Merry Spursmas everybody!
After years of toying with it, I finally got into footie after the last World Cup. Obviously the atmosphere and the game itself played a big role in getting me into the sport (the kung fu kicks didn't hurt either), but the biggest appeal to me was the history. Here was a sport with a history as long and as deep (if not deeper) as baseball and I knew virtually nothing about it.
Fortunately for me, soccer not only has a similar amount of history as baseball, but a similar literary legacy as well. Tons of amazing books, both old and new, have been written about this sport, and as fans of the Greatest Football Team the World has ever seen, we are fortunate to have had quite a few good ones written about Spurs.
So allow me to add to Nick’s holiday wish list with some books you can either bug people for this Christmas or buy for yourself when your significant others fail to live up to your loyalty to Tottenham. This list is by no means complete, but I think they will give you a better understanding of both World Football and Spurs. And they're all pretty good reads, too.
The Ball is Round by David Goldblatt- An absolutely colossal history of football that clocks in at 900+ pages. While completing it feels like finishing a marathon, it is an amazing book that touches on basically everything worth knowing about the history of the game, wherever its been played, from England to Italy to Africa to Asia to America. It injects just the right amount of opinion and humor to keep the book from becoming dry. The chapter on the decline of the sport and rise of hooliganism during the 80’s is a particular stand out. If you have any interest in the sport, you really owe it to yourself to give this one a go.
How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer- Well it does exactly what it says on the tin, as Foer, an editor for the New Republic, uses soccer to explain trends in politics, economics, globalization, etc. It is particularly impressive in the wide array of subjects it touches on including Eastern European hooliganism, Spurs fans use of the word "Yid," Barcelona, AC Milan’s crazy expensive training ground, and the Old Firm, just to name a few.
Winning at All Costs by John Foot- Also available in a British edition, with a much better cover, as Calcio! A History of Italian Football. This is a comprehensive history of the game in Italy, from its origins through the Calciopoly scandal. It contains extremely detailed information on Italy’s most important players, teams, games, and even scandals (way more than just Calciopoly here…). It can be a little scattershot, but I think it is by far the most readable and enjoyable national history on this list.
Brilliant Orange by David Winner- For a book about the history of Dutch soccer, it is appropriate that it is arranged in chapters that can be read in interchanging order. It is more than just a history of soccer in the Netherlands though, it is an examination of how dutch culture informs their game and vice versa. Interesting approach and very helpful to understanding the world that players like Rafa Van Der Vaart and, ugh, Robin Van Persie emerged from.
Tor! and Morbo – When Saturday Comes, a quirky supporters’ magazine in England, put out these books about the histories of soccer in Germany and Spain, respectively. Both are very good looks at the respective cultures with a very distinctive voice from their authors. Tor! is painstankingly detailed. The look at the game under Hitler is fascinating, but the book really shines when it reaches the Bundesliga era. Morbo is refreshing in that it gives you a look at the Spanish game you don’t usually get, including a take on Madrid and Barca that does an excellent job in subverting the images the clubs have created for themselves. He focuses just as much on smaller teams as the big 2, including an entire chapter on a lower tier team that happens to be Spain’s first professional club. However, I read the 2003 edition of Morbo, which now seems hilariously out of date when it talks about how open and competitive La Liga is. There is an updated edition, published in the wake of the 2010 World Cup that I haven’t read, but I’d recommend you buy that one, as its chapters on Spain’s inability to win things internationally and La Liga’s openness will undoubtedly be corrected there.
The Glory Game by Hunter Davies- One of the most influential books ever written about sports in England. Davies takes the reader inside the 1972 UEFA Cup winning Spurs team and gives us a startling candid view of a football team in the days before they became the center of a billion pound media hype machine. Although it often shows an uglier side of the team, it humanizes them, which makes you love the club that much more. A great way to learn more about the history of Spurs if, like me, you came to them later in life.
Vertigo by John Crace- A look back at the 2010-2011 season and the author’s struggles with not just depression, but Spurs finally being a good team. As Spurs fans we all have a bit of a fatalist streak, but John Crace has it in spades. It’s an excellent read, but it can be a bit unnerving to realize how similar my own thoughts were about the team as someone coping with depression. I guess you don’t choose a football team, it chooses you. It’s a fantastic memoir and a great way to relive last season, with all its ups and downs.
Amazon does not have this available, so you'll have to search for it on EBay. It is super easy to find there and will probably cost you around 20 dollars with shipping.
The Ghost of White Hart Lane by Rob White and Julie Welch – A key member of the European Cup Winners’ Cup team, John White died after being struck by lightning. No less than Jimmy Greaves said that White, nicknamed the Ghost, would have been one of the greatest players of all time if he had lived. Co-written by White’s son, who was only six months old when he died, the book is about the father he never knew and a man who was a key part of the best Spurs team to have ever stepped on the pitch at White Hart Lane. I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s been recommended to me plenty of times and is next in my pile of books.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GET…
Tottenham Massive or Massive Attack– I will not even dignify these with a link. Written by an idiot from the Tottenham Massive Hooligan Firm, both of these books contain this moron’s memories of ruining football for everyone else during the 80’s. This was bought for me by a well meaning girlfriend and it is by far the most horrible thing she has ever done to me. I cannot emphasize this enough: these books are stupid and if you like them we can no longer be friends.
Well good luck CFCers and remember that if you hear the pitter patter of feet on your roof this holiday season, its probably Ledley King waking up after another crazy Spurs Christmas Party, so be of good cheer, let him in and give him some aspirin. He's gonna need it.