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How Santiago Munez Became The Greatest Fictional Footballer Of All Time

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How Santiago Munez Became The Greatest Fictional Footballer Of All Time

15 years ago today, fans in United Kingdom first laid eyes on the greatest underdog story of them all as Santiago Munez went from being an illegal Mexican immigrant living in Los Angeles to the man who sealed Champions League qualification for Newcastle United.

If you're a true football fan you'll know all about the Goal! films.

But what might not be common knowledge is the fact that Kuno Becker, the man who played the beloved Munez character, was anything but a footballer or even a football fan.


He had spent his time playing the violin as opposed to playing five-a-side growing up but as part of his audition for landing this lead part, he linked up with Newcastle's reserve team for a couple of weeks.


Incredibly, Becker ended up breaking both of his ankles because he was "training so hard" and was told he couldn't make the movie if his skills on the pitch didn't improve.

Wanting the role "so bad", his sheer drive and determination paid off and the story of how the actor never gave up almost mirrors what we all saw on screen from the greatest fictional footballer of all time.

Image: IMDB
Image: IMDB

"I wanted the role so bad. I loved the story but I didn't play football. I really sucked at football, " Becker told SPORTbible.

"When Danny Cannon, the director and a great guy, came back to Newcastle where I was training for the movie with the team, he saw me and although I improved he was just like ,'There's just no way, you just can't do it'.


"I didn't tell anyone I broke my ankles because otherwise I would lose the role so I was taking motrin like it was M&Ms.

"But the day of the audition he wanted to see what I had learned. I couldn't even run and he was like, 'Kuno it's impossible, go back to Los Angeles - at the end of the day you're just not going to get the role, I'm sorry'.

"When I was in the car taking me to the airport I just thought 'F*** it! I've already lost the role' so I came back to the pitch and told him I broke my ankles because I trained too hard. I wanted him to know I did learn things so I said, 'You say you play a bit of football, why don't you try to get the ball off me?' I can show you I did learn something and didn't just waste everyone's time.

"He tried to get the ball off me just standing there and he couldn't get it. Out of five times he got it just once. 'Dog', one of my coaches, great guy from Newcastle - he taught me how to keep the ball.


"I went back to the car and then he called me to the production cellphone he gave me. He was like, 'You know what you've got the role.' F*****g hell, it was crazy.

"When you think you've lost it and you f****d up, you have to keep going. There's always a step further you can go."

The impact of the Goal franchise is massive. Becker gets called 'Santiago' "all the freakin time" and was told by a tearful Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez that one of the reasons he loves football so much is because he used to watch the film with his mother growing up.


Becker had only been to the United Kingdom once before he ended up tearing it alongside the one and only Gavin Harris and "didn't know anything" about Newcastle.

However, 'the Mexican Geordie' grew to love everything about the club and city on the whole - from black pudding right through to Geordies - even though he thought they were speaking German at first.

He also wants to head back to his old stomping ground in the future.

"I love Newcastle more than anybody maybe because I 'played' there in the movie and I got to know the guys, as well as the previous owners.

"I saw this one player say that he knew the team because of the movie and I was just like 'What?!'

"I haven't been in Newcastle since the movie. I would love it. Why not? I love that place. I had a great time there, incredibly great experiences and the movie means a lot to me.

"I love Geordies. There's always a smile, a 'good morning' and there's always patience and gratefulness. Small town people in a good way. Passionate and happy."

Newcastle weren't his only fictional employers of course. The rags to riches tale continues in the sequel, which sees him join Real Madrid and rub shoulders with 'Galacticos' David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Raul and Ronaldo.

"That's the question I get asked everywhere, 'Did you meet Beckham?' - it was great. They were just guys. I knew they were ultra-famous but I didn't know what to expect because sometimes in the movie industry you work with difficult people and sometimes, they are great.

"I knew enough about footballers to know they are superstars and bigger than gods. To be honest everyone was super nice and I didn't have one bad experience.

"David Beckham, who was the biggest star at the time and is still a superstar, he was super nice and very patient with me.

"I was shooting a scene one day with David on my left side and the director wanted to have this shot of him taking a free-kick. The director was like, 'If you can kick it right in the top corner' - he did it ten or fifteen times. In the air it [the ball] turned and it was in the same spot. That's like a superhero ability.

"I saw them play and I just couldn't believe what they did. And they were super nice, we went to the bar a lot and I would have a couple shots with them. They were just normal people."

Image: PA
Image: PA

The less said about the Goal III, the better. Munez breaks his leg and is ruled out of the World Cup before minimal screen time follows.

Becker detests every second of it. He branded it "a piece of s***" says those involved "did a horrible job in every single way" and accused the powers that be of doing everything on a budget.

But could a fourth see the light of day? Becker, having directed three movies with his own production company, has written a script for another film with the help of a team of writers.

The plot catches up with a much older Munez, who has transitioned from a football player to a football coach.

Becker feels it would bring some closure to the first two films after the monumental disappointment of the third.

The problem, however, is he does not own the rights.

"I wrote the Goal 4 movie because I think it's a beautiful story. It picks up Santi as a trainer and it's a life lesson about failure and success. I think it's very moving and so do the people around me that I worked with.

"But they're still thinking about money [regarding the rights] - which is the wrong way to think in a movie.

"There's people with the rights who are like, 'If I don't receive this amount of money'. If you're thinking like that, f**k it I'll just write another movie and make something else.

"It's not in my hands, I don't own the rights because if I did I would keep fighting for the financing.

"I think the worldwide audience that the first two movies have, they need some closure of the story and it would be nice to see what happened with the characters but with a good story that has something to say and respects the first two.

"The script that I wrote for Goal 4 is actually very commercial but it has a lot of feeling and a lot of heart - which is what I think made the first one work so well. I may try again but I'm not going to keep trying all my life.

"At the end of the day I would love to do it but I'm not going to be begging these assholes to do something they don't want to do."

Topics: Football News, Football, Goal!, Newcastle United

Josh Lawless
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