For the Love of the Game

Pelada filmmaker Gwendolyn Oxenham on what happens when you don't go pro

By Ashley Moreno, 7:27PM, Mon. Mar. 15, 2010

For the Love of the Game

We tell children they can be anything they want if they work hard and want it bad enough. But it’s not true. In the documentary, Pelada, the four co-directors, Luke Boughen, Rebekah Fergusson, Gwendolyn Oxenham, and Ryan White, travel the world talking to amateur players, who will unlikely turn pro, about their passion for soccer.

Back in May of 2008, I interviewed Rickard Linklater about his documentary, Inning by Inning: A Portrait of a Coach, which focuses on the life of UT’s beloved baseball coach, Augie Garrido. As a former college baseball player who loved the game, but didn’t feel the same mindset he saw in the budding professional athletes around him, and as an artist, who did follow his passion to become a filmmaker, Linklater provided a unique perspective on what it means to feel truly compelled. “I could identify with Augie’s head-strong belief in his own subjective view of himself in the world, and about what he should and shouldn’t be doing. I think a lot of people who made their own way do. He’s another guy in this world who followed his passion, and assumed it would turn out okay – and it did.” But what if it doesn’t turn out quite like you planned?

During the Q&A session following Monday’s noon screening of Pelada, a competition doc about two former college soccer players who never made it to the pros, co-director and featured athlete Gwendolyn Oxenham said, “Growing up, I thought I would be better than Mia Hamm. But college ended, and there were no national teams knocking at my door.” What do you do then? All her life she was a soccer player. And now she, and co-star and -director Luke Boughen, have to find another outlet: pick-up games.

All over the world driven, talented, passionate people pursue their love of soccer through pick-up games – informal matches played in some of the most unlikely places. In the film, many of these players share the sentiment expressed during the Q&A by one of the festival goers: “I haven’t related to a movie like this since, maybe the Wrestler. One day you realize you’re only getting worse. So you lace up your cleats to try to show people how good you used to be.” And despite that sentiment, this commenter, like the people in the film, is driven to play. In this way, Pelada continues the dialogue about the meaning of success in athletics -- and, not to sound too cliché, but in life -- that Linklater’s film initiated two years ago.

Despite her plans as a child and into college, Oxenham hasn’t been athlete of the year or won the Olympic gold like Mia Hamm. But she still followed her passion assuming it would turn out okay. And really – I think anyone would say that it has. Maybe we don’t have to be the equivalent of the “winningest” coach ever to feel rightly successful in our respective fields.

Pelada screens again on Friday, at 3:30pm at the Alamo South Lamar.

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