Sunday, 9 December 2007

The Ball Is Round - A Global History of Football. By Andrew Goldblatt

This is about as comprehensive a history of football that I've read. It's a touch scholarly in tone - but that's ok because each page usually has one or two football facts that fire the imagination and thrill to the core if, like me, you are moved by such things.

Read this and that part of your brain that deals with football will become engorged with football facts and will grow distended and you will have to buy a new hat or perhaps even a mortar board for your misshapen head - (if your hat is a baseball cap then you have no need to worry - just stick to whatever Premiership player's biog. is coming next and your head, and all that there in is, will stay exactly the same.)

It is a very very good book.

We Don't Know What We Are Doing. - Adrian Chiles

Imagine a middle aged man sitting in the Hawthorns on a Saturday afternoon in February, and there under a low, cold, grey sky this man, whilst watching his team putting in a mediocre performance, finds himself quietly gripped by a mild existential crisis.

"Why Am I Doing This?" he asks himself.

And his answer is ... Well I'm not sure really - but the book Adrian Chiles wrote to try to answer his own question is highly entertaining.

It is also incredibly dour. How a book about football in the 21st Century can include a reference to German civilians drowning in the Baltic as they fled the Soviets I'm not sure. Read the book and you'll see how Chiles manages to include such a bleak detour - one of many in a book about football which of course is essentially a leisure activity.

For me the most memorable image from the book comes from his description of his watching West Brom. fall to another painful defeat on a TV in the Match of the Day office in the BBC Studios on a Sunday afternoon. It's strange to think that I was probably at home - reading the Sunday papers and idly wondering whether I could be bothered with watching Man City or whoever on MOTD2 that night - and as I was thinking this - the show's host was tucked away in an office in West London slowly falling out of love with life.

'Tis a good book - and I don't think you really need to be a West Brom fan to get a lot out of it.