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MOVIES (LFF 2022): Super Eagles '96 - Review

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There are few better films to capture what football means to its fans than Super Eagles '96 that mixes the rise of the Nigerian Men's team during the mid 90s against the backdrop of the regime at the time. football gave people a lot of hope, Jay-Jay Okacha tells the audience - and by the time Nigeria finally get to the world cup, even if you know the outcome, you'll be on their side all the way. It's such a groundswell of momentum that the film manages to capture that it just builds and builds perfectly, mixing interviews with sports people involved in the political scene and sports people involved in the sports scene - but it's all a Nigerian focus, you don't get the rest of the world looking in and this film lets the people who were involved in the story tell their own - which makes it all the more powerful, especially if you're a fan of the clubs any of these players played for and if of course you are Nigerian yourself.

The film uses AFCON, World Cup and Olympics footage superbly with some great chosen moments that really ramp up the added tension so that even those who call football "sportsball" will like it. The depth here comes between the political focus on how the regime change between multiple dictators was handled; with Noo Saro-Wiwa being the film's beating heart - the daughter of the murdered Ken Saro-Wiwa, political activist - his story was chilling to watch and is a testament that you don't purely remember this film just for the football. The interviewees are all great - Clemens Westerhof, a Dutch Ted Lasso and their one-time manager, is excellent and comes across really well here - and beyond Okocha there are so many great names here - Taribo West and Emmanuel Amunike among them. After a string of club-mandated docs like the All or Nothing series it's great to let these icons of the game come clean - and the film is a piercing success in that regard.

It's good to get a non-European perspective of football too (we're not nearly exposed to enough) and calling this Super Eagles '96 initially threw me until they win the Olympic Gold in Atlanta that year - as someone who hasn't paid attention to Olympics at all it's fascinating to get an informative history on that as well as the obvious football tournaments that if you're of a certain age, you'll most likely have seen play out already. Super Eagles '96 - even if you're not a fan of the beautiful game - needs to be sought out. May well end up being one of the best docs of the year. Will have to keep an eye out for anything else Yemi Bamiro makes.

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