How Escape To Victory became reality

Escape To Victory. Implausible, right? Well, on many levels, yes. There’s the bit where Sly Stallone slips out of the POW camp, is smuggled to Paris, contacts le Resistance, has a cheeky encounter with a smokin’ hot Parisian mademoiselle and then gets re-captured just so he can return to assist the prisoners’ fiendish plot.

Why didn’t everyone just slip out the camp and bugger off to the French capital for some illicit romance and a brioche, if it was so easy? Eh?

Then there’s the ludicrous bit where they decide not to escape down the magic tunnel despite being four goals down, star man Pele being unable to walk, and the fiendish Nazi eleven being intent on their certain death.

And, most mind-bogglingly incomprehensible of all, Stallone’s footballing abilities (“His goalkeeping was surreal,” fellow star John Wark once told FourFourTwo).

But if there’s one moment of this unadulterated cluster of cinematic gibberish that’s surprisingly close to the mark, it’s the bit where proper goalie Kevin O’Callaghan volunteers to get his arm snapped just so “Hatch” (Stallone) can get released from solitary confinement in time.

Why so? Shocking news this week filters through to the FourFourTwo news desk that 92 current and former South Korean soccer players have been indicted by their government for dodging military service by intentionally dislocating their shoulders.

Just as O’Callaghan allowed Michael Caine to rupture his limb to further the war effort, the crackers Koreans busted up their own bodies by “swinging their arms while holding heavy weights” and “having fellow players jump on their shoulders”.

The reason for such extreme methods? South Korean men must spend up to 24 months in the military as part of mandatory service in their 670,000-strong armed forces.

Not only can this have the unfortunate side-effect of getting you shot – South Korea is still officially at war with its northern neighbours, and while it’s all quiet at the moment, you never know with this Axis of Evil mob – but the duty can also hamper the careers of athletes.

Now the men, including 15 professional K-League players, face community service, and possibly even jail.

They deserve our sympathy.

After all, Bryan Robson once told FourFourTwo that a dislocated shoulder is “the most pain I’ve ever tolerated. With a shoulder injury you just can’t get rid of the pain, especially if the physio can’t get it back into place. It really, really hurts.”

Bear in mind that Robson was a man who used to shatter his fibia on a weekly basis and pop out his eyeballs just to amuse children – “I’ve broken legs, but they just go numb”, he scoffs – and we reckon the Korean government should ease up.

If these lads were willing to undergo a pain so extreme that it brought tears to the eyes of Robbo, just because they wanted to play football, not soldiers, we think they should let them. Someone get a copy of Sly’s greatest celluloid moment on DVD to Seoul, sharpish…

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