Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer Hardcover – Apr 18 2002
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*Starred Review* Soccer fans will not want to miss this chronicle of the rise of Total Football (soccer, of course, is known as football everywhere but in North America). What is Total Football? Here you have to get a little philosophical; you have to learn to handle phrases like "a new theory of flexible space" to wrap your mind around the idea that a football pitch isn't merely a big rectangle. The Dutch, who invented Total Football about three decades ago, are, according to Winner, a nation of special neurotics. Because space is always at a premium in their small country, they've learned to use it in wildly innovative ways. This is seen in their architecture, their art, their society--and their soccer. While other teams were playing the traditional every-player-in-his-position style of game, the plucky Dutch team called Ajax began playing a whole new game based on position-switching: defenders would suddenly become attackers and vice versa, thus substantially reducing the amount of repetitive back-and-forth running. This technique was revolutionary for its time (the 1960s), and it propelled Holland to the top of the soccer world. This extremely well written and exciting book, like Nick Hornby's immensely enjoyable Fever Pitch (1993), catches us up in its enthusiasm and puts us right there in the grandstands cheering for the Dutch coaches and players who changed the game of soccer forever. David Pitt
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One of those strangely informative books that will... entertain those who have little interest in either soccer or the Netherlands. -- The EconomistSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Part of the problem is that David Winner at times does too much telling rather than showing. One of the earlier reviewers remarked that access to video footage would be helpful. I agree, especially when Winner just keeps telling the reader how brilliant and beautiful the Dutch playing style is without much description beyond those mere adjectives. On the other hand, there are sections where the description is quite vivid, like that of the Cruyff turn. But it still falls a bit short. This book would work much much better as a documentary. Or at least there could have been greater and better use of pictures and illustrations.
Another problem on the strategy front is when Winner tries to stretch certain ideas to the absolute limit. At one point he concludes that a player's ability to curl the ball on a free kick made the defensive wall useless in such a situation. Winner fails to notice that if the wall wasn't there, someone else would blast the ball straigth through to goal. When you're forced to pick your poison with let's say Real Madrid, surely you'd rather let Beckham curl it rather than give Roberto Carlos a direct shot. A few of Winner's exasperating conclusions almost made me give up on the book.
Luckily, for the most part, I continued reading. Despite my disappointments, the book does provide fascinating observations on Dutch history, culture, people, architecture, etc.Read more ›
For example, one of these linkages is the shared timeframe for the birth of modern Dutch football and the progressive globalist nature of Holland, as exemplified by Amsterdam as we think of it now. Another is the lack of "killer instinct" or "win at all costs" mentalities (as evidenced by the national team's historical failure to win the big games), in favor or a more aesthetic mentality that values style or beauty over results. A third example is his discussion of the tension between society/team as a whole, and the individual/star. Winner splits his time between history and analysis (often very insightful), and interviews with former players, coaches, and non-football academic specialists and art critics. There are great tidbits here and there, such as a chapter about the Ajax club and why many of its supporters wave Israeli flags, which is intertwined with a capsule history of Dutch collaboration with Nazi occupiers and the Dutch collective memory of the war.Read more ›
In a nutshell, the author suggests that Dutch society is reflected in its soccer. There are some ridiculously extraneous ideas here, such as (what I consider) filler material regarding the color orange, the seeming Dutch inability to win penalty kick shootouts, and the Jewish war experience in the Netherlands. However, the book really shines in Winner's many interviews with ex-players and managers. There are lots of great (and some contradictory) anecdotes about Cruyff, Van Basten, Rep, Rensenbrink, Keizer, Van der Gaal, and to a lesser extent Krol, Gullitt, Kluivert, and Bergkamp.
I would recommend this book only to those who are obsessed (at least mildly) with both soccer and Holland. Both worthy topics. The joy of the book is in its anecdotal fun, however; don't expect thesis material here.
I enjoyed this book a lot because it is original, unconventional and informative. It is easy to read and provides a useful introduction for anybody wanting to learn about this most intriguing of footballing nations. The book will interest people who are interested in the ideas behind football rather than a simple narrative history of football in Holland.
Most recent customer reviews
A bit of a slow moving book but if you love the game in any way, shape, or form, and you don't mind being "challenged" when you read, then this is a sublime choice,... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Iain Harvey
For its entertainment value, its creativity, its humor, and its depth of insight, this is perhaps the best book ever written on soccer. Read morePublished on July 9 2004