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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  3,653 ratings  ·  215 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
...more
Paperback, 404 pages
Published June 6th 2000 by Broadway Books (first published 1999)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  3,653 ratings  ·  215 reviews


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Brad
Jun 25, 2008 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
Matt
Apr 30, 2013 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
...more
Nicola
Oct 29, 2010 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
...more
Steve
Jul 30, 2007 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
Winter Sophia Rose
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Moving, Breathtaking, Tragic, Funny & Fascinating! A Great Read! I Loved It!
Steve Kettmann
May 02, 2010 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


THE MIRACLE OF CASTEL DI SANGRO
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
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Justin Oh
Sep 23, 2013 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
Kirsten
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jessica Wodatch
Jan 07, 2010 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. ...more
Djohns
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great combination of sport, story telling, and an American’s view of Italy. Very much enjoyed reading this and thank Nicolai for the recommendation
Sytze Hiemstra
A very entertaining book. The Author tries to give an honest account of his season with Italy's football club Caste di Sangro, who were miraculously peomoted to serie A in the nineties. The slight problem is that McGinnis does not really understand football (and keeps calling it socccer, unfortunately) or the culture around football. His outlook is so very American, it's sometimes like he thinks the serie A is governed like the NFL or NBA.

His naivete is charming at times. Like when he thinks he
...more
N
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
**From the shelf of Dr. Davide J.**

I’m shocked at the amount of cojones Joe McGinniss demonstrates when finding out that “maletines” exist in soccer.

Overall this just makes a young 29 year old want to move to Lecco and document the life of a semi-pro biking team even more. Fun read on Italian culture, new curse words to be used when needed, and some much needed lessons on The Boot’s geography.
Richard
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fußball
A fascinating peek into the intersection of sport and small-town Italian culture! SO many things about the bizarro nature of football in Italy are explained in the microcosm of Castel di Sangro - and the author's increasingly unhinged personal involvement in the story made it completely unputdownable. ...more
Natan
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
Sometimes, when you finish a really good book, you're kind of sad it over. That's what happened to me. But, luckily, with books, unlike maybe anything else in life, you can be 100% sure that another book, just as good, is somewhere on the horizon. ...more
Mark
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Excellent story of a Serie B team and life as a Italian Soccer player in a small town.
Ian
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Rewarding in the end. A basic grasp of Italian would probably have made this flow better. Some of the events were well worth googling once the book was finished.
Kevin
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rereading one of my all-time favorite soccer books. Great writing and perspectives of day to day life in lower league Italian soccer.
Brendan Crowley
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sport
(This review is a bit spoilery so avoid if you are sensitive to such things – even for non-fiction books).

When asked to name my favourite football book, I immediately jump to 4 or 5 books I read in my late teens or early twenties – Football Against the Enemy, The Hand of God, Brillant Orange, Morbo, or The Miracle of Castel di Sangro. These were among the books that opened my eyes to the joys of great sports-writing that went beyond players autobiographies and told you as much about a time or a
...more
Francis Valletta
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Without doubt the best football book I ever read.
Mason
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro is a sports book written by Joe McGinniss. The books follows a struggling Castel di Sangro Calcio soccer club. The timeline is the 1996-1997 season for the soccer club. The whole book is based off the author's perspective as he traveled to this small town in Italy of less than 10,000 people to observe and watch the soccer club push for glory. The book starts off with Joe McGinniss' background in America when he fell in love with the sport of soccer and especially ...more
Gene
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: soccer, sports
"Il guaio con te, Joe, e che sai rispondere a tutte le domande anche sei non sai proprio niente."
"Joe, the trouble with you is that you knows everything. But in the same times you knows nothing that you talks about."

The above quotes, the first in Italian by Mister Jaconi, the coach of the team, and the following English translation by a young player on the team, may as well have been the title of the book. Author, Joe McGinniss falls in love with soccer in his 50's after watching the 1994 World
...more
Brian McNally
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports, non-fiction
Great read. Joe McGinniss is an absolute lunatic, who understands absolutely nothing of Italian Culture or football but never lets that stop him.
Justin
Mar 11, 2008 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
...more
Ronald Wise
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Clare
Jul 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
I first picked up this book because of its bright cover. Then, when I read the jacket description, I thought, "Oh, it's a book about soccer" (which I knew nothing about). Still, I decided to try it out. I was hooked on this true tale within a few pages. A soccer team from a small town in Italy does the impossible and makes it to a championship game and I was rooting for them all the way. Let's just say that I never in my life thought a book about a sports team could reduce me to tears, but that ...more
Brooke
Jan 21, 2012 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read for me. It challenged me throughout because of the game it revolved around--soccer--which I know very little about. There was also a lot of dialogue written in Italian, sometimes translated, sometimes not. So sometimes I just had to do my best to figure it out. Overall, it was a very inspiring book about the motivation of the players and the love they have for the game. Much love was also given to the village the team was from, especially the special nature of the pe ...more
Alexander
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Ethan
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
...more
aNorthernSoul Lightbown
May 13, 2016 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
Marty Greenwell
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Never heard of this book before but I found this in the sports section of the Friends of the Public Library in Cincinnati. I have found a new obsession: soccer. The author had the same issue a few years ago and decided to follow an Italian soccer team which had just been promoted to Serie B, the second level of soccer in Italy. Like most sports stories in revolves about the fantastic characters but adds an education to the typical American what soccer means to others around the world, especially ...more
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Joe McGinniss was an American journalist, non-fiction writer and novelist. 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. It spent more than six months on best-seller lists. He is popularly known for his trilogy of bestselling true crime books — Fatal Vision, Blind Faith and Cruel Doubt ...more

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