Thursday, June 10, 2010

Top 5 World Cup Football Books

List by Paul

Paul is the very quirky editor of our Science Fiction newsletter. If you haven't yet read one of his issues you really, really are in for a hoot! They're irreverent, fun and chocker block full of book goodness ;) Danielle (editor of the Fantasy newsletter) and myself (editor of the Romance newsletter) have offered to 'guest edit' a Sci-Fi issue and then sat back and smirked as the curses started. Paul has this terrible idea we would overrun it with half-naked men and unicorns. You know...he may well be right!

The list below is Paul's best of the best of world cup football books - with a slight twist from our usual format: he's also added a quote and, instead of the synopsis, his own short review for each selected title. Enjoy!

New Zealand's World Cup : the inside story / John Adshead & Kevin Fallon ; as told to Armin Lindenberg

“As soon as the game was finished Fallon made his way through the frightening scenes dodging cans and other flying missiles as best he could, and once in the safety of the corridor which connects the dressing rooms at the back of the stand at Mt Smart, he found himself face to face with [referee] Sudarso. He was still seething with anger as he pinned a shaking Sudarso in a corner and said, “I don’t know how you sleep at night…”

The greatest modern sporting achievement by any NZ team is told through the words and thoughts of the two men who steered the nation’s football team through an unforgettable 15 match dreamscape to reach the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain: team manager John Adshead and his assistant Kevin Fallon. The 70’s porn star look was obviously in vogue in NZ football at the time and although only intimated by the photographs contained in this book it may actually explain more about how NZ intimidated and ultimately conquered more populous and financially endowed Oceanic, Asian and Middle-Eastern nations en route to Mundial ’82. Even if the journalism is itself a little perfunctory the honesty of this little country’s bewildering sporting overachievement shines through wonderfully. Oh finally, here’s a widely believed fact that I didn’t actually have to invent: the All Whites have won their World Cup only one time less than the All Blacks have won rugby’s equivalent!

The global game : writers on soccer / edited by John Turnbull, Thom Satterlee, and Alon Raab

“Like all Uruguayan children I wanted to be a soccer player. I played quite well. In fact I was terrific, but only At night when I was asleep… irredeemable klutz, disgrace of the playing fields, I had no choice but to ask of words what the ball so desired denied me.” [Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano]

This anthology of 56 pieces of writing on football / soccer, sourced from writers around the globe, attempts to convey something of the spiritual and emotional transcendence that the game offers millions on this planet. For the brotherhood of man, unlike many inferior constructs which have attempted to unify him under a single omnipotence, football offers “… a belief system, a sense of his life. The ball as an object of veneration gives meaning to one man’s existence and facilitates communion with his fellow humans, both past and future”. Thus poetry sits alongside socio-political tracts which sit alongside poignant personal introspections and memoirs… “Why Does My Wife Love Peter Crouch?” bemoans poet Thorn Sattlerlee… Anatoly Kuznetsov explores the mystique and fate of the Dynamo Kiev side of 1942 following its “Death Match” against a German team… and Icelandic novelist Einar Mar Gudmundsson conveys the oddity of the cultural experience for a closeted Socialist nation when a streaker disrupted Albania’s international match against Iceland. Read this book and when you begin to understand a little bit more about football, you will begin to understand a little bit more about life, although not about the Scottish national team… that’s just absurd).

Soccer / Hugh Hornby ; photographed by Andy Crawford [DK Eyewitness Book]

“In the Scottish Orkney Isles, a type of football, or soccer game is played through the streets every New Year. The ball is much heavier than a normal soccer ball and is stuffed tightly with pieces of cork. This helps it to last for several hours of play and also makes it float on water – a useful feature because a team can score a goal by throwing the ball into the sea”. (And so explaining the Scottish national team’s inability to kick balls into netted goals which is apparently a FIFA rule about how you get to win world cups and such).

The boys and girls at Dorling Kindersley Ltd have a well deserved reputation for producing visually engaging books and while this title once again presents an interesting and sometimes eclectic collection of football related novelties and artefacts to accommodate the brief overarching text, its difficult to see its long term appeal for footy aficionados (over the age of 10) who will find much of the content either superficial or peripheral to their hardcore fascination with the global phenomenon. Yes, football is the world’s national sport – why do you think God made the planet round, er, just like a football?!?!?! Still, this book is probably worthwhile picking up from your library and flicking through during halftime at this year’s world cup.

The clip-art CD that accompanies this book is a bit of an own goal though.

World football records 2010 / Keir Radnedge.

“Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele is the one person who has never liked the nickname. He has admitted to having punched the classmate who came up with it, earning a two-day suspension from school”.

“Explosive debut edition” screams the cover! Well, not actually “screams”, but those words definitely appear... down there… at the bottom. This is a comprehensive and colourful train-spotter’s guide, bursting with enough trivia to make you the preverbal football guru with all your mates down at the local boozer and with which to strangle all attempts by family members to engage in emotionally bonding conversations with you (which can be particularly annoying when the footy is on the telly for chrissakes!) While the focus is upon FIFA World Cup tournaments, other competitions including age group World Cups, Olympic Games, Beach Soccer, Futsal, Women’s soccer and EA Sports Interactive World Cups are psychedelically presented. Footy Fact: in 2009 New Zealand was ranked 78 in the FIFA / Coca-Cola world rankings, ahead of the likes of Austria, Mongolia and the might of St Kitts & Nevis (wherever there is… the main thing is that the Scottish football team could probably force a draw or escape with just a 1 or 2 goal loss to St Kitts & Nevis if St Kitts gave us a chance and rested their best striker and goalkeeper)

Soccernomics : why England loses, why Germany and Brazil win, and why the US, Japan, Australia, Turkey - and even Iraq - are destined to become the kings of the world's most popular sport / Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski.

“For a very long time soccer escaped the Enlightenment. Soccer clubs are still mostly run by people who do what they do because they have always done it that way. These people used to “know” that black players “lacked bottle: and they therefore overpaid mediocre white players. Today they discriminate against black managers, buy the wrong players, and then let those players take penalties the wrong way".

Simon Kuper (a journalist) and Stefan Szymanski (one of the world’s leading sports economist) torture data, binomial probability theory and combinatorics to have rational, impartial statistics reveal some all pervading football truths, such as: Why England loses and others win, The best little football country on the planet, Do fans really jump off buildings when their teams lose? Why poor countries are poor at football (and will forever remain so) and The future map of global football and the next giants will speak English as a second language

Wonderfully, gloriously, Scotland even appear above England in the ranking of European national teams based on a whole bunch of criteria that aren’t really all that important… the key stat remains that the Scots were the unofficial World Champions in 1967 after thrashing England (then World Champions) 3-2 at Wembley Stadium, and “No” that isn’t sad or pathetic or living in the past… if we need a trophy we’ll just pop along to the local engravers.

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