Teamwork, as we all know, is the best thing about human beings. Without it, we'd be lonelier, less productive, and would have fewer things to howl approval of on a Saturday. For sport, as we all know, is teamwork at its highest level.
And as if the real world of sport isn't dramatic enough - just ask Ander Herrera - the world of film and TV has given us plenty of examples of fictional sporting heroism. And it's not just of the individual variety - over the years we've seen everything from sensitive looks at teams of troubled youths finding purpose through sport, to werewolves becoming a basketball team's engine room, to animated teams of heroes battling rival sides who live in volcanoes. Join us, then, as we run down the finest group efforts in sport on screen...
The Entire Free World, Escape to Victory
It’s the greatest football film of all time, so of course we have to start with the Allies XI in Escape to Victory. With Michael Caine the midfield playmaker, Pele and Bobby Moore up front and dependable old Sly Stallone in goal, greatness was inevitable. Escaping from Nazi captivity was just the icing on the cake.
East Dillon High, Friday Night Lights
This acclaimed series is probably the definitive fictional sport story, doing for Texas high school football what The Wire did for slinging drugs or The Sopranos for saying ‘Oh!’ in New Jersey. Helmed by the ever-wise Coach Taylor, whose sage advice could fix any situation, the football team gave direction and purpose to many young people who badly needed it – and produced one of the most consistently moving and uplifting TV series of all time.
Team Shaolin, Shaolin Soccer
Is the idea of using kung fu to get ahead in football ludicrous? Sure. Is it also ludicrously entertaining? Most definitely. Team Shaolin in Stephen Chow’s comedy classic deliver both the skills and the likability – and who wouldn’t root for them when their chief adversaries are named Team Evil?
The Bears, The Bad News Bears
Endearing underdogs rather than seasoned pros – something of a theme on this list – the original Bad News Bears was the gleefully un-PC story of Walter Matthau’s drink-sodden pool cleaner coaching America’s worst Little League side. Viewed from 2013, the sweary and smokey antics of the kids seem like science fiction – especially when the tykes celebrate a near-win by spraying beer over each other.
The Miami Sharks, Any Given Sunday
Oliver Stone’s bruising film may look at American Football the way Steven Spielberg looked at World War II, but it’s still one of the most thorough examinations of the top-to-tail structure of a major sporting team ever. It would be amazing to see a premiership team treated to this examination – and more amazing still if anybody can ever top this speech from Al Pacino.
Craggy Island, Father Ted
Football isn’t a matter of life and death – it’s more important than that. And more important still is the All-Priests Five-A-Side Over-75's Indoor Challenge Football Match. We learn this in 'Escape from Victory,' one of the very best Father Ted episodes, when Ted’s Craggy Island side is challenged by the dastardly Rugged Island, and one of the most epic sporting confrontations in TV history ensues.
Mighty Ducks, The Mighty Ducks
They’d been coming last for years – until Emilio Estevez’s disgraced lawyer built them up into the lean, mean hockey machines of legend. Not only did these pint-size heroes inspire a generation, not only did they launch an entire franchise – the Ducks broke through into the real world. In 1993, Disney founded the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim as a promotional tie-in, and in twenty years they’ve won five major championships.
Renford Rejects, Renford Rejects
The greatest story of underdog triumph in sporting history? This side of plucky rejects from their school team refused to let adversity get them down, and formed their own side. To patchy success, yes, but what’s not to love about a North London side featuring a boy pretending to be Italian, and a player who constantly commentated on their own matches?
Harchester United, Dream Team
Produced under the aegis of the Sky empire, Dream Team’s realism benefited a great deal from its parent company’s help – real grounds, pundits and commentators appeared, and the side were often spliced into real footage. The realism wasn’t helped, however, by increasingly lurid storylines, including murder-by-clothespeg, and the bombing of their home ground.
Gotham Rogues, The Dark Knight Rises
They may not have got a whole lot of screen time in The Dark Knight Rises, but you have to feel for them. It’s a big match day, the players are pumped, the mayor is watching, an adorable moppet sings the national anthem, and then this happens.
Average Joe’s, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
If dodgeball is the sport of kings, Vince Vaughn and his lovable crew must be princes indeed. How can you not root for a team that includes a man convinced he’s a pirate? A film so good, it made you sad that real sporting leagues weren’t this entertaining.
The Hurricanes, Hurricanes
The greatest animated footballing outfit ever, these animated icons of the mid-Nineties hailed from the same stable as Inspector Gadget and Captain Planet. They may not have had to face the Nazis, as Caine, Pele and co had to, but their nemeses – the Garkos Gorgons – happily kidnap people to influence matches and live inside a volcano, so they’re hardly soft touches.
The Beavers, Teen Wolf
Once you’ve seen one high school sports team, you’ve kind of seen them all. There’s the alpha jocks, the cheerleaders, the inspirational coach – and in the case of the Beavers, the werewolf. Their openness to monsters was very forward-thinking in 1985, and paved the way for greater the acceptance of mutants we have today – and for that, they have our thanks.