Heroin, Buffon and a lot of death: How the Goal! series actually ends
In 2005, Robert Rigby introduced the world to the heartwarming tale of Goal! and every football fan’s new favourite player, Santiago Munez.
Our hearts were warmed as we read and watched Santi, a Mexican immigrant played by Kuno Becker, rise from an amateur team in Los Angeles to eventually becoming a Champions League winner with Real Madrid – via Newcastle United, of course.
Star-studded cameos adorned the film adaptations with the faces of Ronaldo, David Beckham, Raul, Steven Gerrard and Lionel Messi all popping up, while Titus Bramble and Michael Chopra also put in stirring performances.
But, eventually, things took a very dark turn. We’ve take a look at the incredibly harrowing final instalment in the series, one that was reportedly approved by Rigby himself, according to Goal’s Fandom page.
The story we love
Let us first take a step back for a moment and look at this contextually. In October 2005, Goal! The Dream Begins was released in cinemas around the world.
It grossed poorly and reviewed even worse, but who cares? The uplifting story was one that connected with a generation of football fans.
Munez made the move to the North East of England for a trial with Newcastle United after being scouted by Glen Foy, a former Magpie turned mechanic who later becomes his agent. Munez battles his asthma and bastard team-mates to eventually rise into the first team, scoring a stunning free-kick at Anfield to secure Champions League football for the club on the final day of the season.
Goal II: The Dream Continues was released two years later and sees our hero secure a transfer to Real Madrid with Michael Owen moving in the other direction as part of the deal. In the second instalment, we witness a tale of redemption. Despite starting brightly at the Bernabeu, the Mexican soon enters into a personal tailspin. He rejects his estranged half-brother Enrique, cheats on his girlfriend Roz and sacks Foy, all because he secured Munez a role in a tofu advert.
But our hero bounces back and Real Madrid go on to beat Arsenal in the Champions League final, a late David Beckham free-kick completing a 3-2 comeback.
Goal III: Taking on the World was released in 2009 but was by far the least popular of the trilogy, receiving an audience approval score of just 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.
A change of angle sees the film focus on Munez’s team-mates, Charlie Braithwaite and Liam Adams, ahead of the 2006 World Cup. All three are involved in a car accident at the start of the film, with Munez sustaining an injury serious enough to rule him out of the tournament entirely. Unbeknownst to his friends, Braithwaite also suffered a blow to the head, eventually causing him to collapse and later die following England’s win against Ecuador in the last-16.
At this point, you are probably thinking, ‘Wow, that’s a bit dark. What happened to this uplifting tale of triumph in the face of adversity?’
Well, let’s just say you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Unlike the first two films, the third film was not based on a book, so Rigby had no role to play in the storyline and its harrowing ending. Nevertheless, it is a theme that clearly resonated with him. While he released the third book in 2010, one that saw Munez battle injury ahead of the World Cup, it remains far less of note than the apparent series finale.
Like nearly every film in existence, the Goal! franchise has its pocket of creepily dedicated fans. It is they who are responsible for the series finale, Goal! 6: At Dreams End, as well as a fifth book of which precious few details are available.
While he may not have written it himself, according to the Goal! Fandom website, the plot of the sixth and final instalment was approved by Rigby, the author of the original books.
After reading the plot details, one can only assume that a scorched earth tactic was employed. Any chance of further Goal! novels must be destroyed.
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The opening is quintessential Goal!. After falling out of favour following his return to St James’s Park, Munez takes up the opportunity to go back to the Bernabeu; the Galacticos seemingly now happy to pick up fringe players from mid-table Premier League teams.
Suddenly, disaster strikes. Shortly after returning to Spain, Munez learns that the entire Magpies squad has been killed in an aeroplane crash, including Gavin Harris. Harris is, of course, returning to Newcastle from Real Madrid as there are only two football clubs in the Goal! universe.
Munez returns to England for a memorial service alongside Glen Foy (how nice!), his brother Enrique (how wholesome!) and former Tottenham midfielder David Bentley (wait, what?). Yes, this is Bentley’s first and last appearance in the entire series. Yes, we are also very confused.
Another death soon follows. The synopsis states: “Before going back home, Enrique walks around Newcastle. A group of racist bullies find him and they all start experimenting with heroin. This results in Enrique and the gang climbing to the top of St James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United. They all fall.”
Back in Spain, Santi has, rather sickeningly, developed feelings for Carol, the mother of his now-deceased girlfriend Roz. Apparently, these feelings developed after he saved her from a burning building in Madrid. It really is a love story as old as time, right?
This is the beginning of a chain of romances for Santi. All of which end in, you guessed it, death.
“[Carol and Santi] get married,” the synopsis outlines. “However, in two months, Carol dies in a terrorist attack whilst on work in Chicago. Needing a soulmate, Santi quickly marries Gavin’s former girlfriend, but she dies in a skiing accident in Switzerland.”
In eight months, Munez has had three wives, all of whom have died in extremely dramatic circumstances. Why the police never thought to investigate this Mexican Henry VIII we will never know.
As our hero’s reputation is torn to pieces in front of our eyes, Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler also passes away which, even in the context of this grotesque death orgy, seems rather unnecessary. And yes, it really does appear out of the blue just like that.
Still, the ludicrous final journey winds on.
“Gianluigi Buffon comes to Santi’s house (he is good friends with him).” Nothing can really shock us now.
“He is invited to his house where his Grandma is staying. However, Santi trips on the TV remote spilling orange juice over his grandma, Mercedes Munez. She immediately feels a deep hatred for her beloved grandson and starts beating him to death. He escapes up the stairs with Gigi. When Mercedes reaches the top of the stairs, Gigi kicks a ball at her to get rid of her and she falls down the stairs to her death.”
OK, that shocked us. Where to even start unpicking this.
Our main queries are: at what point did this friendship with Buffon blossom? How big is this TV remote that it can trip over a fully grown man? Why is his grandmother so short-tempered? How does she possess such speed and strength to be atop Munez, a professional athlete, and start to “beat him to death” seemingly in the blink of an eye? And why did Buffon waste his career in goal when he clearly possesses the power and unerring accuracy of a prolific striker? Sadly these are questions that will likely never be answered.
So, who is next to die in this hellscape of a film? Step forward, Glen Foy, the gentle mechanic who gave Santi his big break in the North East. After Munez is admitted to hospital, Foy comes to collect him. But he should have known better than to get tangled in Santi’s web of death.
“He is visited by Glen Foy. Whilst leaving the hospital, Glen falls in a hole left by builders whilst doing gas pipes. They failed to put a hazard sign up. Glen is killed instantly.”
In a perverse way, it feels wrong that the grandmother of Munez was treated to such a dramatic death, while Foy’s resembles a Chucklevision outtake instead.
The book does not dwell on Foy’s passing, however. Soon, Munez finds himself playing for Al-Fateh in Saudi Arabia, where he is reunited with Liam Adams from Goal III. However, due to “political reasons”, which are mysteriously unspecified, the team is soon moved to Damascus, Syria. Was this part of a military manoeuvre? Or more of a Middle Eastern MK Dons situation? We can only speculate.
Our hero’s story draws to a close in predictably gory circumstances: “During an evening meal in a restaurant, there is a bomb blast that kills everyone apart from Santi instantly. He is quickly rushed to hospital. Santi starts dying of his horrific injuries, therefore making him realise that this is finally the end of the dream. As his eyes close, Santi sees a vision of Roz.”
It is quite the situation. Lying on your death bed, the last image you see is your dead ex-wife who just so happens to be the daughter of your other dead ex-wife. If there is an afterlife, Munez is in for a few very awkward conversations.
Back on planet Earth, David Bentley remains the last man alive in the Goal universe.