The coronavirus sent many fans and players wondering whether live, professional sports were done for in 2020. However, the soccer/football season has begun again, with the caveat of no fans in the stands. And while fans are waiting to see and experience these games live again, here are some books about soccer that can tide us over.
1. Among the Thugs by Bill Buford
Bill Buford, editor of the literary magazine Granta, explores the society of “football hooliganism,” where super-fans follow their favorite teams, play into the rivalries between teams, and even engage in conflict and violence in the name of the sport. This books “records both its savageries and its sinister allure with the social imagination of a George Orwell and the raw personal engagement of a Hunter Thompson,” says the book summary. Buford attempts to understand the thug movement and the motivation behind their behavior in this thrilling novel. If you want to learn more about the culture behind fans and fandom, and how group mentality can drive people to surprising lengths, read this book!
2. Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski
Soccernomics (2018 World Cup Edition): Why England Loses; Why Germany, Spain, and France Win; and Why One Day Japan, Iraq, and the United States Will Become Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport suffers from a title both way too long and way too catchy, but it’s worth it. Soccernomics uses economics and analytical tools to understand everything from everyday soccer topics to “counterintuitive truths about the world’s most beloved game.” It covers the players, coaches, soccer, finances, agents, soccer, clubs, soccer, and more soccer. If you want to know more about the game and the secrets behind what makes it tick, this book is for you.
3. Zonal Marking: The Making of Modern European Football by Michael Cox
Zonal Marking looks at soccer from a more historical and universal perspective. Cox explores Real Madrid in the ’50s, Italy in the ’60s, Dutch football in the ’70s, and how each major footballing nation changed the game and developed new tactics and ideas. The book is also sprinkled with personal and exciting anecdotes from Cox’s own experiences. Zonal Marking’s main thread is how a nation’s unique identity can shape and affect a universal sport over the decades. If the history of soccer and the nations that have influenced it over the years interests you, check out Zonal Marking!
4. The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer by Caitlin Murray
If women’s soccer is more your style—and let’s be honest, if it isn’t, it needs to be—check out this book about the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. This amazing team has won World Cups, has been awarded Olympic gold medals, has set record TV ratings, and has changed the face of women’s soccer forever. Even though they’ve brought in huge revenues for FIFA and U.S. soccer, their team has dealt with low pay, poor playing conditions, and limited opportunities in what most people think of as a “men’s sport.” In this book, Murray explores the history of the team and of the women’s soccer league. She’s compiled interviews with team members and told their story in this excellent book. Read it!
5. Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John
This is the inspiring story of how a refugee youth soccer team changed a small American town. In the 1990s, Clarkston, Georgia was designated a settlement center for refugees from war zones like Liberia, Sudan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, forever changing the makeup of Clarkston. Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman, founded a youth soccer team for the town’s refugee children. Outcasts United follows the story of this team as they grow together and become closer, while also exploring the interesting Clarkston environment. The players and their families face lots of daunting challenges, but they stick together and work together. St. John’s Outcasts United chronicles the “tale of a small town becoming a global community—and an account of the ingenious and complicated ways we create a home in a changing world.” If you want to read and learn about such a great story, read this book!
Feature Image Via He’s All Boy