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Film / The Champions (1983)

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The Champions is a 1983 sports comedy directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, starring Yuen Biao, Moon Lee, and Dick Wei. The movie is about a town boy from the rural outskirts, a martial artist out of a job, who decides to put his skill into soccer and making it big; and before anyone asks, NO, this movie didn't rip off Shaolin Soccer, it actually predates the Stephen Chow's classic by 18 years.

Yuen Biao stars as Li Tong, a country bumpkin who scrambles for soccer superstardom after getting kicked out of his village due to unintentionally injuring a rival during a town competition. Realizing his skills in juggling round objects, which he honed through his daily routine collecting duck eggs in his farm, can be used for soccer, Li Tong tries out for a pro soccer team and managed to make it big, but ends up being targeted by his rival, the current champion named King (Dick Wei). Hilarity ensues, and for Yuen Biao's fans, this is an old gem that's definitely worth a look.

Not to be confused with the novel series The Champions (2011), the TV series The Champions (1968) or Animated Series The Champions (2018).

This film contains examples of:

  • Chekhov's Skill: The opening scene where Li Tong can juggle eggs with ludicruous accuracy and catch them in mid-air? That skill comes in handy when he has to prove his worth in soccer practice, at which point he effortlessly sends one soccer ball after another into two baskets. Without looking.
  • Country Mouse: Li Tong, a town boy who lives in the outskirts, venturing to Hong Kong for the first time to make it big in soccer.
  • Deadly Dodging: During the night assasination scene when a few hitmen are sent to dispose of Li Tong, one of them swings a sledgehammer at him, but Li Tong dodges in time, causing the thug to pulverize one of his partners instead.
  • The Door Slams You: Li Tong's coach learns why it isn't a good idea to stand behind a locker while Lee Tong is keeping the equipment... using his kung-fu. Long story short, one of the lockers ends up getting hit by the impact of a soccer ball kicked by Li Tong, who then flips open and hits the coach in his face.
  • Groin Attack:
    • In the opening competition scene, one of Li Tong's rival, the son of a tycoon, tries snatching the prize from Li Tong, only to slip and fall... on a horizontal wooden beam, with his legs protuding from either sides, so that his testicles ends up cushioning its fall. SQUISH.
    • Later on during a locker room scene, a snake had somehow snuck into the lockers, which King mistook the snake to be a belt. Until it slithers its head into his fly, which is still opened. Take a wild guess where it bites.
  • Handy Feet: In an early scene, Lee Tong is seen picking up duck eggs using his toes, by tossing them into the air and catching with his hat. Without breaking any of them.
  • Improbable Sports Skills: Li Tong and his soccer skills.
  • Man on Fire: Also in the attempted assasination scene, Li Tong's car gets blown up and set alight as a result, and during the struggle Li Tong kicks one of the hitmen on the flaming vehicle, making him burn up.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: When Li Tong is instructed to keep the bundled uniform and equipment of his teammates back into the lockers, he does so by dropping the bundles and kicking them aside, one at a time, into opened lockers. And gets every single article in, in mere seconds. Before closing every single one of the lockers by kicking a soccer ball on the first doors, leading to a domino effect that sends each and evey door shutting one at a time.
  • Sore Loser: Li Tong's rival soccer partner, King; the moment he realizes Li Tong is becoming a threat to his champion position, he immediately hires hitmen to get rid of Li Tong.
  • Training Montage: A given, the movie being in the sports / martial arts genre.
  • Unknown Rival: King to Li Tong; the latter, being a naive town boy, had absolutely no idea he's a threat to the former champion just by being too good as a soccer champ.