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

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  1,938 ratings  ·  124 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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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
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
Steve Kettmann
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
Oleg Kagan
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
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
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
"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
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Excellent story of a Serie B team and life as a Italian Soccer player in a small town.
Kate Buford
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Oct 14, 2007 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Soccer fans, Italophiles
An American reporter travels to Italy to track the miraculous wins (and horrible botches) of a small-town Series B soccer team. Though not exactly a literary coup, this personable tale provides two things you need to have any insight on the country and culture -- portraits of real people, both the average middle class guys who have staked their living on a soccer career and the few wealthy men in every town who run things -- and the national obsession with soccer, which is both epic and mundane. ...more
At times a bit self-indulgent, the Miracle at Castel di Sangro is nonetheless one of the best books ever written about soccer. It's warm, funny and McGinniss does what all great authors should do — take us to another world, even if that world is actually part of our own.
To paraphrase Bill Shankley, football is more than simply a matter of life and death. The Miracle assures us that 'il calcio' is more than even that. A fairy tale that was with an ending that could have been.
Ronald Wise
A non-fiction book written by McGinnis, resulting from the obsession for soccer he developed after the World Cup was held in the United States in 1994. A miracle had occurred in Italy: A soccer team had risen from the obscurities of amateur play, to play in the upper professional tiers — a team from Castel di Sangro, the town of 5,000 in the impoverished province of Abruzzo. McGinnis lived in Castel di Sangro while the team struggled to keep its place in Serie B in 1996. Despite cringing frequen ...more
This book was incredibly interesting. I have never been the biggest fan of the Italian Calcio system, however I think I will revisit the league and seek out a squad close to this small market club. Joe McGinniss, who was supposed to attend the Hofstra soccer conference prior to his March 10th passing (2014), has a very unique writing style. At times, I was sad, other times I was mad. My attention was fully present all 400 or so pages. And damn....Don't we all wish this would have ended different ...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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