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The 10 Greatest Football Books, part 2

0224072676Here's the second part of our Ten Greatest Football Books list. You can read part one here.

My Father and Other Working-class Football Heroes, by Gary Imlach
Like Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, My Father… is more of a memoir than a straight football book. Imlach, whose face you may know from his time presenting TV coverage of American football and the Tour de France, tells the story of his complex relationship with his footballer father, Stewart Imlach, a talented winger who represented Scotland at the 1958 World Cup. When Imlach Snr died, the author realised that he never really knew his father as a man, but merely in terms of his achievements on a football pitch. This touching book won William Hill's 2005 Sports Book of the Year and deservedly so – like most good sports books, this is about so much more than a game. BUY IT

Futebol_1 Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, by Alex Bellos
What does football mean to Brazil and vice versa? Many of the answers can be found in Bellos's rigorous study of the beautiful game and its inextricable relationship with the mythical yellow shirt. Although there is a whiff of the dissertation about Futebol… Bellos is a good enough writer to ensure that the book's tone reflects the gloriously colourful subject matter – if this is a history lesson, then you won't want the end-of-lesson bell to ring. BUY IT

02923279_b003 Stamping Grounds: Liechtenstein's Quest for the World Cup, by Charlie Connelly
Football is a great subject for a standard travelogue, Liechtenstein less so, you might think. However, put the two together and Bang! you have literary dynamite, or something like that. Stamping Grounds is the classic tale of the underdog. It follows Liechtenstein's attempt to qualify for the 2002 World Cup; Connelly travels to all of its qualifying matches… hang on, this isn't really selling it, is it? Suffice it to say, this is a very funny, well-written book about a very quirky little country. Perfect holiday reading material. BUY IT

7135849_2 The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Football, by David Goldblatt
If Alan Partridge were reviewing this book, he'd say something along the lines of 'Oof, big book isn't it? Wouldn't want to drop it on my foot!' And it is a big, big book – almost 1,000 pages long. It covers the brilliant careers of Pele, Maradona and Best, the great teams in history (Brazil 1970, Hungary in the 1950s) and generally aims to explain how football has developed since its conception into a global monster. That Goldblatt can take this bewildering mass of material and transform it into a coherent whole is admirable. Every football fan should find the time to read it; 990 pages and you'll still want more. BUY IT

000716291x02lzzzzzzz Soccer in Sun and Shadow, by Eduardo Galeano
The lyrical title says it all. This is a book written from the heart and as such it's infused with a joyful admiration of the game. Like the songs of The Beatles, we know the major football histories and characters so well that it's difficult to find new ways to describe them. But Galeano, a distinguished Uruguayan journalist and author, succeeds. The English translation captures beautifully the poetry and passion in Galeano's writing. BUY IT

So what did we miss? If you feel that we got it wrong or left out one of your favourites, let us know…

March 27, 2007 in Gear & games, Lists | Permalink


If I was to pick one more book, it would have been Robbie Fowler's autobiography. It's a honest man's honest book about an unhonest football world.

Posted by: Bibaldo | Mar 27, 2007 1:10:09 PM

Good shout Bibaldo, although I tried to steer clear of autobiograhies - maybe we'll do a Top 10 of those soon though. Cheers, Ollie.

Posted by: Ollie, Pies Ed. | Mar 27, 2007 1:12:40 PM

Calcio by John Foot is a fantastic look at Italian football. It goes into great teams, players, scandals, and details how things have become the way they are etc. The Italian version of Futebol, if you wish.

Posted by: Mick | Mar 27, 2007 1:40:08 PM

I've not read Calcio Mick, although I've heard it's a very good read. Thx for yr comment.

Posted by: Ollie, Pies Ed. | Mar 27, 2007 1:49:01 PM

I have a book you should steer clear of: The World Cup by Fernando Fiore. It's an infuriatingly inaccurate account of the world cup, which focuses only on Latin American teams and reads like it wasn't even proofread. Among some of the mistakes:
- Claiming Mexico, France and Germany are the only countries to host twice.
- In 1970, Sweden was in both groups B and C
- In 1938, Cuba eliminated Sweden 8-0 in the second round (instead of the other way around.)
- In 1950, the three teams that withdrew and brought the number of teams down to 13 were Argentina, Austria, and Turkey (Instead of Scotland, India and Turkey.)
And so on. I don't trust any of the "facts" I read in that book.

Posted by: Timothy B. | Mar 27, 2007 2:09:52 PM

Robbie Fowler - an 'honest man'? Is that a joke?

Posted by: Yik | Mar 27, 2007 2:17:27 PM

Either of the Garry Nelson books are a good read. I've just finished The Damned United too, which I raced through - it's a semi-fictional biography-written-as-autobiography of Brian Clough's short spell at Leeds...if that makes sense.

Posted by: StuMo | Mar 27, 2007 4:16:03 PM

- football against the enemy by simon kuper, he goes round the world to 22 countries looking at footballs effect on politics, culture, etc. its not a load of text about political, left wing, right wing, communist issues, etc as it may sound - its about the football and he looks at stories such as a guy from east germany persecuted for the team he supports, an argentine dictator with unothodox views on tactics, and more

Posted by: hablab | Mar 27, 2007 5:51:50 PM

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