewhat inspiring....Santiago's story of assimilation resonates..."
Box Office - 07/01/2006 3 stars out of 5 -- "Its almost shameless embrace of style and sincerity offsets the structural flaws..."
Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker), an illegal Mexican immigrant living in Los Angeles, lives and breathes soccer, but seems destined to live his life as a day laborer. His father, Hernan (Tony Plana), a stern hardworking man, discourages Santiago from playing soccer, believing it is only a feckless fantasy. One day, a former British professional, Glen Foy, spots Santiago playing in a pickup game, and promises him a tryout for Newcastle United. With the support of his doting grandmother, Santiago travels to England, and finds himself in a world where "football" is king, and "footballers" are Gods. His path to soccer stardom is tortuous and paved with pitfalls. Santiago must overcome a terrible tryout, a secret asthma condition, and the animosity of some of his teammates. However, with the guidance of Glen, the love of a plucky and beautiful nurse (Anna Friel), and the unexpected support by Newcastle United's playboy star Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola), Santiago finally finds himself in a position to score a pivotal goal and live his dream.
GOAL! THE DREAM BEGINS contains many of the familiar tropes of the zero-to-hero sports story, but it rises above the clichés of the genre through the quality of the screenplay and the excellence of the acting. Each of the many minor roles is played to humble perfection, and the film artfully juggles dozens of subplots: Santiago's problematic involvement with troubled superstar Gavin Harris, his romance with Roz, his friendship with Glen, and his strained relationship with his father. The film proves to be full of subtle warmth and surprisingly moving. Thrilling matches--and cameos by such soccer luminaries as David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane--will certainly appeal to soccer fans, but GOAL!'s charming story will appeal to almost anyone.