Are Nathan and Cal Based on Real English Football Players?

‘The Beautiful Dream,’ a Thea Sharrock film, is about the joys found within the global sports community. It boasts an impressive cast, with Bill Nighy and Micheal Ward occupying the central stage alongside talents like ‘The Way’s’ Callum Scott Howells and Kit Young, known for his performance of Jesper Fahey in ‘Shadow and Bone.’ The film features the journey of England’s Football team as they take on the annual Homeless World Cup under manager/coach Mal Bradley’s guidance. With a different context and backstory surrounding each character, from skilled Vinny Walker to the friendly Nathan, the narrative pens a tale about inspiration and redemption found in brotherhood.

Considering the film’s real-life inspiration in The Homeless World Cup, an organization that stands for advocacy of the end of homelessness through sport, these characters occupy a particularly intriguing space within the story. For the same reason, fans may wonder about the connection that Nathan and Cal, two of England’s players, share with reality.

The Beautiful Game: Fictional Football Players Lifted From Real-Life Stories

Operating with the support of the Homeless World Cup Organization, ‘The Beautiful Game’ presents a fictionalized story with a real-life sports event as its central storyline. The annual Homeless World Cup Tournaments depicted within the film that collect teams made up of players from the unhoused community— from all around the world— have firm roots in reality. Nevertheless, the particular instance of the tournament where Mal Bradley’s team represents England in Rome remains a fictitious element.

Consequently, while the story’s narrative cornerstones maintain authenticity and realism in its depiction of the Homeless World Cup Tournament, the details, including the participating players, are less in tune with reality. Yet, the film equips a composite of real-life stories to shape individual narratives within the film. As a result, even though there are no real-life counterparts or Cal and Nathan, who played for England in the HWC, the two characters still hold on to some ties with reality.

Actor Kit Young, who embodies Cal’s character in the film, spoke about the same, shedding some insight into his character in a conversation with Schön Magazine. “The film is based on truth, but it’s a fictional account of the England team,” the actor said before discussing his role in the project.

“My character, Cal, is a striker and a recovering alcoholic. He’s not allowed to see his little boy. He believes this [Football] is his ticket to sorting his life out. Through his banter with the other lads, looking after the other lads, and clashing with some of the other lads, we get to see how all these guys grow up together and possibly achieve some really great things.”

When asked about his character’s relationship to a real-life biographical story, Young answered, “On some level that [Cal’s character] did fulfill that [desire to play a biopic role] because it’s based on truth, and we were working with some of the people that have lived that experience.” Yet, due to the amalgamation of inspirations that back Cal’s character, he ends up as a fictionalized character with heavy real-life influences rather than a biographical account.

Similarly, Callum Scott Howells’ character, Nathan, likely also draws from the real-life experiences of homeless football players who were or had been coping with drug addiction rehabilitation in their lives. Scott Howells discussed his experience during the filming with Radio Times— and said, “[So] It was really special, and spending every day in and around former players taught us so much, and it just really helped us tell this story as authentically and truthfully as we could.”

The care and empathy with which the film treats Nathan’s storyline helps it achieve an intrinsically authentic disposition. Yet, his character cannot be traced back to any single individual. Therefore, Nathan and Cal ultimately present a realistic depiction of their characters’ circumstances without reflecting a specific real-life individual’s story.

Read More: The Beautiful Game: Is Gabriella Based on a Real Person?