In North America, this film received a significant following through pirated copies and Internet downloads, because an official release was never issued. Miramax's refusal to release this movie for nearly two years only strengthened the underground word of mouth, as cinephiles searched high and low for copies of the film.
This film was referenced in Stephen Chow's next film, Kung Fu Hustle (2004). During his first appearance in that film, Chow encounters a few boys playing a game of soccer. He stomps on a soccer ball after doing a few tricks, deflating it, and yells, "No more soccer!"
The line, "It's only an illusion, you can't scare me!" said by the Team Puma Leader (Vincent Kok) is in reference to Stephen Chow's earlier film, Sik san (1996), in which Kok also says this line to Chow.
This was one of three Chinese films acquired by Miramax in 2002 for major U.S. distribution, following the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). The other films were Ying xiong (2002) and Zu Warriors (2001). In April 2004, this film was given a limited U.S. theatrical release. Hero (2002) was given a successful wide release in September 2004. Zu Warriors (2001) was released straight-to-DVD in August 2005.
The girls pretending to be male soccer players with mustaches drawn on their faces is a reference to Stephen Chow's Dai lap mat tam 008 (1996), where the character of Carmen Lee plays a Geisha who first appears in disguise with a drawn mustache.
This film contains a vast amount of Puma product placement; almost every football boot in the film is Puma brand and almost all of the team shirts (other than Team Shaolin) are Puma, along with numerous Puma ads and even a football transforming into a flaming Puma when kicked at speed.
Originally, Miramax was supposed to release this film with the title renamed "Kung Fu Soccer," with a dubbed dialogue (with the participation by Stephen Chow himself), but it was scrapped due to the resistance of Chow.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The Shaolin goalkeeper is a humorous homage to martial arts legend Bruce Lee. He develops a Lee-style haircut and wears a Game of Death (1978) yellow jumpsuit. When he is carried off, he also wears the big-lens sunglasses Lee was famous for wearing. As he is carried off, he lies in exactly the same fashion as Bruce Lee laid when he was in his coffin in Hong Kong.