A post, and a request

Why, exactly, did India lose its once chance to play on the World Cup stage? Hint: it is not because barefoot players were banned.

Thanks to a bunch of friends on Twitter, I’ve got a comprehensive post up on the Yahoo India blog, rounding up interesting stories from the world of the Cup.

As follow up tomorrow, I was planning on introducing you guys to my favorite soccer book of all time. I have referred to that book earlier — here, and here. Time now to give you an extended look inside those pages — but meanwhile, a question for you, the answers to which I hope to incorporate in the post: which is the best book on soccer you have read, and why?

30 thoughts on “A post, and a request

  1. Pingback: The best book on football. Ever. « Smoke Signals

  2. Two books I really enjoyed:

    “If You’re Second You Are Nothing: Ferguson and Shankly” a dual biography by Oliver Holt, makes some interesting comparisons and sums up (I think) by saying how Ferguson may have the larger trophy haul, but a reduced legacy due to his moving away from his roots. http://www.panmacmillan.com/titles/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Title&BookID=374171

    Another great one is “Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough” by Duncan Hamilton about Clough’s Nottingham Forest. Gives a first-hand insight about what made Clough and eventually what would break him. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Provided-You-Dont-Kiss-Me/dp/0007247109

    Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

    • Thanks, man — that is precisely the kind of book I like reading. Will try and get my hands on it

  3. Continuing on Fever Pitch, one might want to try this book called ‘Ali, Pele Lillee and me’ by Brian Viner. While not a specific sports book the way Fever Pitch is (it’s an Arsenal book, really), and thus not a niche-market target, it’s a wonderful growing up saga during what was probably the best decade in sports.

  4. Soccer in sun and shadow (I bought it in the US) is probably one of the most beautiful books I have read. Here’s a thumbs-up to its mention. I carry it around with me pretty much all the time…. it’s like the cliched pack or cashewnuts, you’d never mind a bite.
    You might want to try this excellent book on the seedy world of Italian football (by an american what’s more) called ‘the miracle of castel di sangro’. I absolutely loved it.

    • Oh wow — another Soccer in Sun and Shadow fan. 🙂 Just put up my post, linking to it in a few

  5. Forget about quality football writing out of India. Jaydeep Basu’s “Stories from Indian Football” (if I got the name right, published by UBSPD) is the only honest book that doesn’t pretend to be an authoritative history of Indian soccer but lucidly provides enough anecdotes while maintaining a certain chronological sequence to give you some idea about how Indian soccer waxed and waned over the years.

    • Wasn’t there some book Boria Mazumdar once wrote/co-authored? Heard about it, haven’t read it.

  6. 1950 was the fourth world cup after 1930, 1934 and 1938. England competed for the first time in 1950. Till the late 50s the olympics were still considered the pinnacle of world football glory since they had preceded the world cup. fifa has long since introduced rules to water down football at the olympics so that the world cup now is the biggest football event.

  7. i always thought the no shoes reason was a bit fantastical. surely the issue would have come up in the qualifiers? then i found out that the reason india got picked for the finals was because the other asian teams didn’t show up for the qualifying tournament.

  8. Nick Hornby’s ‘Fever Pitch’ is supposed to be the grand daddy of all football books but I find it slightly over-rated. Surprisingly, I found Bengali journalist-writer Moti Nandi’s books way superior. “Yasin” and ‘Striker”, to name a few. Some might remember him as wroter of ‘Koni’ story of a slum girl’s struggle and rise as national champion swimmer *(it was subsequently made into a national award-winning movie).

    • I liked Fever Pitch, actually — may not be brilliant in and of itself, but what I liked most was the idea of using soccer matches to reflect one’s own coming of age as a fan. I wish I could read the books of this writer you name — I am still hoping to stumble on compelling football writing out of India 😦

  9. My favorite is “Inverting The Pyramid” by Jonathon Williams. Can be little too much tactical at places, but for people who loves stuffs like that. it’s utterly, truly God-sent. It covers the evolution of football and the playing styles starting from its origin till the recent times, and covering how different philosophies and cultures influenced it. It touches Brazil, Argentina, Hungary, the Soviet block and many more. Add to that fascinating characters like Guttmann, Maslov, Sacchi… Check about Bela Guttmann. One of the most enigmatic characters in the history of football…

    • Oh sure — very heavy on theory, but I find myself turning to it every now and again, to refresh my mind on how a particular strategy or tactic originated. Outstanding — though I might leave it out of my own short list as being a touch too theoretical for a mass readership.

      • Yes, I agree “Inverting…” can be a bit too technical for the uninitiated. In case if you like tactical analysis of the game do check Wilson’s blog in Guardian and of course the best blog on football tactics on the planet http://zonalmarking.net/ . His WC2010 coverage has been immense so far (both pre-game and post-game), not to mention features like “top 20 Teams of the Decade”. Fabulous insights, complete with diagrams and all…

        Also, I second Som’s mention of Moti Nondi. He was a short story writer and sport-journalist for ABP. But I think he will be best remembered for his sports-based fictions (not only football) . See, if you can catch hold of any translations.

  10. Prem

    The ball is round by David Goldblatt is an amazing book. I have read it twice and keep reading its portions whenever I am bored.It is my favourite soccer book . Another is History oF world cup by Brian Glanville

    Actually it is fascinating to Look at History from different eyes. Be it war, sports, society, general trends etc.Another book that gives good historical perspective is PRIZE by Daniel Yergen which gives historical perspective to oil exploration and consumption.We can add Ram Guha’s “Corner of Foreign Field” and Mike Marquese’s ” Anything but England” to that list

    There are others which look at history from coal, influenza , codebreaking , language which are also equally fascinating

    • Ah yes, Ball is Round is one of the books I wanted to list in a short list, before naming the one book above all others I most enjoy. 🙂

      • Not exactly connected to soccer though there is a book called ” Can we have our balls back” . It reflects on the current English Mentality:-)

  11. Prem

    So why exactly didn’t India play in the 1950 world cup ? My knowledge on this bit of trivia stops with the ‘ no barefoot players allowed’ point. Now you have me thinking ? It can’t be that they couldn’t get a squad of 23 players is it ?

    • According to the SI story, the AIFF honchos decided it was pointless to bother, and they’d rather send their team to the Olympics in two years time, instead.

      • That explains why BCCI didn’t want to send the team for Asiad. They learned from AIFF’s mistake.

      • i thought maybe it was because they did not to give the americans a chance to avenge the 24-1 hockey thrashing!

        – s.b.

      • Over the past few days too many people on TV and elsewhere have been calling football soccer. I guess seeing you too do it kinda blew my fuse…sorry 😀

        • avinash:

          don’t blame prem! the more the rnris (specifically of the usa variety) at the higher echelons of decision making, the more you will hear that term ;-).


          glad that you wrote soccer, dude, as i almost would have responded with john madden’s “one equals two feet” (or whatever its exact title is).

          – s.b.

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