Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Guest Post: Random Musings on Soccer Lit Part 3

I've asked one of the most well read guys I know, Chris Shaffer, who is the team manager for Rocket City United, to do a post on some of the "soccer books" that he's read. Now, if you know Chris, you'll know that he does not have a loss for words. So, I've had to break up his list into a few parts. This is part three of Chris's list. Here's part one and part two.

Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football, Phil Ball

No English language writer knows Spanish football better than Phil Ball. A longtime resident of San Sebastian (he recently returned to the UK after a decade in Spain) and spouse of a Spaniard, he speaks the language, knows the game, and perhaps most importantly, understands how powerful regionalism is in its affect on Spanish history, culture and sport. Morbo is a serious book, and if understanding the Real Madrid-FC Barcelona rivalry through the lens of Catalan nationalism vis-à-vis Franco’s fascism is not your idea of a good time, this may not be the book for you. For those who persevere, however, the payoff is great. Who knew that Huelva is the cradle of Spanish Football? Is there enough Basque football talent to keep Atletic de Bilboa in La Liga in the coming years, or will their management be forced to field non-Basque players?

Once in a Lifetime: The Incredible Story of the New York Cosmos, Gavin Newsham

It usually bodes poorly for a book’s prospects when the cover is festooned with the words “now a major motion picture,” and Once in a Lifetime is no exception. Author Gavin Newsham of the Brit-Tabloid school of journalism provides an intimate (read: anything racy, lewd or embarrassing) portrait of the bizarre colossus that was the New York Cosmos. Newsham, who also wrote Letting the Big Dog Eat, a biography of John Daly (one of the few professional golfers colorful [or stupid] enough to be tabloid fodder), is particularly brutal on Georgio Chinaglia. On second thought, maybe there is something to like about this book.

Among the Thugs, Bill Buford

Hooliganism used to be known as “The English Disease,” but those days are passed, along with the Falklands War, Maggie Thatcher, and the ultra-right National Front, a UK political party heavy on xenophobia, racism and soccer hooliganism. Hooliganism at its height in England in the 1980’s wasn’t solely the purview of the National Front, as Buford makes clear, but was symptomatic of English societal issues that, mercifully, have changed as has the socio-economic background of the average English soccer fan. As a glimpse back in time, Buford’s study has some value. However, his self-righteousness following his immersion in and, at least tacit encouragement of hooliganism smacks of hypocrisy. In today’s world, serious hooliganism is far more of a problem in Italy and Argentina than in England, although Millwall fans alone, perhaps to compensate for the quality of their side’s play, seem to cling pathetically to violence that’s twenty years out of date in England and never was anything about which to be proud.

Chris covers the final three books in his list in Part 4.

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