The big news in soccer (football) today involves the arrest of several high-ranking FIFA officials on all sorts of misconduct charges.
FIFA and corruption seem to run hand in hand – in either reality, suspicion or conspiracy theories.
Thinking about it all, including how in the heck they’ll play the World Cup in the summer of Qatar is enough to cast doubt about the world’s most popular sport.
With that in mind, here are five of my favorite non-fiction soccer books sure to invigorate a love for the game.
No. 5: The Glory Game by Hunter Davies: Davies gained unparalleled access to the 1971-72 Tottenham Hotspur side that captured the inaugural UEFA Cup. Offers terrific insight into one of England’s most storied teams and a classic manager in Bill Nicholson. Highlight: Chock full of data at the back of the book.
No. 4: Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos by Gavin Newsham. The New York Cosmos exploded onto the American soccer scene in the 1970’s when they captured the signature of Pele, easily the most famous player in world soccer history. From there, the Cosmos and the North American Soccer League embarked on a trajectory resembling Icarus. A great read about the rise and fall of the Cosmos and the NASL in general (although both are back on the scene these days). Highlight: Packed with photos. You can also catch the video documentary by the same title.
No. 3: A Season with Verona by Tim Parks: As an Englishman married to an Italian woman and residing in Verona, Tim Parks, wanted to experience Italy through his local soccer club, Hellas Verona. Parks and his son attended every Verona match – home and road – in an attempt to fully understand their nation. What results is a hilarious view of what it means to be a fan of a team with an unhealthy reputation staring at the relegation abyss. Highlight: If you’re not familiar with Italian slang and blue language, gird for some hilarious lessons.
No. 2: The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss: When a small town team teeters on the brink of Italy’s top flight, McGinniss spends the season embedded with the club. He learns ihings aren’t always as they seem within the club, town and Italian media. A literary reality-show highlighting Italy’s underbelly in Serie B. Highlight: An Italian journalist discusses his idea of how quotes should be handled in print.
No. 1: Among the Thugs by Bill Buford: What begins as a sociological study of hooliganism evolves into a rip-roaring ride through late 80’s thug culture. Buford meets and follows interesting characters on the English hooligan circuit. The story weaves its way to Sardinia during the 1990 World Cup. Readers witness Buford’s transformation from sociologist to a target of the Carbinieri. Highlight: Buford’s intro to Mick, a Manchester United cashy, produces tear-inducing laughter.
Have any other suggestions for non-fiction soccer books? Chime in via our comments section!