The Mouse that Scored

Following on from this entry anticipating the release of “Kicken für die Krone” (English title “The Mouse that Scored”) in cinemas this week, film-maker Sigvard Wohlwend reflects on his time with the Liechtenstein national team and the reaction to his and co-director Sebastian Frommelt’s film.

The charm of football documentaries is the attention to characters and stories beyond the confines of the pitch. Context is king and if there was an epitaph to Liechtenstein’s Euro2008 qualification campaign it would be ‘daring to achieve’. Sigvard Wohlwend appreciates this struggle in the creation of his film which premiered on Easter Monday in Vaduz and featured at the 11mm football film festival in Berlin.

“We actually did not have much time to think too much about in advance whether we would please the audience or not, because [time was] very tight in post production. We had the first copy available 11 hours before the very first media screening. What we wanted to create was a film about a football team, which Sebastian and I also would like to watch. Neither of us are hard core footballers or football fans. So we approached the project from a more cinematic point-of-view and less from a football view. But according to the comments we’ve had, the footballers and the fans are very happy with it.”

Franz Burgmeier und Peter Jehle (rechts) freuen sich über den sensationellen 3:0-Sieg gegen Island. Szene aus dem Film

It is not surprising that Wohlwend is anxious to gauge the reaction of the players. As a group they are collectively known as minnows and they are scarcely singled out for praise or even criticism.

“The players are very pleased that somebody has taken the time to portray their little squad, which normally doesn’t get too much attention. For them it is very valuable to show within Liechtenstein, how serious they work with this project and of course they are happy to get some visibility.”

Such seriousness is abundant within the tiny principality. There are obvious issues of national identity and without a league system the national team provides a rare opportunity to express what it means to be Liechtensteiner. This context absorbs the story and provides an accessible scope beyond football.

“What we are really happy about is, that we do not only get appraisal from football fans but also from people usually not too much involved in it. Especially from women who went with their men tell us, that they really enjoyed the film even though they don’t care about football usually.”

Of course there remains a fair amount of fantasy in pitting one’s wits against Europe’s elite. Liechtenstein has progressed in recent years and Wolhwend attributes this to good organisation and a certain cultural heritage.

“First of all, the FA does a very good job. They take it very seriously and they are very professional. Another point might be the closeness to Germany, German TV and the German Bundesliga; where the players – when they were kids – could choose their heroes, see how far they might get, if they do it well.”

Interviewsituation. Foto: Tobias Wachter

Wohlwend is reminded of an experience with Liechtenstein’s all-time scorer, Mario Frick. “Ah, this one, is nice: you get an estimate of what [he] earns in Italy…that he now gets a monthly salary which is comparable with what he would have earned as an office clerk in two years. Start calculating!”

It is this relationship between the elite and the ordinary which makes for compelling viewing. It isn’t rags-to-riches nor is it necessarily David versus Goliath. It’s daring to achieve.

“The hardest part was not the filming itself but getting everybody involved to give us clearance on before hand. Because obviously many couldn’t really imagine what we were doing, when we told them on phone or by email.”

“Real problems were only caused by a hyper-motivated UEFA delegate. For example in Denmark, where a Romanian (probably ex-Securitate) General told us to basically “fuck off” with the camera even though everything had been cleared with the Danish and the Liechtenstein FA on before hand, as well as with the rights holders and executive broadcaster. That was one of the very few annoying moments during the filming. But generally the co-operation with all organisations and people involved was very smooth and positive.”

The qualification campaign was neither smooth nor ultimately positive, but this summer the principality will be closer to a major tournament than ever before. Wedged ‘Mittendrin’ between Austria and Switzerland, Liechtenstein is prepared to absorb some of the reflected glory from Euro2008. As bridesmaid they are expected to gracefully placate the Swiss in their warm-up friendly on 30th May, but the best-laid plans of mice and men will often go awry because of ‘The Mouse that Scored’.

Here’s a trailer for the film:

Photos courtesy of www.kicken.li

Joe Westhead will be blogging as an official volunteer at Euro2008 in Zürich. If you have any suggestion for events or stories you might like to be covered during his stay, then get in touch.


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