Looking for a good football book to read? Soccerphile reviews some
of our favourite books on soccer.
World Cup books, Japanese soccer and World Cup 2002
Korea/Japan, England national team, football hooligans, player autobiographies,
European football, football fiction, Non-League Football, David
Beckham, academic, Dutch football, Arsenal, Liverpool FC, Manchester
Buy these titles from Amazon Books in the USA, UK or Japan.
Football titles reviewed include:
"The Miracle of Castel di Sangro" by
"When Beckham Went To Spain" by Jimmy Burns
"Pyramid Football Guide To Non-League 2004-5" by Joe Bush
"Woody & Nord: A Football Friendship" by Gareth Southgate
and Andy Woodman
"Among The Thugs" by Bill Buford
"Flick-to-kick: An Illustrated History of Subbuteo" by
"Ultra Nippon: How Japan Reinvented Football" by Jonathon
"Badfellas: FIFA Family at War" by John Sugden & Alan
"The Best of Enemies: England v. Germany, a Century of Football
Rivalry" by David Downing
"Japan, Korea and the 2002 World Cup" by John Horne &
"Fever Pitch" by Nick Hornby
"Tor! The Story Of German Football" by Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger
"The Fashion Of Football: Soccer From Best To Beckham, From
Mod To Label Slave" Paolo Hewitt & Mark Baxter
"Those Feet - A Sensual History of English Football" by
"Ajax, the Dutch, the War - Football in Europe During The Second
World War" by Simon Kuper
"The Fan" by Hunter Davies
"National Pastime" by Hunter Davies
"Calcio" by John Foot
"Forza Italia" by Paddy Agnew
"Farewell but not Goodbye" by Bobby Robson
"Provided You Don't Kiss Me - 20 years with Brian Clough"
by Duncan Hamilton
"My Father and Other Working-Class Heroes by Gary Imlach"
by Gary Imlach
Click on the image, author or Amazon USA, UK,
Japan link to purchase.
There could not be a timelier book as the Italian national team
prepares to travel to the World Cup in the midst of a scandal engulfing
its entire football culture.
Paddy Agnew is the perfect person to write this part memoir, part
analysis of what makes Italian football so unique: The Irish journalist
has lived in Italy for twenty years and during this time has encountered
the likes of Diego Maradona, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Silvio Berlusconi,
whose political party - named after a football chant - gave the
book its name. He also has his eye on the ball and is eerily prescient
about the current scandal, which he saw coming over the horizon.
Front line reports of the big names and events in Italian football
are interspersed with tales of Roman life seen through a foreigner's
eyes. These interludes are fascinating and sometimes jaw-dropping
but serve to illuminate why Italian football is the way it is, an
enormous sub-culture that springs organically from its parent country.
Brimming with colourful anecdotes and adroit analysis, Forza
Italia is the must-read for those with an interest in the pressure-cooker
of calcio who want to know what it really feels like on the ground.
With the current mega-scandal exploding on the eve of another World
Cup, tournaments which tend to be cataclysmic affairs for the azzurri,
there could be no better accompaniment.
A team of refugee children find a home away from home in Warren
St.John's touching and empathetic book 'Outcasts United'.
The kids in question have witnessed all manor of trauma - war, rape,
torture, seeing family murdered etc before having to start their
lives again when the United Nations resettles them in a small town
not far from Atlanta.
Their battles are far from over however as this conservative enclave
is run by an all-American mayor who hates soccer and is policed
by xenophobic cops, leaving the refugees to feel like real aliens
in their new home. Enter Luma Mufleh, a single-minded Jordanian
woman who after bravely leaving her homeland for good, had striven
to live the American dream by herself.
One day she watches refugee kids hanging around doing nothing and
decides to take control of the situation. She starts a football
club called the Fugees and before long the immigrant half of Clarkston
are all desperate to get involved. The book tells the story of the
various people who are drawn together and chronicles a season in
their lives, as Lumah fights to keep the club going in the face
of a lukewarm or downright antagonistic locality. Her insistence
on discipline and commitment to the cause almost drives her mad,
but there is the strong undercurrent of a hero on a mission who
will not fail.
An American tale perhaps, but also one about the globalised world
we are all living in where football is a unifying power, and a force
for good. The lost souls of Clarkston are handed a haven, an identity
and a means of belonging by the Beautiful Game.
St. John might not be a born soccer writer but is a talented journalist
with an knack of letting you into people's lives and making you
identify with their innermost feelings. Expect to hear more of the
Fugees' inspiring tale when the film version is released, but in
the meantime read this thought-provoking book.
Tackling the Mount Everest that is Italian football has been a
peak too high for English authors in the past. If there is one country
where football is more than life and death it is surely Italy. This
is the country where the best-selling newspapers are football ones,
where Abramovich-style industrialists were buying up clubs as far
back as the 1920s and where the Prime Minister not only owns the
nation's top team but named his political party after a football
But with "Calcio - A History of Italian Football", John Foot has
finally scaled the mountain and 592 pages later planted a flag of
academic authority at the summit.
Highly readable, the book is part chronicle of the game in Italy
and part probe into the issues that make Italian football so particular.
The early years of football have been meticulously researched and
throw up alternatively charming or eye-opening anecdotes, such as
Reading trouncing Milan 5-0 or a game between Lucca and Viareggio
that ended with an armed uprising the Italian army took two days
to put down.
Further chapters explore the famous teams, players and managers
as well as the media, political and commercial interference and
the myriad scandals that have given calcio a shady reputation overseas.
The running theme is that football in Italy resembles a gigantic
bonfire, fuelled by an addicted population, bewitching everyone
while growing ever more grotesque and dangerous by the day. While
our word fan is the shortened form of fanatic, the Italian one,
tifo, is short for typhoid-sufferer.
If Foot has any axe to grind it is rightly with the ultras and their
unacceptable grip on Italian clubs, who are still running scared
of them in 2006. One can only hope books like this will help open
Italian eyes to the outrageous way these semi-hooligans carry on
with impunity, and free tickets, while attendances across the board
in Serie A are falling.
At the end, Foot admirably confesses he has almost fallen out of
love with his subject matter, but like Italy itself, calcio goes
on, ugly and beautiful in equal measure.
There are several memorable photos throughout the book and an accompanying
glossary of Italian football terminology. "Calcio" is not just the
first English-language survey of Italian football but has set an
impressive benchmark for football histories in general.
One of only four football books to win the William Hill Sports
Book of the Year award, My Father and Other Working Class Football
Heroes is a touching tale of a son's quest to know his father,
in the process painting a valuable canvas of the lost world of English
Imlach's father Stewart played for Scotland at the 1958 World Cup
and won the FA Cup with Nottingham Forest a year later, but the
young Gary knew little of his life until he went looking after his
death, discovering amid yellowed newspaper files and recollections
of elderly colleagues an era of low-wage, grafting, bread &
butter footballers, utterly unrecognizable to today's 'baby Bentley'
The final two chapters, recording how the stars of yesteryear have
fallen as fast as they had risen, and the author's melancholy admission
that he was falling out of love with football as his father was
dying are particularly poignant.
Like Tony Cascarino's extraordinary autobiography Full
Time, this comes from an unexpected source. But, like the
former Irish international, sports presenter Gary Imlach has produced
a studied work of pathos and a considered reflection on the game's
social importance to those involved.
Eschewing the conventional approaches to sports histories, Imlach's
vested interest in unearthing the past endows a football story with
nostalgia-free emotion and creates an instant classic of the genre.
As a season-ticket holder for both Tottenham Hotspur and their
North London rivals Arsenal, Hunter Davies has a stronger claim
than most to the title of "The Fan".
His loyalties lie with Spurs (he shares his Highbury seat with another
semi-regular), but as he explains with his trademark good humour,
his true passion is the game of football itself.
That love, though, is not unconditional. In his collection of observations
of the game between 1996 and 2003 - first published in his fortnightly
column in The New Statesman - the prolific and celebrated
author is clearly unhappy with the direction the British game has
taken in an era when Sky dictates kick-off times and players earn
tens of thousands of pounds a week before the bum-fluff has been
blown from their chins.
Like many supporters with middle-class sensibilities, Hunter had
a satellite dish installed only when it dawned on him that any attempt
to face down the Murdoch media juggernaut would be self-defeating,
depriving him, as it would, of his raison d'etre - long afternoons
and evenings in front of the box, soaking up anything from the Champions
League to the French lower divisions.
The original format for his musings mean the chapters can seem unconnected
- a diary this is not. But all of the important occasions are there:
Euro 2000, the departure of "our Kev" and the arrival of Sven, the
World Cup in Japan and South Korea, and the stirrings of Rooney-mania.
In between we are treated to entertaining digressions - set out
in short, pithy chapters - on everything from following Carlisle
United, Davies's topsy-turvy diet, his neighbours in the stands,
the FA, Sky (again), Julie Burchill's excruciating attempt to explain
David Beckham's sex appeal, Prince William's support for Aston Villa
and, in a more serious vein, Spurs' latter-day neglect of their
elderly former legend, Bill Nicholson.
There are also vignettes from the Davies household, usually involving
genteel digs at his wife, who, despite her preference for evenings
alone at the theatre or cinema, probably knows more about football
than her hubby lets on.
Who, after all, could have lived with a man of Davies's obsessive
nature for so long and not be influenced by it?
The reader's time in his company is limited to a few hours over
300-plus pages, but his seductive techniques, buttressed by amiability
and humour, are no less sharp for that. For most of us a season
spent watching football at White Hart Lane is a terrifying prospect,
but one imagines being able to sit next to Davies at his wryest
every other Saturday would make it more than bearable.
Compared with the (surely worn-out) fandom genre whose writers delight
in recalling pints sunk and noses split, or miles clocked and funny
foreigners encountered, Davies occupies another football universe.
As a highly recommended close-season read through "The Fan" should
prove, "Hunt" is no mere "supporter with a pen," but, happily for
us, a first-rate writer who happens to be barking about "footer".
Sir Bobby takes us on a stroll down memory lane here in his 2005
autobiography, a leisurely trip through a life steeped in football.
From his days down North-Eastern mines right through to his less
than ceremonious exit from Newcastle United, the club he grew up
supporting, Robson's is an endearing story of a life far-travelled
and come full circle.
This is well-written, engaging and packed full of anecdotes and
quips from the dressing room and training ground involving younger
versions of household names - certain misters Gascoigne, Moore,
Figo, Ronaldo and Mourinho are just a few - and reminders of those
half-forgotten in football history. Starting out at Fulham, by his
own admission he had less than an illustrious career playing club
football (no medals and his best was a fourth place finish with
West Brom) before time with England as player then coach ("It
wasn't the hand of God, it was the hand of a rascal") and then
off on his globetrotting international career, battling cancer a
couple of times on the way, the faithful Elsie, wife of fifty odd
years always by his side, propping him up when needed.
You can't help but hear Sir Bobby's distinctive voice taking delight
in recalling his eventful life with relish, probably with a finger
wagging and a glassy look in his eyes. His age obviously comes in
here, the book reading like a story that only an old man could tell,
but the beauty of this is you've got a get out card - it's a book.
You don't have to sit there awkwardly for that little bit too long
stifling yawns, you can shut him up at any time by just putting
it down. But make sure you come back to it again later, because
it's good stuff.
"National cultures are built around national pastimes." How we
play games helps to define how we perceive ourselves. This book
analyzes the story of two great sports - America's game, and
the world's game.
Baseball is the national sport in America, a national obsession
that remains limited to North America, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan,
and several islands in the Caribbean. Soccer is truly the world's
game, a sport that no one nation can claim as its own (though some
in England might try). Unlike the World Series, the World Cup is
truly international and often a measure of national self-esteem.
National Pastime is the first cross-cultural comparison of
these sporting passions and the mega-businesses they have spawned
Stefan Szymanski and Andrew Zimbalist examine how organizational
structures have made Major League Baseball a hugely profitable business - thanks
in large part to its monopolistic protection under US law - while
soccer leagues around the world struggle to break even. The authors
go back to the beginning of baseball and British football - and
how these games became businesses.
In their final chapter, the authors discuss how baseball and soccer
can learn from each other. This is an engaging and fun read. Whether
you are a baseball or soccer/football fan, you will enjoy National
American journalist, Joe McGinnis spends the 1996-97 season in
the Italian boondocks with impoverished small town club Castel di
Sangro, who by a 'miracle' have risen to the heady heights of Serie
B, the second tier of Italian professional football.
More than a fly-on-the-wall account of proceedings on the pitch,
McGinnis, like him or loathe him, paints a tragi-comic picture of
Italian provincial life that tourists never see. Tension mounts as the team
face the drop back to the obscurity of Serie C while McGinnis draws the reader
deeper into the unfolding, troubling events at the club, which climax in a sudden, unexpected
and disturbing finale.
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro is a lasting classic footballing story with a human
touch and a must-read primer for fans of Italian soccer history.
The corruption at the heart of this book remains a disturbing given in the game in Italy to this day as we fast forward to Calciopoli and Scommessopoli.
The legend of the green sweatshirt grows by the day
but 'Provided You Don't Kiss Me - 20 years with Brian Clough' is
the first book written by one of King Clough's inner circle.
Throughout Clough's Nottingham Forest years, Duncan Hamilton was
within spitting distance, at first as a sheepish teenage reporter
at the City Ground and before long traveling with the players on
the team bus and sitting across the desk from the boss every day.
This is a riveting tale of how greatness rises and falls, a chronicle
of how nagging insecurities and internal weaknesses eventually conquering
a publicly swaggering genius. Touching and eloquently written, 'Provided
You Don't Kiss Me' is Clough in close-up - a painfully honest, word-for-word,
as-it-happened history of an amazing man at his best and worst.
Anyone who remembers Clough should read this book, and anyone who
doesn't too - for he was one of the true characters of the English
Every chapter reveals extraordinary incidents - vignettes of Clough's
coaching genius, his myriad eccentricities, moments of human pathos,
drink-fuelled rages, bitter rants and quarrels, or acts of family
love and random kindness.
While accepting the enigma of Clough will endure, Hamilton has probably
come closer than anyone ever will to distilling a remarkable football
coach and unforgettable man.
A few years ago a man pretending to be George Weah's cousin hoodwinked
Graeme Souness into giving him a run-out for Southampton.
Portsmouth-born Jim Riordan's appearance for Moscow Spartak in 1963
was equally amazing, given he was in Russia not as a footballer
but as a translator and communist activist, yet unlike the fake
Saint, he was called back by the club to play for them again.
Imagine taking part in a Sunday league game and later that day arriving
at a stadium as one of 50,000 fans, only to discover you are going
to be on the field!
While that is an amazing tale in itself, this engrossing and touching
memoir is far more a valuable document of the failed communist dream.
Like many others from across the globe, Riordan travelled to Moscow
fuelled by the desire to forge a better world from the ashes of
Football does not get much of a mention until halfway in and despite
the title, does not form the centerpiece of this engaging autobiography,
but the author's vivid recollections of Soviet life, and the famous
faces he mixed with make this the most enjoyable book I have read
Faber and Faber; Paperback, 368pp
David Peace's 'The Damned Utd' is a landmark book in the soccer
canon because it hauls football into the domain of the historical
novel. Lavished with praise from the literati, this will appeal
just as much to any fan ever touched by the entrancing madness of
King Brian Clough. David Peace impersonates 'Ole Big 'Ead' during
his 44 days of hell at Leeds United in 1974, to recount one of the
most bizarre and enigmatic episodes of post-war English football.
Despite sitting on the fiction shelves, this reads throughout like
Cloughie himself is speaking, unbeatable in the fortress of his
own ego, desperate to get his revenge on life's slings and arrows,
but doomed once more to go down in merciless flames when he steps
into the lair of his demons. Peace has scoured the history books,
newspaper cuttings and player biographies of the period to produce
what is really a new departure for soccer literature, a novel which
feels uncannily like a real testament of sporting history. 2009
sees the release of the feature film version of 'The Damned Utd',
surely one of the greatest football books yet written.
Yellow Jersey Press; Paperback, 436pp
The 'little bird' won the World Cup in 1958, was the star of the
1962 Finals, scored 232 league goals and is considered by many Brazilians
to be greater than Pelé. Yet his name and fame were largely
forgotten once television arrived and Ruy Castro has written an
important book to revive his reputation.
Garrincha was a fine player indeed but that was nothing compared
to what he did off-field. To call his life a rollercoaster would
be an understatement. Having grown up in rural poverty he moved
to the big city of Rio to become a footballer but never grew up.
His life involved a legion of lovers and numerous children, grinding
poverty and fabulous riches, astounding fame, success, addiction
and finally tragedy. In comparison George Best has led a quiet life.
That Garrincha's sublime skill and remarkable story have been forgotten
is wrong and this meticulously researched book, charming and astounding
throughout in equal measure, has pleasingly set the record straight.
A great tale about an exceptional human being.
* Amazon USA currently only stocks
the Portuguese language edition
You must've seen the movie, you must've read the book, he's a mellow
yellow feline...well, two of these lines apply to Hornby's Fever
Pitch, still more than very probably the world's most famous
football book over ten years after its publication. Seen the film?
Haven't read the book? If not, why not and if yes, well it's about
time you read it again. Don't like football? Doesn't matter, read
the thing anyway.
A book not just about football for football fans,
but about obsession, about a burning, inexplicable (I mean I could
understand it with the Mighty Boro, but Arsenal...) passion and
where it drags the author over the years from his childhood in the
sixties and seventies through to his continuing childhood in the
Often hilarious, always engaging and well written, Fever Pitch is Hornby's attempt at making sense of his obsession,
to put it into perspective in the grand scheme of things and maybe
help people on the outside of this phenomenon to understand somehow.
But of course there is no sense to be made of it, it just happens,
it just is, and that's what makes it so interesting, so funny
and a bloody good read.
The prospect of another hagiography of Goldenballs would sink the
hearts of all but the starry-eyed teenager, but this one is different.
What makes this worth reading is the fact that Becks' celebrity
circus has touched down in Spain, a country a world away from England,
and specifically at Real Madrid, a galaxy away from Manchester United.
In fact, those of us jaded by the prospect of more Beckhamology
will be pleasantly surprised by the fact Jimmy Burns largely ignores
Few are better qualified to write this tale than Burns. The author
is half Spanish, grew up in Madrid and has published a guide to
Spanish literature as well as working for the FT, BBC & The
Economist amongst others. His two football works, 'Barça
- A People's Passion' and 'Hand
of God - The Life of Diego Maradona' were top-drawer football
texts and not Harry Harris-style sycophantic potboilers. The book
weaves between Beckham's celebrity and Spain's story of Franco,
Catalonia, corridas, cojones and futebol.
Beckham comes across as a tool for Real, a man of little intrinsic
substance who will ultimately not amount to much. We learn little
here we do not already know about Goldenballs and there is more
evidence that the end of his Real days will come to pass thanks
to the increasingly destructive provincial mindset and xenophobic
tantrums of his far from 'posh' wife Victoria.
If you have yet to savour the delights of English lower league
football, then what sublime pleasures and delights await you: For
here beats the true heart of English football with its die-hard
fans who wouldn't swap it for the Premiership any day. For the uninitiated,
there is no better starting-point than the Pyramid Football Guide
to Non-League 2004-05, a superb 200-page glossy guide to the teams
and competitions below England's four full-time professional divisions.
Here you will find the Blyth Spartans, Hickley Towns and Leigh RMIs
of this world; as the cover says, "local clubs for local people".
There are six divisions covered, plus resumes of all the major competitions,
useful local information and excellent directions for finding the
stadia, never an easy task at this level! In the introduction, editor
Joe Bush rightly mentions the "value, history and unique nature"
of this level of football, "a culture", he continues, "that you
would struggle to find anywhere else in the world and whose praises
we should all be keen to sing."
Having emerged from Serie A's shadow in the late 1990s, La Liga
is Europe's No.1 destination right now with Real Madrid's Galacticos,
Beckham and all, and a Ronaldinho-inspired Barcelona at the helm
of a new golden age of Spanish football.
In this superb guide, Phil Ball really gets under the skin of el
fútbol, tracking it from its origins in the dusty town of
Huelva in the 1880s to the Bernabeu and Nou Camp of today via the
fierce local pride of teams such as Athletic Bilbao, Valencia and
Deportivo La Coruña and the sorry saga of a national team
that never delivers.
As much a cultural history of modern Spain as a guide to its football,
Ball proves that the two in this case are one and the same.
Ah, Subbuteo - the flicking of little figures around a crumpling
sheet of green baize that boys young and old recall so fondly. In
the now forgotten age before computers, Subbuteo was the closest
approximation to soccer to be found in a game format and could also
be played alone, allowing the fan to indulge his own fantasies based
on the beautiful game. Everyone who was into football at school,
it seemed, owned a Subbuteo set.
This charming book, great value in hardback at £7.99 and wonderfully
illustrated, retells the history of this curious game. For so long
a cottage industry of hand-painted figurines, Subbuteo (Latin for
'hobby') was started in 1947 by a Kent man more interested in ornithology
than football who deliberately sited new factories in areas good
As well as historical nuggets such as the police investigating the
company over the theft of the World Cup in 1966, there is plenty
on those eccentric accessories plus its lesser-known editions, which
included speedway, angling and snooker! When its makers announced
in 2000 it was to be withdrawn there was an outpouring of piqued
nostalgia, and they were forced to retract. As the author triumphantly
concludes, "As long as the game of football is played I believe
so will the game of Subbuteo".
Music and style journalist Paolo Hewitt and friend Mark Baxter
decided to chart a neglected theme running through modern football
history: The clothes. From the wildly dressed George Best in the
swinging sixties to the Armani-ed Premiership boys of today, sartorial
style has accompanied footballers in England. And running parallel
to the players' styles is the story of the fans' attire.
Perry and Tacchini tops of the 1970s through the 'casual' looks
of the eighties to today's Stone Island-clad lads is an equally
important part of England's football culture that completes the
picture of football culture. But this is as much a book about style
and youth culture itself than its football-related history, written
in a free and unchained style, where Soho's Bar Italia rubs shoulders
with 1960s London boutiques, '70s mods, Rodney Marsh and David Beckham.
In a follow up to the magnificent "Brilliant
Orange - The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football", David Winner
tackles the kaleidoscopic character of the English game, a far from
His excellent opening chapter on the Victorian origins of football
is enough to shock readers expecting a conventional narrative as
it postulates the thesis that the aggressive English style is a
direct consequence of a long-held national angst about masturbation.
Winner bravely tries to cover all bases in his psycho-analytical
overview of the national game. Other chapters address nostalgia,
xenophobia, the weather, pessimism and the loose concept of 'Englishness'
forged in our imperial heyday. Whilst it is easy to pick holes in
many of Winner's ideas, at the same time books of this type have
elevated football literature to levels that would have been unthinkable
twenty years ago.
Simon Kuper's second book after "Football
Against the Enemy", a collection of intelligent football
essays that won the William Hill Sports Book of The Year Award is
a heartfelt study of football amidst society in World War Two. Kuper
himself is a Jew who grew up in Holland loving football and imbibing
the national myth of the Netherlands as a beacon of tolerance.
this book he shines an uncomfortable light on the truth of Dutch's
less than stellar war record - more Jews were deported per capita
than in any nation outside Germany whilst millions stood by and
did nothing, all set alongside the parallel world of Ajax, the 'Jewish
club' of Amsterdam, who lost one of their players, Eddie Hamel,
to the gas chambers.
A well-written and engrossing read that crosses
the boundaries of sport, history and politics.
Woody & Nord tells the story of 2 very close friends - Gareth
Southgate & Andy Woodman - who met and became the best of friends
as young, wide eyed apprentices dreaming of the future at Crystal
Palace, their contrasting career paths at different ends of the
professional football spectrum and the lasting bond of friendship
The book is a refreshing take on the footballer autobiography/ghost
writer format, providing an interesting look into the workings of
the mysterious world of professional football at the highest and
lowest levels. Gareth with Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and England
while Andy struggles to earn a living in the lower leagues and stay
in professional football as long as possible - Southgate's search
for professional fulfilment versus Andy's fight for mere financial
The book does, especially towards the beginning, seem like it might
become a tad too sentimental any time soon, though they manage to
veer away from that path in the nick of time to make a very interesting
and entertaining read, one of best football biographies, and certainly
the best autobiography (if you forget about the ever present lovely
assistant) out there at the moment.
The one thing that appears to have remained constant throughout
both players' turbulent careers is their friendship, but this aspect
isn't excessively pushed on the reader, it is simply an onrunning
thread that is worked quite subtly into the text, providing a link
between what are, on the surface, two very different footballing
characters and careers and giving an extra perspective on events.
Don't worry, it doesn't become a full on heartwarming Nick Hornby
affair that it has the potential to do, but instead makes a much
more interesting propositon of each player's individual biography.
Gareth himself admits that his and Woody's own separate autobiographies
would hardly have anyone but their most diehard (Are there any of
you out there?) fans waiting with baited breath.
Both players manage very well to give a thoughtful, informed analysis
of football's disappointments, disillusionment and triumphs and
the similarities and differences of very different levels of the
game through their own experiences, being two players who are very
much at critical points in their lives. They both have lot of serious
thinking to do about their futures making it the ideal time to look
Downing's book is a fascinating and thoughtful look at one of
football's most exciting/ passionate/ dull/ controversial/ over-rated
(delete as you see fit) clashes - the England vs Germany match.
Downing examines England-Germany games at both international and
club level - the triumphs, the failures and the (gulp, swallow the
pride and whisperingly admit it) far too regular mediocrity of arguably
the most eagerly awaited event in any English football calendar
- from their very first meeting in the death throes of the nineteenth
century up until the Euro 2000 group stage meeting in Charleroi.
As an historian and football fan, he brings the best of both worlds
together in writing this book, giving us history without sterility
and managing to conveying the excitement and passion of the beautiful
game without coming across as just another overzealous fan. England
& Germany meetings over the years are recounted in a refreshingly
objective way; accounts are presented from numerous sources from
both sides of the divide and subtly peppered with his own comment.
The best way to put it might be that it's like the story's told
by a very knowledgeable bloke in the pub but without the droning
on, repetition, off-track ramblings or spit flying into your pint.
And you can easily get away from it if you want. Downing writes
about the actual football in tandem with the games' social and political
background, painting a vivid picture of the times in which they
were played and their importance (or lack of it). We go from the
first ever meeting with "youngish, fit-looking men" reading
about the developments in the Boer war as they travel to Berlin
by a combination of train, horse-drawn cabs and foot, through the
"shameful salute", the world wars and the English-German
sentiments left in their wake and, of course, 1966 to the tabloid
frenzies and penalty shootout disappointments of recent years. It
all adds up to give a fuller understanding of these games' effect
on each nation's psyche as well as being an utterly entertaining,
revealing and often piss-funny read. Stereotypes and the perceived
differences of the two nations are presented and deconstructed and,
maybe surprisingly for some, a hell of a lot of similarities are
revealed (possibly the source of a lot of England-German animosity,
but that's by the bye). The Best of Enemies is a great book that manages to provide
everything that a lot of books try and fail to - it's got heroes,
villains, highs, lows, cry-babies, bad losers, blinkered idiots,
inspirational mavericks, unsung heroes - and all with the added
bonus of being true! And about football! Woohoo!
Take a little trip down memory lane to the 1997-98 season and
peek into the diary of one of football's most respected and thus,
on more than the odd occasion, hated professional men in black (green/blue/yellow
- delete as applicable). In "Referee: A year in the life»"
posh nob David Elleray gives a day to day account of refereeing
at the highest level, juggling the life of a Premiership match official
with that of a Harrow Housemaster with all the stress and reward
that entails. Due to the diary format it occasionally gets bogged
down in the minutiae of daily affairs but the account gains momentum
as the season progresses and we follow Mr. Elleray to such far flung
locations as Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Keele University as well as
all the usual Premier League haunts, ending with his appraisal of
the 1998 World Cup as viewed from the eyes of a referee who was
unfortunately unable to participate. It's an eye opener to see what
a referee has to cope with when not being screamed at and abused
by all and sundry on a Saturday afternoon and may even, horror of
horrors, evoke a little sympathy in some football fans. Of course,
not only the pressures and the pitfalls of refereeing are covered
here, but also the praise and reward that comes from being one of
the most respected figures in football, not just from the powers
that be but from fans too. Mr Elleray comes across as a serious
professional whose heart belongs to the game, though it causes no
end of conflict with other aspects of his life while at the same
time providing him with life-affirming experiences that would be
so difficult to give up. Mr Elleray said in one TV interview, "The
challenge was to say something interesting without being too controversial",
and that is what he has managed to do here - there is a little bit
of bitching and a good dose of personal opinion thrown in, but nothing
that could cause him grief in future seasons. An essential read
for anyone who has realised that they may never score for England
and is thinking of refereeing seriously and a good holiday read
for fans of the game generally - no matter what your opinion of
the blokes with the cards. Even Mackems can find solace in Elleray's
words and convince themselves that the Stadium of Light is indeed
one of the games "great footballing cathedrals".
Classic and often comic must-read account of American journalist
meets British football hooligans in the 1980s and 1990s. Standing on a railway platform one Saturday afternoon someone aims an empty vodka bottle at the author from a passing train and Buford sets out to find out why.
editor Bill Buford thus begins his epic journey to the ugly heart of
fan violence starting with Manchester United in Turin in 1984 and Among The Thugs reaches a personal, painful climax with England at the World Cup in Sardinia at Italia
In a series of thrilling narratives describing his dark odyssey
of discovery into football mob violence, Buford takes us along to
comprehend the attraction and ultimate repulsion of that oft-repeated
euphemism 'crowd trouble'.
If you only ever read one book about football violence this should be it. it remains a classic of the genre.
The FA's aloofness and wariness of 'Johnny-foreigner' kept England
out of the first three FIFA World Cups.
book kicks off in 1950 when the Home Internationals were first used
as World Cup qualifiers and Scotland declined to go to Brazil in
1950 as 'runners-up'. Every subsequent England qualifying game and
World Cup match comes complete with a detailed and compelling match
report and full statistics, scorers and attendance. The strengths
of the book lie in Leatherdale's precise and fluent prose, which
never lapses into any glorification of England's checkered history
in the competition and the intriguing subplot of England's continuing
failure to adapt their football for success on foreign fields.
The appendix has a complete list of England's World Cup goal scorers,
goalkeepers, captains and records against other teams. The statistics
reveal England have never beaten Brazil in a World Cup game and
the book as a whole reveals many of the reasons why.
Hardback, 290x230, 472 pages, full colour throughout.
The best-selling book on Soccerphile.com in 2002 and deservedly
A superb and nostalgic collection of Panini stickers and cards of
all the teams and players from the 1970 World Cup in Mexico up to
Includes the official World Cup logos and posters. A true collector's
The Italian company may have temporarily suspended sale of their
stickers as a protest against Italy's elimination in Korea, but
don't miss out on this.
This book is available on Bol.com's Italian site
- search for "World Cup Panini".
Paperback - 249 pages including 8 pages of b/w images.
This edition 1 March, 2001
A forerunner of English language writing on Japanese football,
BBC correspondent Jonathan Birchall spends the 1999-2000 season
following Shimizu S-Pulse as they pursue J.League glory under English
manager Steve Perryman. Birchall gets to grips with all the now-familiar
idiosyncrasies of Japan's football experience: fans who don't fight
but sing in unison and clean up after the game, passive players
who lack initiative and the strident foreigners struggling to get
their message across at any given time, in this case Perryman, Dragan
Stojkovic and the 'evil' Dunga.
While Birchall's narrative about Shimizu's ultimately frustrating
season in particular and the early years of the J.League in general
is interesting enough, the author can't resist telling us into the
bargain what an odd place Japan appears to bemused Western journalists.
So be prepared for a few chortles at the expense of the usual targets
- salaryman suicides, fuzzed out pornography and space age vending
machines selling sex aids. Still Ultra-Nippon is a good place to
start on Japanese football as the genre grows after the World Cup.
Paperback - 232 pages (2 May, 2002)
Yellow Jersey Press;
It is a somewhat brave move to release a book on Japanese football
without covering World Cup 2002, but for Moffett, the interest lies
in the working week that made the big party possible. Before Japan
was ready to host the world's largest sporting event, football had
to be procured, promoted and popularised in a country that was,
in many ways, unsuited to the world's favourite sport. Japanese
Rules tells us how the explosive but short-lived boom for football
came about and how the J-League stuttered along until the big event
with both the objective viewpoint of an anthropologist and the close
focus of a documentary maker. The stories of Japanese organisers,
players and fans looking abroad for inspiration and of foreigners
coming to Japan and overcoming cultural obstacles tell the story
of Japan's love-hate relationship with the outside world in microcosm.
So Japanese Rules is not thin on historical, economic and cultural
context, all essential for understanding any phenomenon of modern
Japan. Moffett, a long-term resident of Japan, was clearly following
events closely at the time which also gives his tightly-written
prose vivid colour. His match reports are filled with tension and
there are moments in this book that are truly moving, such as the
account of Gary Lineker's last game for Grampus 8 - a must read
for any fans still smarting over that Graham Taylor substitution.
But the real strength of this book is just how much it allows its
cast to speak for themselves. Moffett has digested volumes of Japanese
football books, news reports and has conducted many of his own interviews
of major figures in the football scene. The result is a text littered
with well-chosen quotes and revealing facts giving strength to insightful
conclusions. This is the definitive article in explaining how soccer
secured its foothold in a most unlikely corner of the world.
"Tor! The Story of German Football"- is a fascinating account
of the game in Germany: its roots in the athletic clubs of the eighteenth
century; World War 1; the rise of the Nazis and World War II; the
first international successes, especially the surprising win against
Hungary in 1954; the subsequent formation of the DFB in West Germany;
the game in East Germany; the lows of the 80s; and up to the present
state of the game. Written by Dortmund fan Hesse-Lichtenberger,
who doesn't shirk passing judgment on those with whom he disagrees
or mentioning his own wardrobe of torn jeans, the book also goes
into the geo-political reasons for the health or otherwise of German
football. Together with the lesser-known figures he mentions, there
are all the famous players of the game in Germany: Günther
Netzer, Overath, Paul Breitner, Berti Vogts, Uli & Dieter Hoeness,
Rudi Völler, Kevin Keegan, Effenberg, Jürgen Klinsmann,
Fritz Walter, et al, as well as the five German European Footballers
of the Year - Gerd Müller, Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge,
Lothar Matthäus and Matthias Sammer. And the teams: amongst
others, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund, Werder Bremen,
Hamburg, Nuremburg, Fürst, Kaiserslautern, Schalke 04, Köln,
Stuttgart, 1860, and, of course, the most powerful, successful and
hated team in the land: Bayern Munich.
The book successfully manages to put many ill-conceived notions
of the nature of German football to bed, such as the aura of invincibility
that surrounds it due to consummate professionalism. In fact, the
German leagues teams' players were still amateurs when the national
team won the World Cup in 1954, and corruption has surfaced periodically
in the game.
At club level, German teams have not fared as well in European competition
as English, Spanish or Italian teams - a point overlooked by Hesse-Lichtenberger.
However, it is in the international sphere where Germany has achieved
real success, with three World Cup victories to its name, equal
to Italy and surpassed only by Brazil. Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger recounts
not only the excitement of the wins, but also details such as the
tentative national feelings aroused in the post-World War II period.
It's a must-read for anyone curious to know the game as it is played
in Germany, and would be particularly interesting for those fans
planning to watch the upcoming 2006 World Cup in Germany. That's
four billion of us, then.
This is a book for those interested in the space between football
and morality. It's the tale of everyday folk caught by surprise
by Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. These shocked
citizens included footballers, and these in turn included the talented
members of the Dynamo Kiev team. How did they react to the Nazi
occupation of their homeland? Under what conditions did they live
and die? Dynamo starts brightly yet gently with a sentence designed
to catch the eye of a publisher: "Valentina and Alexei were
very much in love, a blind man on a galloping horse could see that."
From this description of a wedding party the story wends its way
to a darker, uglier place. Author Andy Dougan seems to be playing
the role of a counter-attacking sweeper in his attempt to inform
the reader of last thousand years of Ukrainian history whilst blending
in the personal tales of the footballers involved, the fear of Stalin's
legitimised thugs (the NKVD) and the death and terror brought by
the brutal Germans. For those acquainted with John Houston's 1981
film "Victory", in which a group of WWII prisoners of
war - including Pele and Mike Summerbee - play a match against the
Germans for propaganda purposes, this book will strike a chord.
The film is pure invention, but Dynamo describes real matches between
subjugated people and the occupying 'master race'. Should the more
highly skilled Kiev players let the Germans win the game for fear
of the consequences to themselves and the general population; or
should they soundly beat them to show they were not cowed? It's
an exciting read whether or not you are interested in history or
football. Moreover it's a true story. Dougan also has done his homework
in refuting the official Stalinist line concerning the events.
There are, however, a few annoying features of the book. The Dynamo
Kiev goalkeeper, we are told, is not "unbeatable", as
though there once existed a player possessing such a quality, which
I doubt. And there is a small but unnecessary amount of hyperbole:
the same keeper's "..eyes burned with a passion and intensity
which spoke of his total love of football" and "..they
won the USSR Cup for the first time in 1954 trouncing Ararat Yerevan.."
A one-nil "trouncing"?! There is also, and strangely for
a history book, no index; and this despite the range of personalities
mentioned: from the composer Mussorgsky to the Mongolian Golden
Horde, from Nazi film-maker Leni Riefenstahl to AC Milan star striker
Andrij Schevchenko. Editing quirks aside, this is a very interesting
work that reminds us that these evil happenings occurred only sixty
years ago. It begs bigger questions, too. Could the world slip back
into the dehumanised chaos of state-sponsored violence? Is the war-peace
cycle inevitable? Verdict: one-nil to Andy Dougan.
From the man behind the "Philosophy Football" range of sporting
attire comes a mixed kitbag of writings analysing the multi-faceted
fallout from Asia's first World Cup. A major theme is the rehabilitation
of Englishness as a result of an unexpectedly trouble-free tournament.
The book's title belies the fact that it is less about Japan and
Korea than it is about the foreign fans who either visited or stayed
at home. Those wishing to gain an insight into Japanese football
would do well to pick up copies of either Jonathan Birchall's "Ultra
Nippon" or Sebastian Moffett's "Japanese Rules".
FIFA corruption also looms large over many of the essays and one
good reason to read this book is David Conn's account of how Sepp
Blatter got his sticky paws on World Cup 2002 and how his fingerprints
have been subsequently removed. What works less well is some unnecessary
David Winner's look at the tournament through the prism of Chaos
theory is as unenlightening as Wendy Wheeler's utopian argument
that football is "a very significant part of... how humans are to
manage the complex world in which we now live". Luckily though,
most of the articles are immensely readable and all contain thought-provoking
angles on the World Cup experience: from home, away, Japan, Korea,
heartfelt fandom and cynical commercialism. As long as you don't
mind Beckham on one wing and Baudrillard on the other, this is a
timely requiem for World Cup 2002 before the ball rolls on to Portugal
A thick-leafed, deceptively short account of the World Cup through
the eyes of an ex-English teacher in Japan. Willem tells of how
the World Cup brought foreigners (especially the English) together
with the Japanese on something of a cross-cultural first date. One
side of this story is the way in which Japan won over its foreign
guests with faultless organisation and countless random acts of
"kamikaze kindness". In exchange, foreign fans provided
entertainment. For the Japanese, the (mostly) good-natured irreverence
of their guests constituted part of the World Cup circus. Willem
describes many instances of these kinds of cultural exchange with
a sharp eye and a keen wit although his photographs of the same
Willem does not, however, limit himself to "World Cup world"
as he calls it. Like many people who have lived in Japan for a couple
of years, he has much to say about Japanese culture too. Many digressions
are distinctly non-World Cup related but this adds depth to the
overall World Cup experience by proxy that reading this book provides.
But the sinister turning point is when Willem attends the court
hearing of an Ireland fan who runs into trouble with the Japanese
police for selling a single ticket. The Kafkaesque machinations
of the Japanese legal system shows something of what lay beneath
the surface glitter of the World Cup.
Paperback - 284 pages (2002)
Big Lily Productions; ISBN: 095437620X
Husband, father, company man, dog and cat owner, and above all
devoted Manchester United fan, Keith Norris is the owner and creator
of the eponymous flag Big Lily.
Personified throughout the book,
Lily has gone on walkabout to Brazil, Spain, Thailand, Japan, Italy
and of course, much of England. Norris contends that Lily is 'the
biggest Manchester United supporter ever known;' at 100 feet long
by 60 feet wide, in one sense he is surely right.
Norris has spirited
this monster flag literally around the world to Man United matches.
In the process, he has been 'befriended' by such luminaries as Roberto
Carlos, Raul, and Fernando Hierro not to mention his Japanese wife.
Although amusing in places - and very well-meaning - this is a book
primarily for FOK (Friends of Keith), diehard Man United fans, or
people on a beach with a lot of time on their hands. The book suffers
mainly from repetition and an obvious lack of an editor.
been fewer pub scenes 'having a laugh with' (fill in blank with
FOK or footballer) and more on Northern Ireland and the history
of Man United (the stronger parts of the book), it would have been
a far better read.
John Sugden and Alan Tomlison's account of FIFA's misrule of world
football is the latest addition to the sizeable collection of books
that address sleaze and corruption in the game. As such, it should
appeal to anyone who enjoyed, say, David Yallop's 'How They Stole
The Game' or, more recently, Tom Bower's 'Broken Dreams'. As an
independent, authoritative history of FIFA and insight into the
governing body's more illustrious characters, Badfellas cannot be
faulted. Tomlinson and Sugden, both professors at the University
of Brighton, write clean, measured journalese, while sparing us
discussion of the minutiae of FIFA's day-to-day administration.
But their central charge, that FIFA's name has been tarnished by
a succession of megalomaniacs and creeping commercialism, though
articulately made, has been leveled so many times the shock factor
has all but disappeared.
There are several reasons for this, one of which is that Badfellas
is not a new book, but an updated, amended version of the 1999 work
'Great Balls of Fire: How Big Money is Hijacking World Football'.
Nevertheless, the new material is at times riveting; Sepp Blatter's
controversial reelection as FIFA president at the 2002 Congress
in Seoul, the collapse, on his watch, of FIFA's marketing partner
ISL, the bidding campaign for the 2002 World Cup, and the successes
and failures of the tournament itself. Interviews with various FIFA
luminaries (not all of them are smug mercenaries, it was pleasing
to discover) and first-hand accounts of the unsightly FIFA-corporate
love-in that accompanies all major tournament are a joy to read
and will raise the hackles of any fan who cares one iota about the
Elsewhere, all of the familiar episodes in FIFA's Hall of Shame
are covered: Sir Stanley Rous's courting of white footballing authorities
in apartheid South Africa, the rise and rise of Joao Havelange and
the shambolic, though at times brilliantly spun, rise to the top
of the Brazilian's prodigy Blatter. Some minor quibbles. The authors'
failure to recognize the vast array of sources they must have drawn
on to supplement their own interviews and research is poor form
given their academic background, and the absence of an index is
an irritant in a book of almost 300 pages.
The book could also have benefited from a more thorough edit to
ensure that the inclusion of recent developments did not sit awkwardly
with material written in the late 1990s. Parts of the chapter on
the bidding war for last summer's World Cup were written as if the
tournament had yet to take place, even though Badfellas was published
this year and includes a chapter on Korea/Japan 2002. Early passages
give the impression that Havelange is still FIFA president and-god
forbid-that Graham Kelly still occupies an office at the English
FA. The greed and corruption genus, like that of the hooligan memoir,
is in danger of reaching saturation point. For the current penchant
for attacking those at the very top of the game's administration
to really invigorate football literature, the debate needs to be
moved along. Thanks to Sugden, Tomlinson, Bower et al, we now know
the nature of the problem and the identities of the chief culprits.
So what, as fans, viewers and consumers, are we going to do about
them? Merely thinking about that question will prompt inward groans
of exasperation. But it needs answering.
From their glory days in the 1970s Stoke City fell into the lower
leagues of English football in the subsequent two decades, offering
little joy to their loyal fans. In the 2003-4 season however,with
an influx of Icelandic(!) money and backing the team found itself
in the First Division. She Stood There Laughing relates the
tale of one man's support for his beloved team over the season and
his relationship with his son through the medium of football. Unlike
many football dads the writer doesn't force his affiliation on his
offspring. "It's lifelong pain pain, misery and despair you're looking
at here, you know that don't you?" he warns, further complicated
by the fact that they live in Norwich some 200 miles away from Stoke.
Nevertheless his son agrees to go along for the ride which includes
trips to some of the less glamorous venues in England. The book
is a reminder that for millions of people the football fan experience
is not about following the high flying Man Uniteds and Real Madrids
of this world but about devotion to underachieving teams that, at
best, offer the possibility of a reasonable cup run or the joyous
relief of avoiding relegation. In a kind of low-fi Fever Pitch
the writer makes intellectual asides without being pretentious and
is often quite funny. A little more background about the local Stoke-Port
Vale rivalry might have been helpful for most readers but otherwise
She Stands There Laughing is one of the better additions
to the 'fanlit' canon.
A late addition to the list of writers and journalists who are
paying for their World Cup jaunts by writing a book. Forget the
guff on the dust jacket about "reliving the World Cup", Chris England's
enjoyable diary gives us not so much the drama of the tournament
as the story of a likeable Englishman re-igniting his passion for
the game on very foreign ground.
Managing to follow his team all the way to the quarter-final against
Brazil, England doesn't make it to Korea, referring to the events
over there as "the other World Cup" and like any other fan, his
World Cup experience is viewed as much from the sports bar as the
stadium. Luckily for England and writers like him, the streets,
hotels and watering holes of Japan provide more than enough opportunities
for anecdotes and observations.
If you were an England fan at the World Cup, England's book reads
like the diary you might have written if you had a pen as sharp.
You'll find all the encounters with inedible food, hi-tech toilets
and excessive politeness that you would expect from a first visit
to Japan with enough references to Benny Hill, Carry On and TV snooker
to make an Englishman feel at home. For those that didn't make it,
it's an enjoyable chronicle of a discerning football fan's first
encounter with unfamiliar territory.
The title comes from the mispronunciation of "no more borders" by
an internationally minded young Japanese and many cultures do appear
in England's book -- though always seen through the eyes of the
quintessential Englishman. Noisy Americans, Ireland fans and Mexican
Wave-ers all find themselves on the receiving end. However, the
humour is as consistently warm as England himself is affable and
readable. Icy satire is reserved for Sepp Blatter, the Premier League
moguls and Rivaldo - just where it's required.
How did the border-crossing ambitions of Hideyoshi (Toyotomi) in
the late-sixteenth century influence whether or not Hidetoshi (Nakata)
would be defending the national colours on home turf? Why did it
take until 1998 before Japan made an appearance at a World Cup if
the game of kickball (kemari) had been around since the sixth century?
What's the social movement behind the omnipresent and ever-smiling
volunteers active at the diverse venues? What drove the host cities
to spend US$2,881 million of taxpayers' money in order to build
ten "White Elephants" without even bothering to look at their future
beyond the World Cup? John Horne and Wolfram Manzenreiter's "Japan,
Korea and the 2002 World Cup", which appeared just before last year's
finals, provides answers to these and other questions. Thirteen
chapters written mainly by academics offer an insightful and detailed
analysis of the greater implications of the four-yearly tournament.
The volume is organised thematically in four parts. The first part
focuses on "the competition behind the competition" and looks at
the power struggles surrounding the organisation of the tournament.
The four chapters of the second section should appeal most to readers
who are interested in the historical development of football and
its globalisation process in the host nations. The third part deals
with influences of the World Cup on national political economy and
civil society, such as its role in the growth of voluntary groups
as a new social movement in Japan. The final section looks at the
tournament as a mega-event which transforms urban spaces and as
a media event with global sociological and commercial implications.
One theme the book fails to address thoroughly, however, is fan
culture. Shimizu Satoshi's chapter on the Urawa Reds fans provides
a glimpse into the different values, meanings and identities attached
to football fandom in Japan, but only briefly refers to national
fan culture surrounding the national team. The behaviour and appearance
of both Japanese and Korean supporters was, from a comparative point
of view, one of the most striking features of the past World Cup
and deserves further attention. "Japan, Korea and the 2002 World
Cup" is in the first place a scholarly publication on sports studies.
It is certainly no light poolside reading, but for those willing
to make the effort it does provide a deeper understanding into the
larger social, economic, political and cultural ramifications of
"the people's game" in the two host nations.
Not only do we have to thank Ruud Gullit for coining such a marvelous
phrase, but for triggering the thought inside Peter Gilmour's head
to write this wonderful book. Sexy Football epitomizes everything
a good novel of this genre should be, as too often football novels
have failed to deliver. This however is undoubtedly the best since
Fever Pitch. From a brilliant first chapter through to the
last it is funny, witty, intelligent, and takes you to many unexpected
places that will make you laugh, cry and gasp in disbelief. A story
that is set around football and the role it plays in the protagonist's
life, we also follow him through his sexual rites of passage. Reading
with the increased intrigue of a voyeur who thinks they have just
witnessed a murder across the street, we see him draw parallels
between the two and also how they manage to intertwine themselves
to affect his life. Sexy Football is a brilliant read. A must in fact! Regardless
of whether you are a fan of the world's greatest game or not, you
will love it.
In december 2000 wordt voetbal- en tenniscommentator
Jan Roelfs door Guus Hiddink gevraagd voor de functie van teammanager
van de Zuid-Koreaanse nationale ploeg, die zich gaat voorbereiden
op het wereldkampioenschap voetbal in eigen land en Japan in 2002.
Jan Roelfs houdt zich in die rol bezig met allerlei praktische zaken
en hij organiseert de contacten met de Koreaanse en internationale
media. Hij ervaart aan den lijve wat het betekent om direct betrokken
te zijn bij de trainersstaf van een van de WK-deelnemers. De onpartijdige
tv-verslaggever voelt nu zelf de spanning voor een wedstrijd. Jan
Roelfs vertelt in zijn boek over zijn persoonlijke ervaringen en
over de werkwijze van headcoach Guus Hiddink tijdens de 500 dagen
die voorafgaan aan het WK en het WK zelf. Hij beschrijft hoe alles
waar Hiddink mee bezig is slechts zijn doel dient: de tweede ronde
halen op het WK. "Mr. Hiddink", buiten zijn werk een levensgenieter,
is een coach die alle touwtjes in handen heeft. Hij leidt de groep
met strakke hand, maar is ook open en humoristisch. Het begrip "open
vizier" ligt hem in de mond bestorven. Typerend voor het belang
van openheid is het doorbreken van het senioriteitsprincipe: het
door de cultuur bepaalde ontzag dat jongeren hebben voor ouderen.
Het loslaten van deze strakke sociale omgangsvorm wordt door de
Koreaanse spelers als een kultuurschok ervaren maar evenzeer als
een bevrijding: de jongere spelers krijgen de kans zich te ontwikkelen
en manifesteren. Hiddink weet ook de rol van de multinationals,
die via een commissie van wijze mannen tot dan toe de nationale
voetbalselectie hadden bepaald, te elimineren. Hij laat zelfs de
legertop merken wie de baas is als het over voetbal gaat. Deze houding
vormt een rode draad in de aanpak van Hiddink: hij schuwt confrontaties
niet. Integendeel, hij gebruikt ze om zijn positie te versterken.
Iedere zwakke plek in de organisatie wordt weggewerkt. Zo worden
er ook wijzigingen doorgevoerd in de medische staf. Wanneer de resultaten
voor en tijdens het WK beter worden, neemt de populariteit en het
aanzien van Hiddink ongekende vormen aan. Het hoogtepunt van de
500 dagen in Zuid-Korea is ongetwijfeld de explosie van vreugde
na de strafschop waarmee Zuid-Korea zich plaatst voor de halve finale.
Het moment ook voor Jan Roelfs die als rechterhand van Hiddink plotseling
het voorrecht heeft te delen in dit succes. 500 dagen in Zuid-Korea
geeft de lezer geen inzicht in taktische of technische voetbalzaken.
Wel wordt duidelijk dat de wijze waarop Guus Hiddink zijn rol als
coach vorm geeft van wezenlijk belang is geweest voor de prestaties
van de voetbaldwerg Zuid-Korea. Een interessant boek voor voetballiefhebbers
en zeker voor trainers.