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Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Football

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,578 ratings  ·  109 reviews
The Netherlands has one of the World's most distinctive and sophisticated football cultures. From the birth of Total Football in the sixties, through two decades of World Cup near misses to the exiles who remade clubs like AC Milan, Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea in their own image, the Dutch have often been dazzlingly original and influential. The elements of their style ...more
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published June 19th 2000 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 2000)
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Fever Pitch by Nick HornbyInverting the Pyramid by Jonathan  WilsonBrilliant Orange by David WinnerThe Damned Utd by David PeaceSoccernomics by Simon Kuper
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Community Reviews

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Fascinating study of the evolution of Total Football, taking in the possibilities that the Dutch teams of the 1960s were influenced by such varied aspects of their culture as architecture, geography, social upheaval and discussing potential reasons for why they also have a habit of imploding and failing dramatically at major tournaments. Deserving of much more than I can give it at six am.
Let me begin this with a confession. I had absolutely no intention of reading this book so soon into the New Year, especially after reading something as comprehensive & exhausting as "Soccer in Sun and Shadow" last month. But a friend of mine on Twitter seemed to wax lyrical about it while he was halfway through, so I sort of gave him my word over a discussion I would read it & there you go, I did.

"Brilliant Orange" is a football book alright, despite David Winner's disclaimer that it is
Mar 13, 2009 Chris rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chris by: Nick Hornby
Shelves: read-in-2009
One of the most hilarious things that can happen on a soccer field is also one of the most improbable. It's when a player attempts to take a shot on goal and misses so far wide that the ball crosses the sideline, resulting in a throw-in for the opposing team and much laughter from everyone who witnessed it. If you're unfamiliar with the sport or with the physics of striking a ball, trust me that this is not an easy thing to do. I've been playing/watching soccer for close to 25 years and I've per ...more
This book sells itself as a populist guide to Dutch soccer, one that will deal with not just history, but strategy and theory. It doesn't (exactly) deliver. The first few chapters are engaging and make connections between the way the Dutch play soccer and the way they think about art, cities, politics and philosophy. From there, the author descends into a series of exegeses dealing with particular players, matches and coaches that, together, provide a haphazard history of orange football. Worth ...more
The book fortunately was not boring. The way it connect's a sports teams performance with a nation's attitude and psyche is interesting, reflection of Dutch mindset all the more so. I have admired Dutch players and have been perplexed how a team with such brilliance have failed at a global level, the book helped demystify it. David Winner being a journalist, the journalistic objectivity in writing up this analytic work is evident in quite a few presentation, the balance helped to understand bett ...more
This is a very good, but fundamentally flawed book. It is an easy/fun read with above-average intelligence w/r/t reporting&thought. At the same time, it continually hints at ideas that it shies away from exploring in a little more depth. There is no bibliography, so it is tough to make a case for it pointing to other books that may provide more insight. It makes the whole thing feel like a well-quoted confirmation of the author's opinions. But I find those opinions relevant and interesting, ...more
Jan 12, 2009 Adam rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Marika, Max, Marco, Jeanine
Marika: this book was a fascinating look behind the brillance of dutch footballers and dutch society since the 60s in general and how the two relate. I learned that the dutch soccer philosophy of playing attractive attacking football has been paramount to actually winning for the majority of the Dutch football heirarchy, ever since the glory days of Cruyff and Ajax in the early seventies. And that because of their arrogance and bickering the dutch will never win the world cup even with teams ful ...more
One wouldn't think a book about soccer could be informative about other aspects of life such as politics, culture, and art. However, this book manages to relate 'the beautiful game' to the beautiful aspects of the Dutch culture in a way that readers or all walks of life can understand. You don't necessarily need to be a soccer nerd to read the book, though it certainly helps as the author has a tendency to throw out names fairly often. The book is written to a general audience and anyone that is ...more
The chapters dedicated to football are excellent. Those that bring in art and history for comparisons fall flat, for me at least. Probably because neither are very relevant to me.

Would have loved to watch 'totaalvoebal', as it is described here. The football must have been beautiful ,but the narration made it even more so.

Good have included a lot more photos, esp of some of the pivotal dutch football moments over the years
Andrew Hague

Along with 'All Played Out', Pete Davies' chronicle of England's exploits at Italia 90, 'Brilliant Orange' is the best book on football I have ever read. Calling it a 'football book' alone is doing it a huge disservice. Winner uses that incredible period of the 1970's where the Netherlands brought 'Total Football' to the world and uses it as a platform to explore the overall psyche of the nation. Connections are made between the unique way the Dutch play their football and that of their architec
Eddy Allen

The Netherlands has been one of the world's most distinctive and sophisticated football cultures. From the birth of Total Football in the sixties, through two decades of World Cup near misses to the exiles who remade clubs like AC Milan, Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea in their own image, the Dutch have often been dazzlingly original and influential. The elements of their style (exquisite skills, adventurous attacking tactics, a unique blend of individual creativity and teamwork, weird pattern
A wonderful book about the Dutch. It focuses on Dutch football but goes far beyond that. Of course you get to hear about the big moments in Dutch football history (the early 70s, late 80s, even 2010 in what I presume was a revised version) but it doesn't stop there. Culture, architecture and politics are explained and linked to football. Why are the Dutch scared of Germany, penalties and ultimately themselves? David Winner will tell you in one of the rare football books that should be interestin ...more
Zack Davoodi
"'In Spain or in Italy they only talk about one thing and that's winning. Just win the game; don't be so difficult. If you play well - OK, Fantastic. If you don't play well, well it's bad luck. But win. If you have a few Dutch players in such an Italian or Spanish team or an English team, they pick it up and go with it, the neurosis disappears. Yet for some reason, when the Dutch are together, the main thing is 'Let us show the World how good we are'."

"'In music there is a rule, the bigger the g
Terry Heller
When I went to the Netherlands on vacation last spring, I asked my friends on social media to recommend some books about Amsterdam, and the Netherlands in general, other than the obvious ones like The Diary of Anne Frank and The Girl With the Pearl Earring. A couple of people (as well as my Lonely Planet guide book) recommend David Winner's BRILLIANT ORANGE: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football. A book about Dutch soccer's influence on Dutch society and Dutch society's influence on Dutch soccer ...more
Hiten Samtani
I'm reading David Winner’s brilliant ‘Brilliant Orange’, a look at the development of Dutch football (soccer) through the wider lens of national culture.

Via the awesome Culture of Soccer :

Winner claims that “space is the unique defining element of Dutch football. Other nations and football cultures may have produced greater goalscorers, more dazzling individual ball-artists, and more dependable and efficient tournament-winning teams. But no one has ever imagined or structured their play as abs
While this book's title says it is about Dutch soccer, it's really about much more. It's about what it's like to be Dutch. And while we might think of the Dutch as easy going, pot smoking, genial friends to all who visit, in reality, there is a lot more to being Dutch.

Winner does a great job of putting together an examination of how Dutch soccer (football for the rest of the world) has changed over time. The Dutch for the first half of the 20th Century were lightly regarded in Europe. Then, when
Andrew Martin
hard to know whether to characterize Winner's project as genius or madness, but whatever it is, it's original.

there's very little internal structure to the book - more of a series of loosely connected sketches, with a few re-occurring characters. even the chapter numbers aren't sequential - this will likely be the only book I ever read that contains a chapter -14.

'dutch space is different' is the hands down high point - a meditation on dutch history, national character, and football tactics. re
This is a pretty good book too be honest, although it does have some flaws, but I'll keep the review short and sweet.

The first of which, the author notes in the introduction, how the book is as much about Dutch philosophy and culture as it is about football. There is a lot of talk about architecture and art as well as the holocaust. The second problem was that this isn't so much a book about 'Total Football', as it is about Ajax. Now, whilst Ajax are the dominant Dutch team, and were the greates
"Brilliant Orange" is a beautifully written book on the history, and philosophy of Dutch soccer. The author taps into research on socialogy, psychology, architecture, photography, painting, sculpture, and philosophy. Much of the philosophy in the book has to do with space, area, depth, height, and width, and the abundance of space versus the lack of space. David Winner argues persuasively that the physical nature of the Netherlands being flat, below sea level, and clastrophobic in terms of livi ...more
Michael D
Ah Holland... those mythical electric orange jerseys lit up the TV screen in my childhood and fired my imagination like no footballing team has done since. This is a really good book if you're into your football but as an investigation into the psyche of the Dutch peoples it's rather less successful. It is still however never less than readable and it's fascinating to read how a small country with a relatively meagre footballing history utterly revolutionised the game in the late 60's yet consis ...more
An engaging look at Dutch soccer and culture. I enjoyed learning how the most influential brand of football in the world got its start in unlikely Holland. It's amazing to think that when you watch Barcelona today, you are watching Dutch football as Cruyff and his Ajax crew envisioned it in the 70s.
Worth reading for any connoisseur of the beautiful game.
Paul Kingston
Excellent! A lively examination of how the Dutch psyche, artistic philosophies, history, and one man/Colossus (Cruyff) impact their brand of football. The author references Calvinism, color theory, Spinoza, Total Architecture, and the Old Masters, among other things, in an effort to analyze the "beautiful failure" that is so often the fate of the Oranje.
If you're a fan of the game then you must read this book. Even if you're not a fan of the game you should still read this book. Who knows, maybe you will fall in love with the world's most popular sport and cheer for the Dutch. But be warned, they tend to perform just well enough to come in second place. Have a happy 2014 World Cup.
While full of fascinating detail about Dutch soccer (focusing primarily on Ajax in terms of clubs, but including much about the Dutch national team) at times Brilliant Orange seems scattered and unplanned. It almost seems as though the book flips back and forth between time periods too rapidly, and anyone unfamiliar with the chronology and the famous faces of Total Football can be easily confused. However, Winner provides plenty of amusing anecdotes, and the reader definitely comes away with a s ...more
In the first several chapters, Winner repeatedly advances a rather far-fetched theory about space to link his fascinations with Dutch footballers and architects. Everyone he interviews finds a different way to politely tell him he's full of it. Their explanations nevertheless add up to one of the richer descriptions of Dutch life I've read. That's this book in a nutshell. The exposition is mostly silly but occasionally brilliant. The interviews are insightful, though best for completists. The sp ...more
quite sprawling and often preachy, this book is clearly and admittedly a passion project by someone in love with soccer and dutch culture. the only thing i've really taken away are the historical soccer parts: dutch soccer in the post-war era until the failure to qualify for the 2002 world cup. in fact, i thought winner was best when talking about history, especially the chapter on the nazi occupation and the subsequent self-identification of ajax and much of amsterdam as "jewish." in the end i' ...more
Who would have thought that a book about Dutch football could prompt extended meditations about art, architecture and landscape?

One of the most surprising books I've read in a long time. It also takes me back to those glory days of football in the 1970s when Liverpool were rampant, and the Dutch and Brazilian teams were poetry in motion. Those were formative years.

All in all, a fascinating experience, which never overbalances and becomes overwrought or heavy-handed, which it might easily have do
Jan de Leeuw
This lyrically describes a glorious period in Dutch soccer that may never return. In 1974 they deserved to win, in 1978 they deserved a draw, and in 2010, of course, they deserved to lose. Although the period produced Van Hanegem, Van Basten, Gullitt, Neeskens, Bergkamp, Rensenbrink, Overmaas and other greats -- if one looks back it was all centered around Johan Cruijff. And that includes some of the current dominance of Barcelona and Spain.
Very readable book that strokes the national pride. I w
Brilliantly written!
A book with stunning insight into dutch way of life & football obviously
Interesting take on Dutch football and society. Great preparation for World Cup 2014.
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Broad and Intelligent 2 30 Jan 08, 2012 05:33AM  
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“Johan Cruyff was the first player who understood that he was an artist, and the first who was able and willing to collectivise the art of sports.” 1 likes
“It should have been the epiphany of the sixties. Instead it turned out to be its requiem,” 1 likes
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