‘The Beautiful Game’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: What Happens To Vinny And Mal?


The new sports drama film on Netflix, The Beautiful Game, is motivating and heartwarming despite being too dramatic at moments. Claiming to be inspired by the real stories of the struggles of various people around the world, the film presents Vinny, a young man going through severe financial and social hardships in life. As a sudden and unexpected chance to turn things around, Vinny is invited to represent his nation in the Homeless World Cup, but his ego and inhibitions get in the way. The Beautiful Game often takes the generally unusual route when it comes to sports drama films and overall provides for a light and entertaining watch.

Spoiler Alert

What is the film about?

The Beautiful Game starts off at a local park in London, where young kids have gathered to play football, both to enjoy the much-loved sport and also to train themselves to be part of academies someday. A young man named Vinny watches the game from a distance with extreme enthusiasm, as he is a great fan of the sport until the ball gets out of play and rolls close to his feet. Vinny does not spend a moment before running with the ball, showcasing his own skills, and refusing to let the children continue their training. The act angers a few of the children’s parents, who are frustrated at an adult man showboating in front of the kids, and Vinny seems to be in trouble. Right at that moment, though, an elderly man walks into the scene and helps Vinny out after having spotted the protagonist’s skills with the football. This elderly man is Mal Bradley, a famous coach and scout who has started a very new and unique career after his professional days are officially over. Mal has been putting together a team to represent England in the upcoming Homeless World Cup, to be held in Rome, and has also been training them to win the competition.

The Homeless World Cup is indeed a very real social welfare football competition, generally held every year, in which national teams all over the world play in four-a-side indoor football matches. The tournament follows the usual group stage and knockout format, and the rule states that the playing participants must be homeless, along with being socially and financially backward, for its sole intention is to help eradicate social stigma and barriers. Although being able to participate in such a competition is almost like getting a second chance in life, Vinny turns down Mal’s offer, and he is rather offended at being presumed to be homeless. He states that he has a stable job, along with a house and a family, all of which are lies since the protagonist is going through a great struggle at present. He is the father to a young daughter, Evie, and although he is still on speaking terms with his ex-partner and goes to meet the family often, Vinny cannot afford to be with them because of his financial condition. The young man works a menial job at a logistics company, which is not stable at all, and there are days when he has no work and, therefore, no pay either.

Despite all these unfavorable situations that he has to currently live through, Vinny refuses to be a part of Mal’s team, simply because he feels participating in the Homeless World Cup is beneath his dignity. But alongside this being a great opportunity for Vinny, Mal is also convinced that having a striker of his caliber in the team will greatly help England in the competition. Therefore, the coach continues to try and convince the young man, leading to Vinny eventually changing his mind. Despite having many objections, Vinny still agrees to be a part of the England team at the Homeless World Cup solely because of his love for the sport.

Why does Nathan leave the tournament?

Among the other players in the team, The Beautiful Game puts special focus on another young man named Nathan, who is mostly very friendly and slightly simple-minded, too, not understanding the complications of any situation very well. Once the team has been finalized and they are about to fly to Rome the following day, Nathan is seen taking some time for himself and visiting his parents’ house. Nathan wants to enter the house and spend the night with his parents, but his mother refuses to let him in, stating that he is not allowed to enter the house because of their current arrangement. Although the mother is stern and resolute, her face also shows clear grief for having to turn her own son away from her house. The entire situation is quite confusing at first since Nathan’s main problem in life seems to be this very distance from his family, mainly his parents, which is enforced upon him by someone.

The next day, when the team is preparing to fly to Italy, the mother reaches the airport alone and meets up with Nathan, almost as if apologizing for her behavior the previous night. This also immediately makes the young man happy since all he wanted was to spend the night with his parents before going away from the country for the first time in his life. But the whole matter becomes clearer only after the team reaches Rome and Vinny is made to share the hotel room with Nathan. Since all of the participating players in the tournament have their own stories of great struggle and uncertainty, they all have their own personal stories regarding their past. For example, Cal had his troubles with alcoholism; Jason grew up in poverty and took refuge in petty theft; and Aldar is a Syrian refugee who has been given asylum in England. Similarly, Nathan also had his fair share of problems in the past, and they were with regard to his addiction to heroin. 

It can be guessed that Nathan had gotten addicted to heroin as a teenager, which ultimately destroyed quite a few important years of his life, and this was what essentially made him homeless and helpless. Although he had his parents, Nathan was forced to cut ties with them, or at least stay away from their house, as part of his rehabilitation. It can also be that he is currently not allowed to enter his parents’ house because he has broken his promise to stay away from drugs sometime in the past. It is clear that his mother genuinely wants to reunite with him and have him stay with her again, but she cannot do so since his rehabilitation effort is still ongoing. All of this is revealed when Vinny sees Nathan drinking methadone at the hotel, which he must take on a regular basis in order to stay fit and healthy. 

But Nathan’s condition gets worse because of Vinny’s behavior towards him and the entire team. Vinny still holds himself higher than everyone around him, mostly seeing the others as lowly drug addicts and thieves, and his judgmental and snobbish attitude soon create problems for the team. While the other players do not take this unfriendly attitude very seriously, Nathan is tremendously affected by it due to his own personality as well. Based on the experiences that his life has made him go through, Nathan has a tendency to hold himself responsible for situations. Thus, he starts to believe that he has let Vinny down and that he has not been a good roommate to the new player since Vinny does not ever sleep a single night in the hotel room, preferring a city park bench instead. After a bad performance during a game, the protagonist tells off Nathan very rudely, almost directly blaming him for the team’s loss. Nathan gets too engrossed and caught up in this guilt and self-blame, and in the process, he does not take his methadone medicine in time. This naturally messes up his condition, and within a day, the young man is in no state to play football. He wants to return to England, and Mal agrees to the ask, stating that he had promised to keep the player safe, failing which he is bound to let Nathan return. 

Can England win the Homeless World Cup?

Along with the dramatic elements in the plot, The Beautiful Game also gives adequate focus to the Homeless World Cup that goes on in the streets of Rome. In the group stage, England is drawn with a mediocre Portugal team, newcomers Japan, and a veteran South African team. Their first match against South Africa is forfeited, leading to England getting the points for it since the South African team failed to arrive in Italy in time. In the match against Portugal, Vinny makes his debut for the national team and is immediately effective, bringing in the points for England. However, things take a different turn when the South African team finally arrives in Milan, and Vinny agrees to have the earlier forfeiture canceled and play the match fairly. Although his teammates are not exactly pleased by this decision, the choice is very much in line with the overall spirit of togetherness and fair play that is part of the competition. Since the South African team lost their jerseys in transit, they were gifted new ones by the host team, Italy, so Vinny’s decision is not out of place at all.

But the fierce South African side managed to beat England, forcing the latter to have to win their last game against Japan by a big margin in order to qualify for the next round. The presence of the Japanese team and their attitude towards the competition also brings out another very real side of the Homeless World Cup. As first-time participants in the tournament, the Japanese team is made up of elderly men who are ecstatic to be made a part of a group at such a late stage in life. The added excitement of traveling to a foreign country, that too at a popular tourist destination like Rome, is all the more overwhelming. Therefore, despite their young coach Mika’s best efforts, the team is happy just to be participating, and they aim to score only one goal against England. They managed to score two, making them feel all the more accomplished, and England won the game by a big margin, qualifying for the next round.

The team finally has to face host nation Italy, and this is ultimately where their journey ends, as England loses the game in the penalty shootouts. While the chance to win the cup is over, England still has an opportunity to win bronze medals as they face the USA in the third-place match. The team manages to win this important match despite Vinny not being present after another egoistic fallout. Team USA’s best player, Rosita, also manages to get scouted by a college and continue her attempts at turning professional. This comes following a certain fear that she might get deported from the country after failing to win the tournament. In the end, the England players are able to secure bronze medals at the tournament, which is a great feat, too, and Mal expresses his pride in them for this achievement as well.

Does Vinny finally learn the importance of the chance that he got?

Throughout the duration of The Beautiful Game, the central point of the drama is our protagonist, Vinny, who does not want to mix in with his team at all. Vinny continues to be egoistic and judgmental towards others, holding himself on a pedestal above all his teammates. Even when his daughter gives a speech about him representing the nation at the tournament, Vinny is upset because she has inadvertently told the world that he is destitute. It is towards the end that the reason for such an attitude is revealed, for Vinny, too, has been suffering from a different emotional difficulty. During his teenage years, Vinny Walker was a top prospect, showing great promise with his footballing skills, and he had been selected by West Ham United as a junior player as well. In fact, Mal had scouted the young boy then, noting down the very special abilities and skills that he possessed, and the coach had indeed identified Vinny shortly after seeing him for the first time, even after so many years.

However, Vinny could not make a career in football, as he was deemed not good enough after a few years, just like many young aspirants are forced away from the difficult sport simply because of steep competition. It was because of this failure that Vinny had grown so bitter, and at present, he is unable to see good in any situation. He is genuinely still haunted by his old dreams and aspirations and the failure that he had to face so early in life. But despite these struggles, he still has a deep passion for football, and so when the South African team wants to loan him as a replacement for their injured striker, he agrees. In this manner, Vinny gets the chance to play in the Homeless World Cup Final, even though his own team has been eliminated.

The protagonist delivers a great performance once again and helps the South African team win the tournament. Finally, he realizes the great chance that he has gotten through the competition, and this is largely helped by Mal telling him how he had scouted the player so many years ago. Although Mal had thought he would have to console Vinny for reminding him of the past, the protagonist actually cherishes the information, excited by the fact that a legendary scout like Mal Bradley had seen so much potential in him.

During The Beautiful Game‘s ending, Vinny is seen back in England, encouraging the new set of players who will train for the competition next year, and he is seemingly about to become a part of the coaching setup, too. The film also presents real footage from the various iterations of the real Homeless World Cup along with the end credits, making for a perfect and hopeful ending.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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