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Posted at 10:44 AM ET, 12/ 9/2010

Soccer books for the holidays

By Steve Goff

With the holiday season upon us, we toast Colorado and Qatar, Inter Milan and Internacional, Forlan and Fabregas, España and Essien, Donovan and Dempsey, Messi and Mandela, Villa and the vuvuzela.

We remember who has been naughty (FIFA executive committee) and nice (Bafana Bafana supporters). We await a visit from jolly St. Nick (CONCACAF's Chuck Blazer) and keep a wary eye on the Burgermeister (Sepp Blatter).

Soon, the Insider will head into brief winter hibernation, comforted by the memories of an eventful and enriching year. But first, we spread holiday cheer by sharing some of the book titles on our dusty shelves, suitable for gift-giving (aka Robert Green's World Cup howler) or companionship in front of a roaring (Chicago) Fire:

"Bamboo Goalposts: One Man's Quest to Teach China to Love Football" By Rowan Simons

"Finn McCool's Football Club: The Birth, Death and Resurrection of a Pub Soccer Team in the City of the Dead" By Stephen Rea

"Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town" By Warren St. John

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

"How Soccer Explains the World" By Franklin Foer

"National Pastime: How Americans Play Baseball and the Rest of the World Plays Soccer" By Stefan Szymanski and Andrew Zimbalist

"A Home on the Field: How One Championship Teams Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America" By Paul Caudros

"The Boys From Little Mexico: A Season Chasing the American Dream" By Steve Wilson

"The World Is a Ball: The Joy, Madness and Meaning of Soccer" By John Doyle

"Bloody Confused! A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer" By Chuck Culpepper

"Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture" By Andrei Markovits and Lars Rensmann

"Kabul Girls Soccer Club: A Dream, Eight Girls and a Journey Home" By Awista Ayub

"The Beautiful Game: 16 Girls and the Season that Changed Everything" By Jonathan Littman

"Soccer Dad: A Father, a Son and a Magical Season" By W.D. Wetherell

"The Grass of Another Country" By Christopher Merrill

"Cult Football" By The Rough Guide

"Soccer in Sun and Shadow" By Eduardo Galeano

"Football Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Stops Wars, Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power" By Simon Kuper

"Perfect Pitch 2: Foreign Field" Edited by Simon Kuper

"Perfect Pitch 3: Men and Women" Edited by Simon Kuper and Marcela Maro Y Araujo

"Perfect Pitch 4: Dirt" Edited by Simon Kuper

"Soccer and Philosophy: Beautiful Thoughts on the Beautiful Game" Edited by Ted Richards

"A Beautiful Game: The World's Greatest Players and How Soccer Changed Their Lives" By Tom Watt

"Futebol: The Brazilian Way" By Alex Bellos

"Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer" By David Winner

"Feet of the Chameleon: The Story of African Football" By Ian Hawkey

"Death or Glory: The Dark History of the World Cup" By Jon Spurling

"The Story of the World Cup" By Brian Glanville

"Tor! The Story of German Football" By Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger

"Ajax: The Dutch, The War" By Simon Kuper

"The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer" By David Goldblatt

"Winning at All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian Soccer" By John Foot

"More Than Just a Game: Soccer vs Apartheid" By Chuck Korr and Marvin Close

"The Complete Encyclopedia of Soccer" By Keir Radnedge

"The Encyclopedia of American Soccer History" By Roger Allaway, Colin Jose, David Litterer

"The Far Corner: A Mazy Dribble Through North-east Football" By Harry Pearson

"SoccerTalk" By Paul Gardner

"African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World's Game" By Peter Alegi

"Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America's Forgotten Game" By David Wangerin

"The Simplest Game" By Paul Gardner

"The Leagues: The Making of Professional Football in England" By Matthew Taylor

"The Ten Shirt" By Michael Maddox

"Football in Our Time: A Photographic Record of Our National Game" By Stuart Clarke

"Magnum Football" (photos)

"One Love: Soccer for Life" (photos)

"Maradona" By Diego Maradona
"Go for the Goal" By Mia Hamm
"Giggsy" By Ryan Giggs
"Hard Tackles and Dirty Baths" By George Best
"Cloughie: Walking on Water" By Brian Clough
"Gascoigne" By Paul Simpson
"The Beckham Experiment" By Grant Wahl
"La Philosophie de Cantona" Edited by Michael Robinson
"Garrincha: The Triumph and Tragedy of Brazil's Forgotten Footballing Hero" By Guy Castro

"The Game of Their Lives: The Untold Story of the World Cup's Biggest Upset" (1950 U.S. team) By Geoffrey Douglas

"Dynamo: Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev" By Andy Dougan

"Fever Pitch" By Nick Hornby

"Barca" By Jimmy Burns

"Spartak Moscow: A History of the People's Team in the Workers' State" By Robert Edelman

"Manchester Unlimited" By Mither Bose

"All Played Out: The Full Story of Italia '90" By Pete Davies

"The Girls of Summer: The U.S. Women's Soccer Team and How It Changed the World" By Jere Longman

"Soccernomics" By Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

"The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime" By Declan Hill

"Star-Spangled Soccer: The Selling, Marketing and Management of Soccer in the USA" By Gary Hopkins

I welcome your recommendations!

By Steve Goff  | December 9, 2010; 10:44 AM ET
Categories:  Books, History  | Tags:  soccer books  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Video: Independiente's Facundo Parra scores with a volley from sitting position in the penalty area
Next: Weekend soccer TV listings: Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, NCAA College Cup


3 additions
The Ball Is Round, a Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt
Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Johnathan Wilson
Among the Thugs by Bill Buford

Posted by: jmingus | December 9, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I alway thought that "The Glory Game" by Hunter Davies was a fun and fascinating book.

Posted by: DadRyan | December 9, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

We should add a category for film, into which we would place, by itself, the star-studded, award-winning soccer movie for the ages. I of course refer to none other than that tour de force, "Victory".

Posted by: Ron16 | December 9, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Don't order these from Amazon, the hackers plan to bring them down for booting Wikileaks.

Soccerhead, Jim Haner

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | December 9, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

A second vote for "Among the Thugs." Good stuff about life among the English hooligans.

Posted by: teeps | December 9, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I would like to also recommend "The 10 Shirt" by Michael Maddox. A fun "what if" scenario that has the US competing to win the 1982 World Cup. Its nearly unbelievable but a fun trip thru history where soccer becomes the top sport in the US (all explained well by Mr. Maddox).

Also for soccer history nerds, a great comparison between the MLS and NASL 15 Seasons in:

Posted by: dwreck1971 | December 9, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse


Did you mean Burgermeister MeisterBlatter?


Posted by: edmundburke247 | December 9, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

"El Macca: Four Years with Real Madrid" (by Steve McManaman and Sarah Edworthy) - Very well written and illuminating about Macca, playing abroad, La Liga, and, in particular, the internal workings of Real Madrid under Florentino Pérez. Also very refreshing to read about Macca's wife, who definitely does not fit the typical "WAG" stereotype (in the best sense).

"The Damned United" (by David Peace) - Much, much better than the movie. With the understanding that a certain amount of poetic license has been taken by the author, it is a fantastic read. For those of us who are too young (and American) to know or remember Brian Clough, it is a great introduction.

Posted by: murphND | December 9, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Dear Santa:

Please give me all the books mentioned above. I've been a good little boy this year.



ps: They're all iBooks or Kindle, right?

Posted by: Juan-John1 | December 9, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

murphND... I feel it depends on how you define "best.". In all seriousness, that is a good book for anyone interested in the insanity of Real Madrid.

For Man United fans, I always recommend Sir Bobby Charlton's autobiography. Anyone interested in the history and dynamics of United should read it.

Posted by: grubbsbl | December 9, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how you guys can do IBooks or kindle books. I always think I need the actual book in my hand to read. And before someone calls me an old grumpy man struggling with the times, I'm 23.

Posted by: grubbsbl | December 9, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

OT, but I was struck by the number involved. Keeping on the media theme, the future of USA soccer may be titled "The Kids Are Alright".

Almost 3,000 youth players competed in the Development Academy showcase. When you consider that MLS teams cannot expect to get more than a handful of players each out of these squads, and several more might expect to get to MLS through the college route, maybe 5% of these kids will have a shot in the pro ranks...probably even less than that. This is where MLS and the USMNT will make the big step forward.

For the record, DCU's U18 side earned only one point in three games, but the U16s grabbed all nine points.

Posted by: fischy | December 9, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I would also add "Goooal! A Celebration of Soccer" By Andres Cantor

Posted by: jsm3 | December 9, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

This is one of my favorite books of all time that I did not see on your list:

A Season with Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character, and...Goals! By Tim Parks

Posted by: GraciasRiquelme | December 9, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"Bloody Confused" was bloody brilliant. "Beckham Experiment" was intriguing. "Fever Pitch" I think I need to re-read, since the other time I read it was before I started paying much more than token attention to English football.

As for films? Let me second the recommendation for "Victory" well as put in a recommendation for "Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos."

Posted by: SportzNut21 | December 9, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Mr. BaRRD just finished and really enjoyed Beastly Fury by Richard Sanders. Not sure it is available in the US, but Juan Juan can download it from

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | December 9, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

As for movies, this is a little gem. A town's two pub teams play for ownership of the other team's pub. That's pretty high stakes!

The Match

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | December 9, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

@grubbsbl: I love iBooks and Kindle, and I'm 42, so go figure. (Much less weight to carry when one is traveling)

Posted by: Juan-John1 | December 9, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

@grubbs agree re: Sir Bobby Charlton's book (my secret older man crush). Just the forward where he talks about surviving the Munich crash, and its affect on him, the city, and the country is worth the price of the book.

Hmmm, just put that book (along with the first Giggs and Keane) in my book donation pile. Maybe we should have a Soccer Insider's book and movie swap some day. My books all have a decided red theme to them.

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | December 9, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I would like to add "Foul!: The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals" by Andrew Jennings (yes, THAT Andrew Jennings from Panorama).

This book seems perfect for the bubbly Christmas season, considering the timing.

Posted by: wanker82 | December 9, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

"Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer" By David Winner

Found this on sale at Border's last week and bought it. As soon as I'm done reading the final Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson book about me, I'll be starting "Brilliant Orange."

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | December 9, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse


I'm posting from Moscow Domodedovo, about to board a TransAero flight and as skeptical as I was a week ago after a week here I'm excited to come back for the World Cup. It will be good to see Russian football move to the next level and unlike Qatar, they have a decent national program that occasionally qualifies for the WC and the stadiums will come in useful far into the future for their growing domestic league.

As far as booking hotel rooms…after paying US$300 for a room that I wouldn’t pay $29.95 for in the US I’m not overly optimistic...not that London is any better.

Posted by: Southeasterner | December 9, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

How about "Captain for Life" by John Harkes. I know he is under-appreciated by United fans, but as the Bruce once said, "His accomplishments may not be matched by another American for many years to come."

Posted by: kaynfred53 | December 9, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

My problem with "Captain for Life" is Harkes' complete ignoring of everything that other players have said in private, and coaches, and even Eric Wynalda has admitted to in public: the affair with his teammates wife.
How do you leave that "elephant in the room" out of the book when you write it? And I know when he wrote the book Eric hadn't come out yet....and I know the book is more than just an indictment of being left off the WC squad, but c'mon, really. And to still deny it today despite the info... Puzzling.

Posted by: dwreck1971 | December 9, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Seems appropriate to post this link here - United for DC will be gift wrapping (for donations) at the Georgetown B&N on Friday

Posted by: emanon13 | December 9, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Bloody Confused was a ton of fun to read.

Also, Pelada will probably be available on DVD soon, do NOT sleep on giving that as a gift. What I would have given to have been a part of that...

Posted by: JacobfromAtlanta-ish | December 9, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Great books. From a lighthearted comedy novel point of view I recommend Derrick Holland's "The Ripple Effect" about non-league football in England, and Rory Miller's "Free Kicks" which is a novel about professional soccer in America (Chivas USA moves to Kentucky and tries to survive a crooked MLS commissioner's plotting--although all the names are changed to protect the guilty!).

Posted by: Greg61 | December 9, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Oh, 'She Stood There Laughing' is like Fever Pitch written by a Stoke City fan. My favorite is when he says "if Hornby wants real pain he should be a Stoke City fan."

Posted by: Greg61 | December 9, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

If you like soccer photography, here's one for you - Hans van der Meer: European Fields

Posted by: Pedalada | December 9, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

If you like soccer photography, here's one for you - Hans van der Meer: European Fields

Posted by: Pedalada | December 9, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double post. And I agree on adding a second thread for soccer films.

Posted by: Pedalada | December 9, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

As for films?

The Two Escobars. Extremely good, and about as heartbreaking as one would imagine.

Posted by: BooThisMan | December 9, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Any football fan worth his weight in shinguards should own (and should have read numerous times)the Laws of the Game published by FIFA.

Posted by: asocrlovr | December 9, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Films? The all-time champ still has to be The Cup -- charming tale of a boy in a monastery in Bhutan and World Cup fever.

Posted by: fischy | December 9, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm shocked Goff or noone else has mentioned Beau Dure's book, Long Range Goals: The Success Story of Major League Soccer. Every MLS fan needs to read it.

Posted by: SonicDeathMonkey | December 9, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Awesome. Blatter now saying other nearby countries could host games for the WC 2002 along with Qatar. What a load...

Posted by: Reignking | December 9, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we can re-enter a bid with Canada, Mexico, St Kitts and Nevis, and (of course) Trinidad and Tobago.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | December 9, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

the only one i've read this year is The Manager by barney ronay. if you read the guardian's soccer site, you've probably seen some of ronay's columns and transfer rumor round-ups, so you know how funny he can be when he starts riffing on the sport. The Manager is a (pretty anglo-centric) take on how "the manager" went from a total administrative afterthought in the sport's early days to, uh, jose mourinho. it's funny. you'll like it as long as you're not looking for something serious and jonathan wilson-y.

Posted by: stairs | December 9, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

As far as books go. I highly recommend The Game of Their Lives. Its recounting of the on-the-pitch action betrays gaps in the author's knowledge of the game. However, it perfectly captures the culture of the inner-city Italian/Irish/Portuguese/whatever neighborhoods that produced these unlikely heroes.

As far as films go, I do *not* recommend the film version of The Game of Their Lives (which I believe was renamed The Miracle Match or some such for DVD purposes). I second several flicks that others have mentioned, including The Cup, Fever Pitch, and Once in a Lifetime. Someone mentioned the book The Damned United; I can recommend the film version. Another film that I highly recommend is the Iranian satire Offside. (I wonder whether it is still banned in Iran.)

Posted by: universityandpark | December 10, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I could add the Scottish film Gregory's Girl, which isn't really about football as such, but is set in the world of a suburban Edinburgh high school team.

Also, there is the Brazialian flick Romeo and Juliet Get Married, in which the Montagues and Capulets are replaced by rabid supporters of Corinthians and Palmeiras, respectively. (It also has a happy ending.) I saw it at a film festival. It didn't get wide distribution in this country, and I don't even know about the availability of an English-language DVD.

Posted by: universityandpark | December 10, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

In the wake of more FIFA madness this month, I'll put in a plug for my former professors and their tales of FIFA corruption...

Great Balls of Fire: How Big Money is Hijacking World Football

Over ten years old now, but a lot of the issues are still surfacing (especially in the recent BBC Panorama investigation).

I also like:

Manchester United Ruined My Life


Playing the Moldovans at Tennis (about the Moldovan national team)

Posted by: Kev29 | December 10, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Great player bio - not the bio of a "great player": Left Foot Forward: A Year in the Life of a Journeyman Footballer - by Garry Nelson. Includes Mike Ammann when he was a rookie keeper at Charlton Athletic.

Posted by: soccerman | December 10, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I enjoyed Keane: The Autobiography. I was particularly curious about Roy's differences with Mick McCarthy during the 2002 World Cup. I agree with Keane's general assessment of the FAI's poor support of the Ireland squad -- "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail."

Posted by: Brokenbil | December 10, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm shocked Goff or noone else has mentioned Beau Dure's book, Long Range Goals: The Success Story of Major League Soccer. Every MLS fan needs to read it.

Posted by: SonicDeathMonkey

I'll second that. Great book!

Posted by: Hokienautic | December 10, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Quoted by GraciasRiquelme

This is one of my favorite books of all time that I did not see on your list:
A Season with Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character, and...Goals! By Tim Parks

Absolutely one of the best books written about the game. Captures the spirit of being a fan much better than Nick Hornby, etc.

Posted by: DCUinCT | December 10, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I would recommend Seeing Red by Graham Poll

An excellent book giving the perspective of all that referees go through and in particular the story of Poll in the 2006 world cup

Posted by: arsenalman | December 10, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Another reco for "Among The Thugs" which is categorized as sociology, but I found it in the soccer section. Not sure if anyone mentioned "The Man Watching" which is about UNC women's coach Anson Dorrance.

Posted by: deepvalue | December 10, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

All these posts with video suggestions and not a single mention of Bend it Like Beckham and Kicking and Screaming? Tours de Force, I say. How else will our suburban communities learn what soccer is really all about?

Posted by: spata1 | December 11, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

All these posts with video suggestions and not a single mention of Bend it Like Beckham and Kicking and Screaming? Tours de Force, I say. How else will our suburban communities learn what soccer is really all about?

Posted by: spata1 | December 11, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

sorry about the double post.

BTW, Brillian Orange truly is. It really hits home if, like me, you have Dutch roots. Suddenly, many things even unlrelated to soccer make more sense to me now.

The Match is one of my favorite movies.

Posted by: spata1 | December 11, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

All these posts with video suggestions and not a single mention of Bend it Like Beckham and Kicking and Screaming? Tours de Force, I say. How else will our suburban communities learn what soccer is really all about?

Posted by: spata1 | December 11, 2010 9:43 AM

BILB was a good film that was initially targeted at art-house audiences, but crossed over to other markets. It was very clever at the beginning and end, although the middle was a bit formulaic and predictable.

Posted by: universityandpark | December 12, 2010 6:30 AM | Report abuse

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