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Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Football

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,148 ratings  ·  190 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
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  3,148 ratings  ·  190 reviews

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Jul 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: football, non-fiction
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. RIP Johan Cryuff, for all of the impact of architecture and geography none of this brilliance would have be ...more
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 only in
Dec 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
Can countries even have national football neuroses? Nahhh. The boring truth is that we really can’t connect the way a country plays football to its national psyche... because football is a collection of players, all separate humans; and a country is just an idea, formed by millions of different people over thousands of years.

But this book is great. At those precious moments when a country's football reaches its golden age, what fun! Then there is so much beautiful happening that we can choose a
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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, so I ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow what an incredible book. Growing up I was taught the Koerver Football style which was all about individual skill and getting multiple touches of the ball and making yourself as comfortable on the ball as you could. The skill that you need to be able to play the Dutch total football style is incredible but also at a more macro level you also need to be able to flex your style and fit into a system that is in constant flux. This book tracks the development of Dutch football from the 60s and 70 ...more
Terry Heller
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 06, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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
Jul 10, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jul 11, 2021 rated it liked it
I like to read about things I know next to nothing about. Before, all I knew about Dutch football was they wore orange, their major team shares its name with a brand of bleach, and their players have names like Ruud Gullit. (‘Rude Hurl-it.’)

This isn’t really about Dutch football as the idea of it - how they play, and why. The best chapter is ‘dutch space is different’ which links geographical influence and spatial awareness to playing style:

‘The Italians welcome and lull you and seduce you into
Raul Bazan
Sep 06, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was pretty fun to read, had some nice pictures. Every book should have some pictures.
Sep 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
First a list of all the things this book is not about

This won’t give you all the records and statistics of Dutch football.

Doesn’t have a chronological history of the game in the country. Doesn’t talk in detail about all their great players, great matches or great clubs. To sum it up, this book isn’t the best preparatory material for a quiz on Dutch football. You might even end up in last place.

In that sense, it is quite unlike most of the books written about a country or a club’s football histor
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Football and culture almost always interlink. Watch how Dutch society and culture influences the way they play, and develop, their football.
Feb 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: soccer
"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
Andrew Hague
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing

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
Hiten Samtani
Oct 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Zack Davoodi
Jan 01, 2015 rated it liked it
"'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
Aug 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never really bought the cultural connection from the country's supposed social awakening phase in the 60s to the dawn of Total Football in the 70s, but I don't think the author really tried too hard to make the case. Regardless, it was interesting to have the histories of social and football growth traced from their beginnings to different time periods. It was an interesting supposition. The whole book, in fact, was just that: I enjoyed the ideas behind the premise enough to have the ultimate ...more
Ramnath Vaidyanathan
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My earliest memory of watching football was staying up late to watch Italia '90 with my dad. It was then that those magnificent wizards in orange hooked me onto the beautiful game forever. Everything about the football they played was so cerebral - the interpretation of space, angles, speed and touch - it was impossible for me to imagine football played any other way. David Winner's brilliant book looks at the mechanics of thought, the philosophies and the socio-cultural traditions that form the ...more
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Dutch style of football, typically characterised by Ajax and Dutch national teams playing ‘total football’ in the 1960s and 1970s, is more complicated than the sum of its parts. Any book investigating the roots of the Dutch style needs an author who can tease out elements of history, society, culture, and politics that went into the making of the Dutch style. David Winner, in his masterpiece Brilliant Orange, succeeds in picking apart the Dutch style and analyses it with an expert and loving ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The book touches upon certain great eras of the Dutch football in 70s, 80s and 90s, trying to provide explanations for the dutch performance, linking it up with historical events.

Football should equal win or beauty? That is a question that with some notable exceptions all Dutch show no hesitation to answer at.

The book gives a -superficial though- coverage of the dutch mentality, using also testimonies from important personalities whose influence on football lasts until today: this part is very
Rui Maia
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to all football fans, especially those who have always wondered why The Netherlands, with all its great teams and attractive Total Football, has never been able to win a World Cup. This book makes use of great comparisons of football styles and attitudes with architecture, history and politics in the Dutch society, so believe me when I say that it's been a pleasure to discover and read this, as a big football fan that I am.

If your mind has gone through the same lines of thought (Why
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

This book had some bright moments. I enjoyed the chapter on the war and how it tied into the team both on the pitch and in the "mindset" of the country and their inferiority complex with Germany. But too often this book contradicted itself. It seemed to talk in circles and make a point, then state the complete opposite later in the book. I get that this is part of the point and maybe the author was trying to drive this home as the identity of Holland, but for me it never really grabbed for m
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very surprising book. Its most amazing moments come from chapters devoted to aspects of Dutch culture not directly related to football, especially the one that discusses the Dutch concept of space, which I found brilliant.

It has helped me understand why Dutch football is the greatest, most sophisticated, most influential football culture ever. Also why, in spite of this, Holland have consistently underachieved in the international stage.
William Creedle
Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a really fun, informative book. Not just about soccer, but particularly about the state of Dutch beaurocracy and national idetity and how all of this intertwines with their national team with often self-defeating effects.
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Great book. It's written around the idea of Total Football but is by no means solely about soccer. One gains fascinating insights from this little orange book. I want to wear orange and learn much more about the Holocaust. ...more
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