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Inside FutbolInside Futbol

06 October 2018

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Specials

Escape to Victory: The Film’s Footballing Cast Revisited




As the Second World War raged across Europe, a group of Allied POWs prepare to take on the Nazis in a very different kind of battle.

Originally planned as a friendly match against a Wehrmacht team from the local barracks, the Allies now face the German national team, in France, in a piece of Nazi propaganda.

Escape to Victory is one of the greatest sports films of all time and is a staple part of Christmas television, with Pele, Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine taking to the pitch in one of the greatest showpiece matches in cinematic history.

Now, while the film is a work of fiction, led by a cast of Hollywood heavyweights and some of the greatest footballers of the latter twentieth century, there are a number of other players who starred and helped to mastermind what was a famous victory over the Germans.


Ipswich Town trio Paul Cooper, Kevin Beattie and Laurie Sivell took on the stand-in roles for Stallone, Caine and Schmidt (the German goalkeeper). Beattie during filming actually beat Stallone in an arm wrestling contest, both left and right, resulting in the veteran actor not speaking to him for the rest of the production.

The late Dutch international Co Prins starred as Pieter Von Beck in the film. Prins was an Ajax legend and made 184 appearances for the club before moving to Kaiserslautern in Germany and was one of the only foreign players to play in the country. He died in 1987 of a heart attack while playing the game he loved.

Other famous internationals to take part in the match were Bristol Rovers assistant manager Russell Osman, Ipswich and Liverpool legend John Wark and Manchester City stalwart Mike Summerbee.

Millwall left winger, Kevin O’Callaghan, played in the unfamiliar role of goalkeeper as Irish international, Tony Lewis.

Scandinavia was represented in the film by Norwegian international, Hallvar Thoresen, and Danish striker Soren Linsted. Thoresen is one of a select band of Norwegian players to have plied his trade entirely outside of his homeland, and Linsted played in both Holland and Belgium.

Anderlecht and Belgium great, Paul Van Himst, provided his usual midfield trickery against the Germans and since retiring from the game has become an Ambassador for NGO, an organisation promoting the agenda of South African players in Belgium.

America too had some stars in the film. Yugoslavia-born defender, Werner Roth, played Germany captain Baumann and in his real career was part of the New York Cosmos team and is in the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Kazimierz Deyna was described as Poland’s greatest ever marksman and one of the best in the world; he too starred in the film, but his real life was marred by alcoholism and he sadly died at the age of 41 in a car accident in San Diego. The Legia Warsaw number 10 shirt was retired in his memory.

The cinema classic Escape to Victory is available here.

 



MarkBWriters

Mark Bateman

Published: Wednesday, 22nd Sep 2010