Euro 2020 might have come to an end, and football might have gone to Rome instead of coming ‘home’, but that does not mean that football is out of our lives. No way. Thanks to the wonderful world of books, football is literally a few pages away. And if you are someone who is wondering where to get a bit of football into their lives in between matches, tournaments and leagues, well, here are six books that will bring football home to wherever you are:
Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics
Do you ever get confused by all that talk of tactics and strategy by football pundits – all that stuff about 4-3-3, the 3-5-2, Catenaccii, Sweeper, Pressing, Gegenpressing and so on? Well, this is the perfect book for you. Wilson takes you on a history of the evolution of football tactics and he does so in a manner that is full of anecdotes about characters who changed and are changing the way football is played. The one book every football fan should read.
Soccernomics: Why England Lose, Why Germany, France and Spain Win, and Why One Day the Rest of the World Will Finally Catch Up
This is the perfect book for anyone who thinks they know everything that is there to know about The Beautiful Game. For it smashes most core beliefs to smithereens within seconds. The combination of economics professor Stefan Szymanski and veteran football writer Simon Kuiper is a telling one – one pulls out data and the other adds anecdotes and people. And the conclusions they draw are fantastic – for instance, England actually are over achievers in football given their population and social conditions. You are going to be stunned most of the time by what you read here, most of all because this is all so carefully reasoned out. And brilliantly narrated.
The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football
There are histories of football that focus entirely on the sport. And then there are books like David Goldblatt’s epic The Ball is Round that look at the sport as a part of the world in which we all live and how it affected society and vice versa. The Ball is Round is a magnificent book that not only tracks the growth of football in different regions of the world across time, telling you how it became the near-religion it is today, but also links it with social and economic conditions. This is not just about matches and players but about people. And that is only fair. After all, this is the people’s sport.
Tip: Once you have read this, head right on to read The Age of Football: The Global Game in the Twenty First Century, by the same author. Once again, a wonderful narration of the sport as well as the world in which it exists.
A Matter of Life and Death: A History of Football in 100 Quotations
David Goldblatt’s The Ball is Round might have too much of a “world view” for some. If you want a more football centric view of the sport, then this book by Jim White is perfect for you. Yes, it does have a definite English Football bias, but the idea of narrating football history through a series of quotations arranged chronically is outstanding. And White’s brilliant narration makes this one entertaining read – the story behind the “Agueroooooo” scream that marked perhaps the most amazing Premier League finish ever makes the book worthwhile, but White is in excellent form right through. This is a book for the casual follower as well as the footy fanatic. Perhaps the most entertaining book of this collection.
Fever Pitch: A Fan’s Life
Perhaps the most acclaimed book ever written by an author who was not professionally associated with the spot in any way. Fever Pitch is Booker Award winning author Nick Hornby’s take on football and the impact it had on his life. He tracks the fortunes and events around the club he supports, Arsenal. The blend of football and memoir is seamless and really gives you an idea of what football could mean to a follower and how it affects them. Easily the most literary book of this list.
History of the World Cup
The World Cup is the Holy Grail of football for many – the one trophy that represents the apogee of the sport. And legendary football writer Brian Glanville walks us through the history of this tournament, highlighting key matches, performances, stars and controversies. It is all here – from the tumultuous first World Cup final between Argentina and Uruguay in 1930 to Maradona’s (in)famous Hand of God goal in 1986 to Germany’s stunning 7-1 demolition of Brazil in front of its home crowd. All told in brilliant detail with a refreshingly objective perspective. The book is refreshed before every edition of the World Cup. Expect a new one in 2022, but even the current one is a must-read!