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Ultimate Underdog Stories...and Football

Written by  Published September 3, 2013 11:16
I support the Scottish football team Celtic, who recently qualified for  the Group Stage of the Champion's League. Celtic was the first British  team to win the European Cup and over the years has had enormous success  in European football. They have reached countless finals and semi-finals, yet despite their glory, Scottish football has been in decline. Last year, each team in the English Premier League earned a massive £60 million ($93 million), with additional funds being obtained based on  their final position in the league, performance in domestic cups and  their performance in European football. In contrast, winners of the Scottish Premier Football League win a mere  £2 million ($3.1 million). Scottish teams are starved of funds and are  unable to afford the wage demands of players of notable quality.  Scottish teams continue to sell their top players so that the income  generated can help them to stay alive. Sadly, many Scottish teams are on  the verge of bankruptcy and urgent and dramatic action needs to be taken to ensure the survival of the remaining Scottish teams.  


Despite financial constraints, last season saw Celtic qualifiy for the group stage of the Champion's League. They ended up in a group dubbed  The Group of Death'. It included the Portuguese Giants, Benfica, the Russian Champions, Spartak Moscow, and the greatest team in the world  (and some would argue of all time), Barcelona.

All three teams had numerous players whose individual worth far exceeded the value of the entire Celtic team. At first, commentators from around the world laughed at the Scottish Champions, noting that they would be the 'whipping boys' of the group. However, Celtic managed to do the impossible. They defeated Spartak Moscow away and at home, they destroyed Benfica and even managed to beat the greatest team in the world.

It was the ultimate underdog story, where the Scottish minnows stood toe to toe with the European giants and won. The team qualified for the knockout stages of the last sixteen of the Champion's League. Much like any true underdog story,  the fans and team gained respect within European football circles, were noted for their wonderful hospitality and for having the greatest stadium atmosphere in Europe.

By this point, you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with underdog movies. Celtic's achievements are simply the inspiration behind this article and if the above is similar to the likes of Rocky, then what is to follow could be compared to Rocky II.

This season has seen Celtic defeat three European teams to once again qualify for the Group Stage of the Champion's League. It was believed that Celtic would never have to face a group as brutal as last season yet, true to all great sequels, the dangers faced by our heroes are more demanding and more dangerous than before.

In a draw that Hollywood would be proud of, Celtic will have to face the Italian juggernauts AC Milan, the Dutch Champions Ajax and a rematch with the greatest football team of all time... Barcelona.

While I'm excited about the prospect of seeing my footballing heroes clash with the greatest teams in European football, the sequel to 'The Group of Death' will be a bloody affair, fraught with much swearing, shouting and sulking. Yet, I also expect that there will be immense pride, that the hairs on the back of my neck will stand tall and that Rod Stewart will once again succumb to his emotions:

The following list comprises five films which I feel best encompass the emotions experienced in our own personal underdog stories. While our heroes may not always come out on top, as viewers we support them and we have incredible pride in knowing that the characters gave everything they had in the face of certain doom.

Much like any top 5 list, it is composed of films that I have a personal connection with and I hope that the above can perhaps give an insight into what I feel makes a great underdog story.


James Cameron's flesh vs steel masterpiece, The Terminator, is about a termhelpless woman called Sarah Conner and a man from the future, Kyle Reece, who have to battle a technologically superior machine that cannot be killed.

As the story unfolds, their lives become irrelevant, yet vital, as the future of humanity rests in the hands of their unborn son, John Conner.

Should Sarah Conner die, her son and saviour of mankind will never be, and while living in a world of gunpowder and 80's pop music, to survive and defeat her assassin is the very fabric of myth and legend.

4. The Lord of The Rings

RingstrilogyposterThe fate of Middle Earth rests in the hands of the most unlikely of heroes, a Hobbit called Frodo Baggins. Frodo embarks on an adventure that for, the most part, he doesn't believe he will survive.

Spurred on by defiant determination, Frodo and his friend Sam march towards Mount Doom whilst battling Goblins, Spiders and the immortal Ring Wraiths.

Frodo's companions prominently feature in the trilogy. Aragon, Gimli and Legolas take part in numerous battles against an enemy with numbers far beyond their own.

Through it all, they survive; despite facing certain death, the corruption of their souls and reliance on faith over fact, they succeed in defeating their enemy.

3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Star Wars (later entitled Episode IV A New Hope) requires no introduction.  It Staris a film that, for many, is perfect and its success has marked the creation of five sequels, multiple themepark rides, animations, Holiday specials, novels and parodies. It has evolved into a franchise worth over $1 billion and now, in the hands of new owners, will introduce a new film each year.

The film was initially expanded to a three part trilogy that tells the ultimate underdog story, wrapped in Greek mythology, ancient legend and set in a Universe inspired by 50's Sci-Fi Serials.

I defy anyone to not smile while watching this film.

2. Rocky

rockyRocky is an inspiring film of a down and out boxer who is given an opportunity to fight boxing's Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed.

The comparisons between Rocky and the Champion are clearly defined from the beginning.  Apollo is the mortal representation of a Greek God, a sleek, intelligent boxer who is undefeated in combat. In comparison, Rocky is a sluggish warhorse, who through the decades has stood toe to toe with boxers who hold little to no regard for the rules or etiquette of the sport. Rocky is a little rough around the edges, yet we instantly fall in love with his charisma and determination.

It's a film that continues to inspire and motivate me and marks my general attitude to life:  no matter the odds, always know that you gave it your all. 1. 300

Unlike the other four entries in this article, The Battle of Thermopylae is an movieposterhistorical event that was first documented by the Greek historian, Herodotu. While Rocky would normally be my choice for the top underdog story, 300 is a film that is inspired by the real actions of real men who faced certain death to protect those they loved.

In September of 480 BC, 300 Spartans and 7,000 Athenians fought with the solitary aim of stalling an invading Persian force.  The Spartan King, Leonidis, and his band of allied forces, formed a Phalanx at the mouth to Thermopylae. This was to prevent their forces from being surrounded by the Persians; it was a tactic that saw the battle last three consecutive days.

The defenders were fuelled by patriotic pride, shielded and protected by their nation's geography, and, for a brief moment, they thought they could win. The Alliance between the Spartans, Thespans and Thebans slaughtered all who opposed them until they were betrayed by a local called Ephialtes. The traitor took the Persians along a hidden mountain path that allowed their forces to surround the Spartans, an event that marked the conclusion of The Battle of Thermopylae.

Taking inspiration from this historical event, the film 300 concludes with Leonidas's forces surrounded and defeated. In an act that seals their death, they defy their enemy and strike fear into the hearts of Gods. The underdogs are victorious in death and, from a historical standpoint, it is a story that continues to inspire each passing generation.

Last modified on Saturday, 11 April 2015 16:27
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