Posted: 4/24/2008


     It might be the most memorable soccer theme movie you or I have ever seen, even though the acting, the script and the editing were pretty poor. It was VICTORY, the title used in USA releases, and ESCAPE TO VICTORY used in most other countries, and made in 1981.

   The movie starred Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Max Von Sydow, Pele, Bobby Moore and a host of other international players such as Werner Roth of the New York Cosmos, Mike Summerbee, Co Prins, Osvaldo Ardiles, Paul Van Himst, Halvar Thoresen, Kazimierz Deyna, John Wark, Russell Ossman and many Ipswich Town players when that club was one of the best in Europe.

     It sprang to mind when I read this week that one of my all time favourite people in the world of soccer,  69 year old GORDON BRADLEY, was confined to a care home in Manassas suffering from Alzeimer's disease. Gordon, born and bred in Sunderland in England's North-East, played for Carlisle United before going over to play in Toronto, and then the New York Generals in the fledgling NPSL-National Professional Soccer League, before joining the Cosmos, who he later coached, and spent 15 years as Head Men's soccer coach at George Mason University in Fairfax,VA.  We had lunch in the college cafeteria one day and he told me how he was hired to find the players for the movie, due to his great contacts on both sides of the Atlantic. If you want to send him a message or arrange a visit, contact his son Paul Bradley ;

    The plot was about some prisoners in a camp, who were trying to dig a tunnel to freedom. When the camp commandant set up a match against a German military team the prisoners had to decide whether to play or escape. Sly Stallone was the goalkeeper and wanted to be the hero and was trained in the art by Gordon Banks.  Anyway, the inmates decided upon escape and victory and after 4-4 and Stallone saving a p.k and then their 5th and winning goal disallowed, the crowd invaded the field chanting VICTOIRE! VICTOIRE! VICTOIRE! and in the confusion the players got away through the tunnel. 

   The movie, directed by John Huston, was shot partly in Hungary at the Nandor Hidegkuti stadium in Budapest,where MTK play, due to cheap costs.  Hidegkuti scored a hat-trick for Hungary in the 6-3 victory over England at Wembley in 1953.

    The script was loosely based on a VERY REAL match played in wartime occupied Kiev, Ukraine where FC Start players trained to keep in shape. The SS organized a match in the national stadium, which will be used for the final of EURO 2012, and brought in some good players to play the hungry locals. At half-time with the SS team not doing well, the referee came into the locker room and told the Ukrainians what the consequences might be if the wrong team won. The crowd sang patriotic songs and afterwards the players were taken to a prison camp and beaten and shot. I think there were only a few survivers. It was the basis of a Hungarian film Ket felido a pokalbu :Two Half-Times in Hell, made in 1961 and which won an award at the Boston Film Festival.

    You can read all about it in a really fascinating book by Andy Dougan: DYNAMO, DEFENDING THE HONOUR OF KIEVDougan has written a number of war history books as well as biographies of stars such as Robin Williams, Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese.