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Football Books: News and Reviews

When Pele Broke Our Hearts: Wales and the 1958 World Cup 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

When Pele Broke Our Hearts: Wales and the 1958 World Cup, by Mario Risoli (1998)

This is the story of Wales’ only appearance in the World Cup Finals; it was later reprinted with a new preface by Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers, who loved the book.

Wales managed to get to Sweden in 1958 through the back door, after hostilities in the Middle East meant that Arab teams refused to play Israel. Wales were picked to play them instead, beat them 4-0 over two legs and were on their way to their first and only World Cup – and what is surprising is that this remarkable story had not been fully told before.

Cardiff journalist Risoli’s book reads like an extended newspaper article, which is not a bad thing: the many interviews with the surviving members of the Welsh team make the book more than just a dry history. Their comments and humorous anecdotes make the book come alive, as do appropriate quotes from newspaper reports of the time.

Risoli also includes a lot about the background surrounding the 1958 World Cup, not least the air disaster in Munich shortly before the finals began, which tragically wiped out most of Busby’s Babes. This had a direct effect on the Welsh team, as their manager Jimmy Murphy was also Matt Busby’s assistant at Manchester United; he had to act as United manager too, and instead of celebrating Wales’ achievement he was mourning United’s loss: “He was doing the job of four men…As a result he was not as well prepared for the World Cup as he could have been”.

The backgrounds of each of the players is also interesting; the point is made that they were worlds apart from the stars of the Brazilian team. They still are: in their retirement, many of them still live in Wales, a good number of them in Swansea. All of this crystallises the strong sense of identity in the Welsh team, due to their close-knit roots and the fact nobody gave them a prayer in the tournament.

But they ground out good results again Sweden, Mexico and Hungary in a punishing schedule, and reached the quarter-finals, where they were to play Brazil. The rest is history, as they say, and the title of the book gives you some clue as to the outcome. But Wales were resilient, and were only just edged out by a team of legends. This meticulously researched book makes this story seem not all that long ago, even when some of the players are long gone and the black and white photographs have faded.

Review by Sam Hawcroft

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Pele: The Autobiography 0

Posted on August 29, 2011 by samh

Pele: The Autobiography (2006)

The world’s greatest footballer gives us the full story of his incredible life and career.

Told with his characteristic grace and modesty, but covering all aspects of his playing days and his subsequent careers as politician, international sporting ambassador and cultural icon, this is an essential volume for all sports fans, and anyone who admires true rarity of spirit.

Pele was the best of a generation of Brazilian players universally acknowledged as the most accomplished and attractive group of footballers ever to play the game. He won the World Cup three times and is Brazil’s all-time record goalscorer. But how did this man – a sportsman, a mere footballer, like many others – become a global icon? Was it just by being the best at what he did, or do people respond to some other quality? These questions and more are answered in this entertaining autobiography.

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Garrincha: The Triumph and Tragedy of Brazil’s Forgotten Footballing Hero 0

Posted on August 27, 2011 by samh

Garrincha: The Triumph and Tragedy of Brazil’s Forgotten Footballing Hero, by Ruy Castro, translated by Andrew Downie (2004)

Garrincha was the unlikeliest of footballers – with grotesquely deformed legs, he looked as if he could barely walk, but with a ball at his feet he had the poise of an angel.

The Brazilian who came to be known as ‘Little Bird’ was born in 1933 and came to football by accident, being discovered at the late age of 19 by a scout for Botafogo. He played football only for the love of it, uninterested in money, and ignoring advice about tactics. This is the fascinating story of a man who was as wild off the pitch as he was brilliant on it – mischievous, audacious and dripping with sex appeal, over the course of his life he fathered at least thirteen children with different women.

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Football in Sun and Shadow, by Eduardo Galeano 0

Posted on August 27, 2011 by samh

Football in Sun and Shadow, by Eduardo Galeano (1997)

This book is a poetic and eclectic look at the history of world football.

Galeano, who is Uruguayan, takes the reader along in small sections which describe not just the hard facts, but the less well-known folklore and anecdotes behind such elements of the game as the ball, players and various countries’ traditions. Read more…

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