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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 September 2005, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Football on film
By Julian Shea

ANDY ANSAH PROFILE
Born: 19/3/69, Lewisham
League clubs: Brentford, Southend, Brentford (loan), Peterborough, Gillingham, Leyton Orient, Brighton
Post-football: Actor, tv producer, film football co-ordinator
Over the years, many film makers have tried to make a decent football film, but like a defender lobbing the keeper from 40 yards, most of their efforts have been laughably wide of the mark.

However, Hollywood's latest attempt, Goal!, looks set to put that right, not least because the football scenes look authentic.

And if Goal! does strike box office gold, a lot of the credit will go to the football co-ordinator whose years of experience in the sport make the scenes look believable.

That man is not a big name ex-international, but self-confessed ex-lower league journeyman striker, Andy Ansah.

In a career largely spent with Southend and Brentford, Ansah's biggest achievement was being named the Sunday People's Division Two striker of the year.

And when injury forced him to retire aged 30, his unlikely road to Hollywood began.

"About 99% of footballers think they can be actors, me included, so I joined Sky's Dream Team as an extra," he told BBC Sport.

"Within a few months, I was spending time behind the cameras with directors, coming up with new ways of shooting football, and I ended up as a producer."

Six years and numerous films and adverts later, Ansah has got his biggest break yet, working on the Goal! trilogy, which follows the rise of Santiago Munez (Mexican actor Kuno Becker) from the barrios of Los Angeles to global stardom.

We even went clubbing with footballers, so Kuno could learn everything he needed to walk and talk like a footballer
Andy Ansah's preparations for Goal!

To sum it up in a one-sentence movie industry pitch, Goal! is Billy Elliott with football boots, with cameo appearances by the Newcastle squad, David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane.

Part One sees Munez get his break at Newcastle, alongside tearaway striker Gavin Harris (played with an impeccable English accent by American actor Alessandro Nivola), with later films set at Real Madrid and the World Cup.

While Nivola has played all his life, Becker spent his teens training as a violinist rather than as a footballer, but such is Ansah's influence, you would never guess.

"I had two months working with Kuno - we spent time training and even went clubbing with footballers, so he could learn everything he needed to walk and talk like a footballer," said Ansah.

"He's an actor, but when he's out on a pitch surrounded by real footballers, it's important he doesn't feel inferior, or that would affect his acting. Ensuring that was part of my job."

Becker suffered for his act, sustaining a broken nose and stress fractures of both ankles in filming, so when he does find himself playing alongside real players, he appears totally at home.

While coaching actors to pass themselves off as footballers presented Ansah with one set of challenges, trying to get footballers to stick to a script was no easier.

The fact Real Madrid players are taking instructions from me on how to play passes is ridiculous, I have to pinch myself.
Andy Ansah

"These guys are worth millions of pounds, but if they don't stick to what's on my storyboard, they mess things up," he said. "I'd have to come on and tell them they're doing things wrong.

"If you're used to playing football, you play off impulse. But playing with a camera on you and a crew of 100 people waiting for you to get it right is completely different."

World football's heavyweights have given their backing to Goal!, and Ansah says this expert input is what sets the film apart.

"This was made by real football people, not people who think they know football," he said.

"It's backed by Fifa, Newcastle and some of the world's top players, so you've got to produce real football."

Those real football people also include the staff and players of Real Madrid, where filming of Part Two has already begun.

Andy Ansah supervises Kuno Becker in training
The cast had access to Newcastle's training ground and stadium

And that means Ansah is the man literally calling the shots for the Galacticos.

"To work with the Beckhams and Rauls of this world is unbelievable," he admitted.

"The fact they're taking instructions from me on how to play passes is ridiculous, I have to pinch myself. But while you're doing it, you have to look authoritative."

While some of his contemporaries play out their final days sinking through the lower leagues, Ansah's future lies Stateside.

When his work on Part 2 is finished, Ansah will be relocating permanently to Hollywood, where he already has a self-explanatory company called Soccer on Screen.

Instead of Spotland and Bloomfield Road, he can look forward to Sunset Strip and Beverley Hills.

"It's a crazy trip. I'm on a journey now that I could only have dreamed of," said Ansah.

"If something goes wrong, I can call "cut" and do it again to get it right. I'm like a manager but without the worries."

Truly, this is fantasy football.

Goal! is released at cinemas across Britain on 30 September




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