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Game plan

LiveMint logoLiveMint 05-06-2014 Vishal Mathur

The FIFA World Cup 2014 kick-off is just a few days away, and this is just the time to set the facts in order and brush up on the history of the game. We have compiled a list of books that all football fans must pick up. If you aren’t one, these books may be the perfect starting point to understanding the game better, in time for the opening match between Brazil and Croatia at the Arena De Sao Paolo. To make it easier for you to buy, we have listed the paperback and e-book prices (wherever possible) as well as the store you can buy them from.

The Mammoth Book of The World Cup

Author: Nick Holt

Publisher: Constable & Robinson

Paperback @ `289

Kindle E-book @ `279

Paperback @Flipkart: `289

Nick Holt has written extensively on sports, music and films, but this one is massive indeed, running over 750 pages. The Mammoth Book of the World Cup begins by talking about the formations that teams play in, something which commentators and analysts will be mentioning many times on television in the next few weeks. It explains what each football associations does, before proceeding to describe every single World Cup in detail—right from 1930, when FIFA decided to host its own event, moving away from the shadow of the Olympics. In few other books you will find, for instance, the Argentina vs England 1986 classic brought back to life in such vivid details, not forgetting the political significance of the match.

Holt minces no words: “So, okay, the referee was culpable, but what about Maradona? Why did he choose to cheat and punch the ball into the net? Did his hatred of the English extend to soiling his own reputation as a sportsman? Because no impartial observer could find that acceptable, just as no one found Thierry Henry’s handball in a later match acceptable”. Clearly, not one to be cowed by the so-called Gods, he continues, on the 1990 final to be precise, “And I would admit with a touch of schadenfreude (German for Glee), Maradona was a genius, an extravagant talent, but he was also a cheat, and it’s nice when cheats get their come-uppance”.

The reality is that the Mammoth Book is unputdownable, for all 750+ pages. You will need to set aside a couple of days for this one.

Anatomy of England: A History in Ten Matches

Author: Jonathan Wilson

Publisher: Orion

Paperback @ `527.51

Hardcover @ `2536.50

Kindle E-book @ `299.50

E-Book @ Flipkart: `449

Jonathan Wilson gives a cheeky insight into the fortunes of the English football team, by analyzing ten key matches. His forensic investigation begins with the Spain vs England game played in 1929, in Madrid, and continues till the time the “golden generation” tempted fate, before England took on Luca Modric and the rest at Wembley on 21 November 2007. Wilson puts every game in context, explains its significance, gives detailed tactical explanations, and describes what transpired on and off the field.

“The sun shone, Des smiled, Gazza grinned, Shearer scored, England sparkled, and hardly anybody beat each other up. Britpop and Britart were at their peak; a deeply unpopular government was palpably in its death-throes; England played football of unimagined tactical sophistication, and Britain suddenly seemed an exciting, vibrant place to be. Football—however briefly—came home.” This is how Wilson describes the summer of Euro 96.

For any English football fan, this is a must-read book. And for those who tend to point fingers and laugh at the England team, this book will help them hone their argument.

The Manager: Inside the Minds of Football’s Leaders

Author: Mike Carson

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Paperback @ `399

Hardcover @ `1429

Kindle E-Book @ `174.30

Paperback @ Flipkart: `430

“You have the harder task. I just have to do this stuff—you have to explain it! I just do it all by intuition.” This is what one manager told Mike Carson when he met a bunch of them as part of his research for this book. Carson discussed tactics, strategies and man management, their bosses, media and fan pressure with managers like Roy Hodgson, Carlo Ancelotti, Arsene Wenger, Sam Allardyce, Roberto Mancini, Jose Mourinho, Brendan Rodgers, Harry Redknapp, Sir Alex Ferguson, Walter Smith and Mick McCarthy. Each has his own tale to tell, and Carson puts their insights together in a style that would appeal to the lay reader as well as business leaders who wish to better understand the art of management.

This is an essential guide to the way managers think, how they work behind the scenes, and away from the media glare, as they set up their teams.


Author: Simon Kuper & Stefan Syzmanski

Publisher: Harper Sport

Paperback @ `401

Kindle E-book @ `254

Paperback @ Flipkart: `401

“Why transfers fail?”, “Why do Germany and Brazil Win?”, “How have Spain conquered the World?” and “Penalties—what are they good for?”—these are questions that tend to occupy football fans, and often casual observers.

Kuper and Syzmanski have approached the game of football from a completely different perspective—one that is based on statistics—to answer some of these questions. This book is an updated version of Why England Lose, with additional chapters on the rise of Spain as a modern-day football power; how data is analyzed while buying and selling players (how big a mistake did Real Madrid make when they sold Claude Makelele?); and why football clubs do not go bust in spite of operating under massive financial stress.

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