THE MATCH (2005)
The Match is a taut, claustrophobic thriller set on the eve of England's crucial Euro 2000 game against Germany in Belgium.
Written & Directed By Leon Chambers
Produced by Leon Chambers
Starring John Blakey, Dave John & Roger May
The tense atmosphere in Brussels has exploded. The streets are in chaos. David, a surgeon from London, has taken refuge in a dark alley. But he's not alone for long - two more have escaped the fighting. He soon discovers this has more to do with shrapnel wounds than abject fear. And their view of 'combat' is very, very different.
Director Leon Chambers captures an edgy social confrontation. With threatening insight and allegory, he charts the fans' brief but poignant relationship as it builds toward a grim realisation of trench mentality.
The Match is a film that portrays fear, defiance and compassion - a coarse depiction of three characters thrown together on foreign soil. It is a social comment and, at the same time, a dramatic triage of the worst in human nature.
I have been a West Ham United fan for most of my life and a supporter of England since birth. I was at Wembley Stadium during all of England's games for Euro '96, and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere that surrounded that Championship.
Having read and heard stories of football violence over the years, the nearest I got to it, was before a game between West Ham United and bitter rivals Millwall. Both teams had been built from workers of local iron works and the rivalry goes back to beginning of the last century, when they were both on strike. Though I doubt many of the so called fans know that now. They just see an opposing team the other side of the Thames, who they think they should hate.
Standing waiting for a friend, I was stuck amongst fellow West Ham supporters. The atmosphere was one of pure hate and even standing with my own supporters I didn't feel safe. The chanting and shouting was very oppressive and I just wanted to get out of there. As it turned out my friend was delayed by the six hundred riot police marching the Millwall supporters down the road. I really believed that a riot could have kicked off and if it did, I wondered how I would react.
But once Tim Sidell again agreed to be my DoP on this film, things started to develop. And although we still kept the budget down, we were now shooting on the Arri Alexa, using Tim’s expensive prime lenses. The shooting style was kept and the camera was fixed for each shot (except one.) Although we did free things up and lost the idea of keeping the focus fixed.
I then decided to research the subject and read about fans experiences during football riots. I found a number of books that followed England fans during the World Cup in France 98 and Euro 2000. Some of them talked about going there for the fight, though most were of the opinion that they wouldn't start anything, but if it kicked off they would stand and fight for their country. They wouldn't run. They seemed to believe that they were there on duty representing their country and their pride was at stake. With this in mind the day before a vital England game against Germany in Euro 2000 seemed a fitting setting. From there everything started to take shape.
When my friend eventually arrived and we got to our seats, the game had already started and the stadium was full. The 'fans' I had been standing amongst outside were still out there. They hadn't come for game.