Chris's Reviews > Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Football

Brilliant Orange by David Winner
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's review
Dec 08, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: read-in-2009
Recommended to Chris by: Nick Hornby

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 personally witnessed this occurrence no more than a handful of times. I don't think I've ever seen it in a professional match. Simply put, nearly everything needs to go wrong for it to happen. But, in the end, it's tough to fault the player for the attempt. An attempt to score, even one with such hilarious results, is still better than no attempt at all.

This is a book in which nearly everything went wrong, but I'm happy it exists. The Dutch play the most beautiful and entertaining soccer on the planet, yet they have found minimal success at the international level. How can a country that plays the quintessential version of what Pelé dubbed "the Beautiful Game" not own a World Cup trophy? There are countless reasons and at times throughout the book David Winner explores them. The most interesting discovery is that many Dutch soccer fans and players prefer beauty to victory -- a team that wins ugly will often receive less respect and admiration than a team that loses beautifully. The author uncovers other fascinating and distinctly Dutch neuroses throughout the book. But in the end, he misses by a wide margin.

Nearly half of the book consists of lengthy (and apparently unedited) quotes from various Dutch soccer players, coaches, fans, artists, and architects, most of whom do not have the best command of the English language but seem to like the sound of their own voices. I found many of these quotes to be superfluous and it often felt like the author included a quote for the simple reason that he had gotten the quote. There are also lengthy descriptions of soccer matches and tournaments that are filled with so many unexplained references that only the most hardcore soccer fans would be able to follow the narrative.

Overall, the finished product appears to be a rush job. Maybe the author ran out of money or time. Maybe he got bored with the subject. Maybe he's just not that good of a writer. Whatever the reason may be, he missed a wonderful opportunity. But I appreciate the attempt.
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Reading Progress

December 8, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
February 19, 2009 – Finished Reading
September 18, 2009 – Shelved as: read-in-2009

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Chris I've noticed that you have quite a thing for book covers. Dare I call it a fetish?

I'll have to assume (based on the fact that you haven't read it and don't have it on your to-read list) that you've never seen this book:


Chris Yeah, it's the only book I've ever read based on the cover alone. I liked it.

message 3: by C. (new)

C. I find it amusing that the author's name is David 'Winner'. Nice review, though.

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