As a long-time soccer fan, I am currently experiencing a major bout of World Cup fever, and the only prescription… is more soccer books!
Davies, Pete. All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia ’90. 1990. London: Mandarin, 1991.
As I mentioned in a recent post, I have a lot of nostalgia for the 1990 World Cup because it included the first soccer match I ever saw on television, the semifinal between England and West Germany. England’s fourth-place finish remains their second-best ever World Cup result, and it set off an era of hope for the national team that was crushed when they failed to qualify for U.S. ’94. Davies’s book chronicles England’s experience leading up to and including the tournament.
It came in the mail earlier this week and I have already finished reading it because it is so grippingly written; the tournament itself was exciting, but Davies manages to make its narrative even more thrilling despite readers already knowing how it will end. Even the fact that it is dated in some ways, as the soccer universe is incredibly different now than it was then (e.g., wins were still only worth two points, the referees still dressed all in black, only two substitutions were allowed, and the World Cup only included 24 teams, not to mention that lucrative ventures such as the English Premier League and the Champions League were still several years in the future), helps make the book more appealing to present-day readers because the story Davies tells is even more tragic now that we know that Italia ’90 was the pinnacle of English football as well as the best World Cup until this year’s fantastic version. It was also the last time Paul Gascoigne (who comes off as a lovely person in the book [which is by no means a hagiography], making his ever-present battles with addiction even more heart-wrenching) ever played in a World Cup. The front cover has a blurb from Time Out that says the book “could well be the best book ever written about football,” and I would say that it is at least in the top three that I have read.
Vecsey, George. Eight World Cups: My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer. New York: Times, 2014.
It has been wonderful to see so many Americans following this year’s World Cup because I became a soccer fan just as the American soccer dark ages were beginning to come to a close, thus I can appreciate how much the game has grown in the U.S. over the past 25 years. Vecsey is a writer who has been covering soccer since those dark ages, and I am excited to read this account of his career doing so.
Both books were acquired from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.