Good Minds Suggest—George Vecsey's Favorite Books About Soccer

Posted by Goodreads on June 3, 2014
As one of the first American columnists covering the global phenomenon, sports writer George Vecsey admits that he was unprepared for the chaotic intensity he encountered at his first World Cup in Spain in 1982. Three decades later, he's attended every World Cup since and has lived to tell the tale in his new memoir, Eight World Cups: My Journey through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer. As a longtime sports columnist for The New York Times, Vecsey has also covered the Summer Olympics since 1984, countless Wimbledons and Tours de France, not to mention the World Series—baseball being his favorite sport and the subject of several of his books, including Joy in Mudville and a biography of Stan Musial. Feeling spectator envy yet? For those who can't make it to this year's World Cup party in Brazil, Vecsey recommends five books to get you onto the field.

The Simplest Game: The Intelligent Fan's Guide to the World of Soccer by Paul Gardner
"My first primer, already in middle age, was by a friend who has loved the game since his childhood in England and became one of the first authorities in [the U.S.]. Paul explains the history, the strategy, the people, the stupidities (he finds a lot), and grouse as he does, he cannot hide his idealism and insight."

The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup, edited by Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey
"I carried this with me to the 2006 Weltmeisterschaft in Germany—32 wise hearts beating for their competing nations. As a wanna-be Italian, I devoured the personal insight by Tim Parks into calcio [football] with his in-laws in seaside Pescara. Every chapter is a gem, the literary styles as diverse as football styles and life itself."

Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano
"The dearth of goals inspires journalists and also the rare artist like Galeano to explore the possibilities failed and achieved. As succinct as haiku, his one-page prose touches on subjects like racism and goalkeepers, fanatics and love, and the ball itself. The Uruguayan writes: 'And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don't give a damn which team or country performs it.' See what I mean?"

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
"Out of journalistic neutrality, I have never settled on one team to love. However, my cousin in Islington could see the lights from the old Arsenal stadium from her flat; a couple of friends in Brooklyn go to see the Gooners play at least once a year; and I have read and loved Hornby's reminiscence about his life and intertwining Arsenal matches over a generation. Americans made a movie from the book's theme of suffering but substituted the Boston Red Sox and baseball. I ducked it."

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss
"I am never jealous of talent or great ideas or success. No point. However, I was most surely jealous when Joe lived for a time in a small hill town in the Abruzzo and discovered that minor-league players were intentionally giving up goals and even games. Joe McGinniss passed recently. Addio. This is my favorite McGinniss work—love and cynicism mingling."

Wait, wait, I haven't mentioned books by Longman, Oxenham, Buford, Foer, Kuper, Glanville, Radnedge, Korr, Wahl, Goldblatt, and Markovits that have informed my belated indoctrination.

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Football (Soccer) Books

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Eileen (new)

Eileen Morris I seem to remember Fever Pitch being made into a film in England starring Colin Firth, does anyone else remember this? I also enjoyed the book many years ago.

message 2: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Randall Have you tried this one George, it's fantasy football at it's finest!

message 3: by Nora (new)

Nora Porter Eileen wrote: "I seem to remember Fever Pitch being made into a film in England starring Colin Firth, does anyone else remember this? I also enjoyed the book many years ago."

Yes, it was also called Fever Pitch; It is very funny and much better than the American version.

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