In Taika Waititi’s ‘Next Goal Wins,’ Elisabeth Moss’ Gail is Thomas Rongen’s separated wife. Throughout the film, Thomas deals with his separation from Gail and the death of their daughter Nicole. Before American Samoa’s match against Tonga, Gail sees Thomas and extends her support. As one of the executives of the U.S. Soccer Federation, Gail is the one who pushes Thomas to accept the coaching job to train the American Samoan players, hoping that the change of scenery will help the latter to move on from Nicole’s death. In reality, Gail’s life is extremely different from the depiction in the movie!
Who is Gail?
Thomas Rongen and Gail Megaloudis married in 1996. She was previously married to Nicky Megaloudis, a former soccer defender who played for the Houston Hurricane and New York Arrows. With Nicky, she had two children, Nicole and Chris. Rongen was really the stepfather of Nicole rather than the father. Furthermore, Gail never worked in the U.S. Soccer Federation in any capacity. Nor has she dated her colleague as the film portrays, with the relationship between Moss’ character and Will Arnett’s Alex Magnussen. These are fictional details conceived by screenwriters Taika Waititi and Iain Morris.
“Elisabeth Moss is my wife in this movie, although I was still very much married to [my wife]. She’s the one in the opening scene that fires me. And that blew me away. I’m going, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’ Obviously, she has an affair with the president of [FIFA], which is not really the way it is but Will Arnett is great,” Rongen clarified in an interview given to Esquire. However, the film gets one thing right. Both Rongen and Gail had to mourn the death of Nicole, who died in a single-car accident on I-64 West in Goochland County, Virginia, at the age of 19.
Where is Gail Now?
In 2004, Gail founded The Nicole Megaloudis Foundation to serve the community in the name of her late daughter Nicole. Since then, she has been spearheading the activities of the non-profit organization. “To date, the Foundation has awarded 74 partial scholarships and we don’t plan on stopping any time soon! None of this would be possible without the generosity and continued support of so many. Thank you for your kindness. We are making a difference in the lives of so many!” Gail shared in June 2022. The foundation’s programs also included implementing food and educational programs for children in the Caribbean country of Haiti.
Since Nicole’s death, Gail dealt with severe health concerns. “My wife Gail was born [with] 4 kidneys and has suffered since. In 2004, our daughter died and Gail’s health tumbled. She was diagnosed [with] ADPKD. After a long & painful decline, she was accepted to the Kidney transplant waiting list. Plea; Living/paired donor. Thank you for listing,” Rongen shared in April 2018. ADPKD is an inherited disorder “that disrupts the normal development of some of the cells in the kidneys,” only for clusters of cysts to develop in the organ.
In February 2019, Gail announced that she underwent transplant surgery. “10 weeks since I was lucky enough to receive a new kidney, from a very generous donor! Thanks to each and every one of you for your care, concern & ongoing support. I’m excited for my ‘brand new life’ to begin! Thank you from the bottom of my heart… and my kidney!” she shared. In October 2021, Gail mourned the death of her mother. In addition to running the Foundation, she mostly spends time with her son Chris, and her grandchildren.
And a special Happy Birthday to @NMFMakeItHappen Founder & Nicole's Mom … the one & only @gailrongen ! Without whom none of the great work done in Nicole's memory would have been possible … Happy Birthday Gail! 🎂🎉🎊🎈💕#RememberNicole#MakeItHappen pic.twitter.com/h5ZMfg5Wc5
— Nicole Megaloudis Foundation (@NMFMakeItHappen) October 22, 2020
Gail was involved in the production of Mike Brett and Steve Jamison’s ‘Next Goal Wins,’ the documentary that serves as the source material of Waititi’s film. She attended the film’s premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival with her husband Rongen and the crew members of the documentary. “That’s a wrap! ‘Next Goal Wins’ premiere at Toronto Int’l Film Festival. Such a memorable reunion weekend with the original members of the documentary,” she shared last year.