Who Taught You Octogan?
Before we get into the soccer stuff a quick question...Was anyone else aware that you are supposed to leave two spaces after a period before you start a new sentence? I never knew this! Being a summer associate at a law firm suddenly has made me aware of all the minor details. Just wanted to ask that question because I've never really come across that rule in all my years of writing. Ok on to the futebol......
The past two days are what you would call "a slow news day" in the journalism business. Not that I'm actually in the business, but I'm familiar with the term. Anywho, I've been wondering what I will write about to maintain interest in this blog while there are no games. What I came up with is about as nerdy as I am -- a reading list. Interest about soccer usually crests at the beginning of the world cup and troughs once it ends. Hopefully, many will maintain their interest once the tournament is over. To that end, below I've listed some of my favorite books on soccer. Before anyone asks, yes I've read them all and yes I think they are worth the read otherwise I wouldn't suggest them. Without further ado....
1. Futebol Brasileiro, Soccer the Brazilian Way
In my humble opinion, this is one of the best books written about soccer. It's rich with cultural stories that helps you understand why the Brazilians are so good at what they do. For example, every year there's a huge soccer tournament in the Amazon. It's got more teams than march madness. It's a completely amateur tournament yet communities prepare for months getting ready for the tournament holding try outs, etc. The most interesting thing about the tournament to me is that every team gets to bring a beauty queen for the pageant. If you are eliminated from the tournament but your beauty queen wins the pageant you are suddenly reentered into the tournament. Now, there's a rule I like. Can you imagine if all the college teams had to bring the best looking girl on campus to march madness to compete? How high would be the scrutiny be for these women? Just wondering. There's also the story about the shocking defeat to Uruguay at the Maracana(to this day still regarded as the lowest moment in Brazilian soccer historyThe best discovery for me in reading this book was the Brazilian soccer star Garrincha. To many Brazilians, Garrincha was greater than Pele and he is widely regarded as the best dribbler. He is known as much as a cautionary tale as he is for his skill since Garrincha became a chronic drunk and died pennyless.
2. Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football
This is another personal favorite because the book takes an interesting look at Dutch soccer. Instead of looking at Dutch soccer in a vaccuum, the book finds inspiration for the Dutch emphasis on spacing on the field coming form their artists. Dutch painters were obsessed with spacing on the canvas and there's also the famous line that 'god created the earth but the dutch created the netherlands.' Given that the country is basically a series of dams, the Dutch have always had a knack fo rmaking the most out of their space. Their football, the book contends, is no different. Thankfully the book does not take itself too seriously and does a good job of conveying its main point.
3. Barca: A People's Passion
The book was wirtten on the 100 year history of FC Barcelona. The beautiful thing about this book is that it really shows that Barca has always been a team for the great artists of the game. From the days of the great Hungarian Ferenc Puskas to the magnificent Johan Cryuff to the irrepressible Diego Maradona to the toothy Ronaldinho, Barca has always been the home to the world's most artistic players. With FC Barca being the pride of Catalunya it was always at a disadvantage whenever it played Real Madrid while Franco was in power because Real Madrid was Franco's team. That is why FC Barcelona's motto is 'more than a club' because the team represents everything that Catalunya stands for and for a while under Franco Barca's home stadium the Camp Nou was the only place where the Catalunyian flag could fly.
If you needed another reason to hate the Nazis this book gives it to you. Long before Dynamo Kiev was the team that gave the world Andriy Shevchenko and Sergei Rebrov the team provided the Ukrainian city of Kiev with the soldiers who fough to the death and was the last line of defense when the Nazis came. The only way these men stayed alive was because they were good at soccer. A truly moving book.
5. The Untouchables
Yeah, yeah yeah, it's not a book. Instead it's a video chronicling Arsenal's unbeaten season. Aresenal went through the 2003/2004 season undefeated...the first time that's been done in England's top flight in over 100 years. This video chronicling the amazing season is a must have for any Arsenal fan. The video has every Arsenal goal from that season and interviews of all the players. The biggest surprise from the video was how many instrumental goals Robert Pires scored that season. His performance that season would put to shame anyone who would suggest that Frank Lampard is the best goalscoring midfielder in the Premiership over the past five years.
A comprehensive history of German football. I would have never thought that Shalke 04 was one of the big dogs of German football way back when. The book explains why German teams have those crazy acronymns like "VFL" at the beginning of their name. The greatest revelation I got from the book was that German football was mostly an amateur sport until 1963 due mustly to a general distrust of professionalism in sports. Most of the German sports clubs were a make up of amateur athletes and the Germans saw no reason why football should be any different. Really good read.