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 the final part of Chris's list. Here's part one, part two, and part three.
Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, Alex Bellos
Well-written, researched and presented with an uncommon understanding of the wholesale manner in which soccer permeates EVERY facet of Brazilian society and culture, Bellos demonstrates why Brazil produces so much soccer talent and why Brazil will probably continue to win nearly one of every two world cup finals. My fondest memory from this book (I do not have a copy at hand) has to do with fringe players in the Brazilian professional scene and their deep-seated desire to play professionally in Europe. Two young Brazilian players, co-opted by their agent, no doubt, end up playing professionally in the Faroe Islands. Yes, technically Europe, but…yikes. Unfortunately the guys are perpetually cold, homesick, and must work part time in a fish cannery to make ends meet. The witch doctor planting ritualistic objects around the Vasco de Gama ground also stands out. Silly? How about all that Boston Red Sox stuff they found in newly poured concrete at the new Yankee Stadium?
“Gazza Agonistes,” Ian Hamilton
Technically this piece on former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne is an article, but an extremely long one. It can be found in the December 1993 UK literary magazine “Granta.” This can be purchased on Amazon…I checked. Amazon wasn’t around when I got my hands on it. Oddly enough, the editor of issue #45 of “Granta” is none other than the aforementioned Bill Buford, not the former Yes and King Crimson drummer. I include this article here for two reasons: 1.) it was the first serious piece about soccer I ever read, and 2.) for those too young to have seen Paul Gascgoigne play at his peak and even for those who did, his talent, vision and creativity were such as almost never seen in English footballers. Indeed, his skills were reminiscent of South American or Mediterranean distributing midfielders. The fact this his story ended up fitting the sad cliché of talent squandered on booze and sloth, and perhaps some serious mental health issues, was apparent even at the time this piece was first released.
Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby
By virtue of being an Arsenal fan, I hereby recuse myself from reviewing this book. Let’s just say it’s a lot like everything else Hornby has written: adult male, seemingly doing alright, is really an immature boy at heart and desperately needs to grow up.