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The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy

4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,358 Ratings  ·  143 Reviews
Master storyteller Joe McGinniss travels to Italy to cover the unlikely success of a ragtag minor league soccer team--and delivers a brilliant and utterly unforgettable story of life in an off-the-beaten-track Italian village.

When Joe McGinniss sets out for the remote Italian village of Castel di Sangro one summer, he merely intends to spend a season with the village's soc
Paperback, 416 pages
Published June 6th 2000 by Broadway Books (first published 1999)
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Oct 19, 2010 Brad rated it it was amazing
Before there were all those book trading sites like bookmooch, bookcrossing and even goodreads, I took my copy of The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy, signed my name in the inside cover and sent it to a friend. It made the rounds and came back to me after five people had read it. I sent it out again; it has since disappeared. But that's okay because I know that at least six people, other than myself (and including my Mom who passed a couple of years ...more
Jan 27, 2015 Nicola rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, library
This could have been a wonderful book, the story it tells of Castel di Sangro's season in Serie B is amazing but it's ruined by the presence of the author.
I could cope with the explanations of various football terms (penalty kicks, corners etc) but the author's arrogant and self obsessed attitude really bugged me. He became more and more annoying as the story progressed. Why did he think the experienced coach should have listened to his suggestions regarding team selection and tactics? He'd bee
Mar 05, 2015 Mara rated it it was ok
Middle-aged American journalist unexpectedly falls in love with Italian football after watching Roberto Baggio play in the 1990 World Cup, as anyone with good taste would have done. One thing leads to another and he ends up moving to a tiny town in a remote and poor region of southern Italy to follow the local team, Castel di Sangro Calcio, who have improbably managed to get promoted to Serie B, and write a book about their "miracle." Hijinks ensue.

The good: McGinniss was a fine narrative write
Steve Kettmann
May 02, 2010 Steve Kettmann rated it really liked it
My review published in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1999:

Having a Ball in Italy
Author spends a year chronicling the fanatical world of a small-town soccer team
REVIEWED BY Steve Kettmann

Sunday, August 22, 1999

By Joe McGinniss Little, Brown; 404 pages; $25
One starts out Joe McGinniss' account of his year with a small-town Italian soccer club feeling sorry for the author for embarrassin
Aug 07, 2007 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: soccer fans
In the early stages of fanaticism there’s a giddy sense of becoming part of something larger-than-life. In time, a fan is rewarded for picking up on subtleties, aspiring to be among the cognoscenti. Then in the more mature and philosophical stages the proselytizing begins and the sport may even become “a metaphor for life.” With an objective step back, though, Gods and heroes become mortal. Joe McGinniss is a football (a.k.a. soccer) fan who has been through these stages. He does a great job des ...more
Apr 30, 2013 Matt rated it liked it
2.5 stars.

This book should've been called Joe McGinniss Goes to Italy So That Joe McGinniss Can Talk to Italians and Report on how They React to Joe McGinniss by Joe McGinniss.

A really great sports story is hidden somewhere in these 404 pages, but I'd forgive you if you missed it. McGinniss spends most of the book arguing with the coach about tactics (even though he knows nothing about soccer), claiming that he's as close to the team as if they were family (even though a player's son says his f
Winter Sophia Rose
Mar 14, 2016 Winter Sophia Rose rated it it was amazing
Moving, Breathtaking, Tragic, Funny & Fascinating! A Great Read! I Loved It!
Oleg Kagan
Jul 01, 2010 Oleg Kagan rated it liked it
Shelves: small-town
I thought that The Miracle of Castel di Sangro would be a light-hearted story of a small-town (pop: 5,000) soccer team making it into the big time. In a way, this is accurate, on the other hand, what with the mafia, crooked owners, and seedier parts of the Italian culture, Joe McGinniss shaped a story that after about the halfway mark left me wondering. The first indication that this would not be such a light-hearted story was when I flipped to the photos and read in the captions that some of th ...more
Justin Oh
Sep 23, 2013 Justin Oh rated it really liked it
This book is great! Its hilarious how the coach and the maker of the team scraps a bunch of random people and make a soccer team. The author gives a vivid picture of the team so you get what he is talking about even though you dont know much soccer. Its funny because its a little soccer team from the poorest region of Italy, Castel di Sangro and they actually go to the national competition. His training techniques are strange too. When the team goes to a hotel, he purposely gets the rooms on the ...more
Jan 24, 2016 Kirsten rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, soccer, 2016-books
This is more than just a book about soccer. It's about relationships and how those shape both events and lives. It's about how soccer is an essential part of Italian culture, but also how Italian culture shapes the calcio. And if anyone's worried about not understanding either the soccer or the league system, McGinniss is pretty good about explaining things clearly, but not talking down to the reader. In general his writing is evocative and emotional - the sort of sports writing we need more of.
Edwin Priest
What a deliciously captivating idea! An American moves to Italy to follow and hopefully befriend a soccer team through its full upstart season. Mr. McGinniss enthusiastically begins with all the innocence and excitement one would hope, and the reader is quickly immersed in the author's exhilaration and joy as the book unfolds.

Unfortunately as Mr. McGinniss' envelopment in the team and town of Castel di Sangro deepens, so does his acrimony and contention. One can appreciate that what he is trying
May 04, 2014 Marla rated it really liked it
"I have nothing to read." And there in pile of "to be reads, but always seem to start other books first", sat a dog-eared book I picked up at a used bookstore, just before the last World Cup to get myself pumped up about the upcoming matches. I didn't need a book to get me pumped up about the last World Cup OR this World Cup (39 days to go, but who's counting?)

Since last World Cup, I have been to Italy and visited many of the towns in this book. I will start by saying McGinnis does an excellent
Jessica Wodatch
Jan 08, 2010 Jessica Wodatch rated it it was ok
A very interesting story given to me by a good friend. By the end, I really disliked the author and was ready to stop reading about him. Afterwards, I felt like he focused a lot of the book on negatives (in typical journalist fashion). And it didn't make me feel proud of being Italian. So not one I'd recommend.
May 13, 2016 DazLightbown rated it it was amazing
The miracle of the title is the elevation of Castel Di Sangro, an Umbrian village of 5,000, to the second tier of the Italian league system. In Serie B, they are underdogs in every game, and even play some down-on-their-luck Italian giants slumming it in the second division. This story attracted the attention of American journalist Joe McGinniss, and he follows them over their season with pretty much unrestricted access. Being Italian football, tales of bribes, corruption and match-fixing had to ...more
May 19, 2015 Conor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 15, 2009 Mark rated it it was amazing
Excellent story of a Serie B team and life as a Italian Soccer player in a small town.
Kate Buford
Dec 31, 2014 Kate Buford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my brothers, a huge soccer fan (Arsenal), has been bugging me for years to read this classic nonfiction story about one season of one soccer team in one tiny Italian town (Castel di Sangro). Sick in bed with the flu this Christmas time, I finally read it and loved it. A great tale of one writer's immersion in his subject -- and with such a last-minute twist/finish. Heartbreaking. There is something about great sports books that transcends sports. Or, its the universality of sports that tr ...more
Simon Bantugan
Nov 18, 2015 Simon Bantugan rated it really liked it
The book The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heat of Italy, by Joe McGinniss is a great book. It is a roller coaster throughout the story. It tells a story of a small town in Italy, destroyed by World War II, getting a soccer team that reaches the second highest professional level of professional soccer. It, like said earlier, is a roller coaster of emotions and actions, with you, as the reader, believing and loving the team, and wanting the best for them. It al ...more
Oct 13, 2014 Brittany rated it liked it
He simplifies soccer and explains the games in a way that someone who has never seen the sport would get it. Unfortunately I have seen the sport so the explanations felt so dumbed down and were annoying.

I also found it a bit hard to keep track of all the players. The story mostly focused on the author and the team management but would dive into a flurry of tidbits about 5-10 players in a row with not enough time or context to really let it sink in which player was which. I knew that one player
Apr 05, 2014 Jess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was in my 20s - maybe even into my 30s, sadly - I can think of many times I pretended to like something just because a boyfriend was into it. In some cases, the pretense led eventually to a genuine interest. But in most cases, if I'm honest, it was more a hope that the shared thing would result in more affection. I am not proud of this fact, and still I realize that owning up to my insincerity was one part of how I needed to grow up to deserve (I hope) the relationship I have now.

Adam lo
Dave Finnigan
Jul 23, 2008 Dave Finnigan rated it it was amazing
The story of a lowly Italian football team's one season in Serie B,this is one of the finest books I have ever read. Not being a fan of the genre I approached it with trepidation,but inside the first 50 pages I was gripped.Although it is a true story it reads like a novel, with a cast staight out of Central Casting and the highs and lows which are rarely found in any top-flight sport in this day and age. As an American and(at the time)a newcomer to the sport, McGinnis has the enthusiasm to sit t ...more
Jun 11, 2010 Scott rated it really liked it
I read this book in the week or two before the 2010 World Cup. Recommended by a friend who knows English soccer, I thought it would be a good prep for the summer. The story is written by an author embedded with a modestly financed Italian pro team for one season. I think the author wrote about the OJ trial previously, so I wasn't sure this would be all that captivating. It turns out to be a crazy story about a small town Italian soccer team who miraculously ends up in Serie B and then battles in ...more
Jun 29, 2011 Danica rated it really liked it
I was enchanted by the first chapter, even though it plumbed the usual body of jokes about soccer (an American who likes the sport? never! Italian devotees who deem a match loss to be on par with having their homes wrecked by natural catastrophes? mais oui!). And from then on out, I found this book unusually enjoyable. It's a light, breezy read that worked on a couple of levels for me. McGuinness is effortlessly funny; he delivers these great one-liners in deadpan voiceover. There are a lot of p ...more
Tom N
Nov 03, 2012 Tom N rated it it was amazing
This story is absolutely fantastic. It is truly the most unlikely footballing tale I have ever come across and entirely deserving of the title 'miracle'.
There seems to be divided opinion on McGinniss' presentation of the story. Personally I found some of his narrative entertaining and other parts just plain annoying. At times it was very obvious that he had only been a football fan for a few years as opposed to a lifetime. However the material in the book is so engrossing, it is easy to forgive
Feb 10, 2013 Rob rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sport
The source material is fantastic, McGinniss is a pretty good stylist with a nice sense for humour, and he evidently enjoyed extraordinary access to the main personalities in the writing of the book. These add up to a great story, albeit one that seems to me to be targeted at an american audience, for whom the football and the passions involved are presented as an exoticism in themselves.

That's what makes this a pleasing Brysonesque journey with a team's season (which is extraordinary, incorporat
M. Milner
Jun 10, 2010 M. Milner rated it really liked it
Joe McGinness’ year abroad following the exploits of a minor league soccer team is funny, sad, scary and never dull, even to somebody who has never followed soccer, let alone any played in Italy.

And while he gets deep into the game, plunging in with reckless abandon, it’s by no means just a book about soccer. It’s about the people who play the game, the personalities that drive it and make it more then just something played on a pitch.

There’s the Che Guevara worshipping midfielder, the stoic tea
Fred Ceppa
Jul 22, 2014 Fred Ceppa rated it it was ok
The reviews either great or horrible I gravitate towards the middle solid 2.5. Nice book about a minor league soccer team capturing the ups and downs. For a self proclaimed "left wing " liberal he certainly likes using the stereotypes "the blond blue eyed goal keeper was calm and seemed more Nordic than italian" really really. Speaking of self proclamation well that's 75% if the book. At times charming than just annoying. Okay read if you have time to pass.
Feb 26, 2016 Ethan rated it really liked it
The author moves to a town the mountains of Italy to follow their soccer team after they improbably won their way into the more competitive league of Italian soccer. McGinniss is a wonderful guide, but he sometimes comes across as rather naive. This book was really an enjoyable read from start to almost finish, I won't ruin it but something happens at the end that is unexpected and changes his perspective on his time in Italy.

If you are caught up in World Cup soccer at the moment and want to se
Jun 22, 2008 Justin rated it liked it
My Review: Football is amazing. It ties together worlds of humanity with its passion and teleplay on life itself.

Italian football shows us the worst side of our blind enthusiasm and human nature.

The book is well written and contains many interesting stories and characters, but on the whole it glorifies the worst aspects of italian mob mentality and nationalized football's many problems. McGuiness seems to think that the passion that drives a group of disgruntled fans to kidnap and murder a refe
Sep 25, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it
Italians do not think that Americans can understand their passion for soccer, so they are nonplussed when Joe McGinniss decides to spend a year following a Serie B (second tier) team in order to write a book about their experiences. Castel di Sangro is a tiny Abruzzan town that, by what seems to be a miracle, has managed to move up through the lower levels of semi-pro and pro soccer (think of baseball, minor league and whatever its feeders are). Now they are only one tier below the glamor and mo ...more
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Joe McGinniss (born 1942) is an American author of nonfiction and novels. He first came to prominence with the best-selling The Selling of the President 1968 which described the marketing of then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, and has authored 11 works since that time. His latest book is The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.
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