The Beautiful Game: Soccer Picks for the 2018 World Cup and Beyond

Recommended for soccer fans, especially those who wonder why their favorite team doesn’t have a Messi of its own; this mix of soccer history, personal accounts, and irresistible humor will engage and inform both new and seasoned fans; this gem of a work will appeal to longtime soccer fans and budding enthusiasts

Abbot, Sebastian. The Away Game: The Epic Search for Soccer’s Next Superstars. Norton. Mar. 2018. 304p. notes. index. ISBN 9780393292206. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393292213. SPORTS

Journalist Abbot provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of soccer scouts through the story of Football Dreams, a program started in 2007 by Josep Colomer (former youth director, FC Barcelona), who helped launch superstar Lionel Messi’s career. Funded by the oil-rich nation of Qatar seeking to raise its status in the international soccer world, the program selects and trains the top players among prospective young athletes in several African countries. Abbot expertly weaves the stories of some of the trials and triumphs of young boys in the program into the larger picture of the difficulties of scouting potential professional soccer players at a young age. He also broaches larger, philosophical questions, such as where is the line between the project being a “humanitarian” mission to help impoverished youth and it being exploitative? Abbot does not attempt to answer the questions, leaving it to readers to decide. VERDICT Recommended for soccer fans, especially those who wonder why their favorite team doesn’t have a Messi of its own.—Michael C. Miller, Austin P.L. & Austin History Ctr., TX

Arena, Bruce & Steve Kettmann. What’s Wrong with Us? A Coach’s Blunt Take on the State of American Soccer After a Lifetime on the Touchline. Harper. Jun. 2018. 288p. illus. ISBN 9780062803948. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062803962. SPORTS

On the eve of the 2018 World Cup, for which the U.S. men’s team failed to qualify, Hall of Fame soccer coach Arena, with Kettmann (Baseball Maverick), presents a state-of-the-game analysis: why aren’t Americans competing at a higher level and how can that be achieved? Arena’s playing experience and, even more importantly his unprecedented coaching success in the college ranks, Major League Soccer, and with the U.S. men’s national team, give him an invaluable perspective. Most of his book is autobiographical, followed by a brief, practical section outlining the steps necessary to accelerate the sport’s progress in the United States. Arena believes we will one day hold the World Cup trophy, even after the disappointment of missing the 2018 tournament. His passion for the game and clear-headed breakdown of how to reach the next level provides important reading for soccer fans, coaches, and players eager to be part of the sport’s next chapter. VERDICT Recommended for sports fans and soccer enthusiasts at all levels.—Janet Davis, Darien P.L., CT

Bennett, Roger & Michael Davies. Men in Blazers Present Encyclopedia Blazertannica: A Suboptimal Guide to Soccer, America’s “Sport of the Future” Since 1972. Knopf. May 2018. 224p. photos. notes. ISBN 9781101875988. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101875995. SPORTS

Known collectively as Men in Blazers, coauthors Bennett and Davies are transplanted Brits and lifelong soccer fanatics who host their own podcasts, website, and TV program. Their enthusiasm for the beautiful game is the inspiration for this unconventional and highly entertaining A-Z guide, containing straight historical and informational entries as well as autobiographical anecdotes and often subjective tangents. Deeply ingrained elsewhere around the world, soccer has not quite achieved major league status in the United States; for the uninitiated, the game is a confusing landscape of leagues, fan cultures, and rivalries. Bennett and Davies sort it all out in this lively, welcoming guide for sports fans at the high school level and older, delineating a vibrant time line for the slow but steady growth of soccer in America in recent decades and in the process, legitimizing the game on both internal and international levels. VERDICT Whether read cover to cover or casually browsed, this mix of soccer history, personal accounts, and irresistible humor will engage and inform both new and seasoned fans, especially in time for the 2018 World Cup.—Janet Davis, Darien P.L., CT

Bensinger, Ken. Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World’s Biggest Sports Scandal. S. & S. Jun. 2018. 368p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781501133909. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781501133923. SPORTS

Veteran journalist Bensinger’s cinematic debut untangles the web of corruption surrounding FIFA (the Fédération Internationale de Football Association). The narrative begins in California with the investigation of an American soccer official’s tax returns and globetrots to all six continental branches of FIFA to reveal bribes, fraud, kickbacks, and money laundering up and down the organizational ladder, much of it involving broadcasting and marketing rights. Bensinger’s ability to peel away the complex layers of these international schemes illustrates the absurdity owing to the extent and ubiquity of corruption as personal self-interests take over at every level. There is admittedly (even for a soccer fan) an acclimatization curve given the sheer expanse of the case and cast of characters, which are handily detailed. Bensinger finds a worthy guide in an IRS special agent to lead readers through the work. Hardly a corner of the soccer world feels untouched; readers get the sense it’s both too big to fail yet also too big not to. VERDICT Not solely for soccer fans but also those curious about organized crime—not least for the references to Eliot Ness and his team of Untouchables—and international intrigue.—­Benjamin Malczewski, ­Toledo Lucas Cty. P.L.

Dubois, Laurent. The Language of the Game: How To Understand Soccer. Basic. Mar. 2018. 320p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780465094486. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780465094493. SPORTS

Instead of a history or a guide to the rules of soccer, Dubois (romance studies, history, Duke Univ.; Soccer Empire) shares his musings on the sport and human nature. With chapters on each position as well as fans and referees, the author examines the sports’ past and influence on national identity. The thoughtful and eye-opening narrative looks at the simple game that can be played with minimal equipment and has universal appeal, bringing together players and fans from around the globe. The game may be dominated by men, but weaved into this account is the long history of women in the sport, specifically how they are marginalized. After World War I, English women’s teams played before tens of thousands of fans, until soccer officials banned women’s teams from stadiums. The debate about pay equity for players and whether women should be allowed to wear burkas on the field brings currency to the text. This may be the only book that examines how philosopher Albert Camus’s years as a goalkeeper contributed to existentialism. VERDICT Fans and neophytes alike will appreciate this eclectic offering and its passionate view of soccer’s global influence.—Susan Belsky, Oshkosh P.L., WI

redstarWahl, Grant. Masters of Modern Soccer: How the World’s Best Play the Twenty-First-Century Game. Crown Archetype. May 2018. 272p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307408600. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780804137065. SPORTS

In 1990, political columnist and journalist George Will published Men at Work, a classic on the craft of baseball. Equally accomplished Sports Illustrated journalist Wahl follows Will’s model with a remarkable book on soccer, including in-depth profiles of players from various positions as well as a coach and a director who provide new insights into the game. With major networks such as ESPN now carrying soccer broadcasts, Wahl delivers a must-read to better understand the sport from an insider’s view—fitting together the pieces of a puzzle that many people who enjoy soccer might not fully grasp in order to explain the precision, plans, and plays of the game. Well-written and easy to read, Wahl’s “nuggets” and analysis of the craft of the sport make this work stand out. VERDICT One of the best books on the sport, alongside Raphael Honigstein’s Das Reboot and Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski’s Soccernomics, this gem of a work will appeal to longtime soccer fans and budding enthusiasts.—Boyd Childress, ­formerly with Auburn Univ. Libs., AL

West, Phil. I Believe That We Will Win: The Path to a US Men’s World Cup Victory. Overlook. Apr. 2018. 272p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781468315196. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781468315202. SPORTS

West (The United States of Soccer) looks at all aspects of the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s prospects of winning the program’s first World Cup. This analysis also includes the history of the World Cup and perspectives on the future of the U.S. men’s program, with a strong emphasis on player development. As the U.S. team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup for the first time in several years, this is an incredibly timely and heavily researched book presents a road map for the United States winning the World Cup, or at least becoming more competitive in the future. The author is incredibly knowledgeable and interviews several players and analysts to get a better perspective on the team’s chances of success. VERDICT Recommended for all soccer fans and readers interested in a deep dive into the U.S. men’s soccer team, specifically the developmental program. Casual sports fans or readers may have a difficult time owing to West’s lack of narrative style, making for an occasionally dense read.—Pamela Calfo, Baldwin Borough P.L., PA

Comments
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

Amanda Brastian

What about ONE GOAL by Amy Bass? My favorite soccer book in a really long time!

Posted : May 18, 2018 06:25


RELATED 

TOP STORIES

LIBRARY EDUCATION

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

COMMUNITY FORM

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.