Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football Hardcover – Feb 20 2001
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English writer Phil Ball has put the history of Spanish football into the context of the epomymous Morbo. Hard to pin down in translation (though the author manfully spends a chapter trying to explain the term in its fullest sense), "morbo" encapsulates the fierce rivalry across a club scene fragmented by history, language and politics. The bitter feeling between Barcelona and Real Madrid has, of course, been well-documented elsewhere. Here that famous rivalry is only one component of a landscape of antagonism. In particular, the Basque country in the north-west and Seville in the south both provide breeding grounds for a healthy portion of "morbo", and receive Ball's attention accordingly. The narrative captures the essence of that feeling perfectly, without failing to inform on a historical basis. A splendid chapter traces the ancestry of football in Spain back to the labourers in the English-owned copper mines in Huelva, Andalucia. While Spanish club football has always had its stars, from Di Stefano to Cruyff and Butragueno through to Raul and Luis Figo today, Ball shows that there is a greater force running in its lifeblood. Yet still there remains a paradox; he analyses the historical under-achievement of the Spanish national side in major international tournaments.
The new millennium has seen excellent books focusing on football culture in Holland and France--namely Brilliant Orange and Le Foot. At a time when the stock of Spanish club football has perhaps not been higher since the heyday of Real Madrid in the late 50s and early 60s, Morbo, a triumph in the same vein, thankfully allows us to add Spain to the list. --Trevor Crowe
Top Customer Reviews
Morbo is a brilliant place to start for the un-initiated and a delightful treat for those who already know the culture of the game.
Phil's writing style is easy to read and the book doesn't delve into unnecessary detail which would only confuse the average reader. This book is a must read for any La Liga enthusiast.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In Morbo, Phil Ball does a wonderful job of illustrating the cultural background to spanish soccer. And true to form, he effectively illustrates that La Liga is not only about Barcelona and Real Madrid. There is much history between these two clubs but fortunately, Ball doesn't spend all his effort on them. Instead he dives into the history of spanish soccer, starting with English miners, to the history of clubs that no one has heard of outside of Spain, like Recreativo de Huelva.
This is far more a cultural study, than it is a history of spanish soccer. Balls successfully discusses how the two paths combine, and how club support was defined more by class/politics/ and culture, than by a jersey's color. It certainly goes a long way in helping outsiders understand the level of support and the long ties people have to clubs. It is especially interesting in light of how the modern world is shaping the game.
Finally, like many sports leagues, there is history and their is myth. Ball does a service to the spanish game by not buying into the myth of some of the rivalries (Betis-Sevilla, RM-Barcelona, Athletic-everyone else). In doing so, he provides a complete and true picture of how the game has evolved on the Iberian peninsula.
For people interested in understanding how events actually shaped the game in Spain, this is a must read. There are plenty of books out there about Real Madrid and Barcelona, but there are few books that look at Spanish soccer with this depth and refreshing candor.
This is a great introduction to Spanish soccer for anyone bewildered by the Catalans rooting for Germany during the 2010 World Cup. The author, a British expat, provides the necessary lens adjustment for the outsider looking into this cultural product that now sells itself on a world market but is still dominated by deep-rooted meanings and symbols that are often imperceptible from abroad. The chapter about the national team's chronic underperformance is, of course, now seriously outdated after a European Cup and a World Cup, but the "morbo" surrounding Bilbao-Real Madrid games or Barcelona-Espanyol matches certainly isn't.
1. Altetico Madrid and Valencia got only brief treatment, which is considering the importance of these two teams for Spanish and overall European soccer.Since whole theme is morbo which in free translation means grudge this is understandable.
2. Like virtually almost all intellectuals from the British Isles Mr. Ball is leftist and he is not shy to show it. Franco's supporters are always thugs, on the other hand even people who tried to kill legendary Ricardo Zamora are described almost with sympathies, but this is as I said nothing new.
3. Patronizing view regarding the scandalous refereeing during the World Cup 2002 when both Italy and Spain were drastically hurt in favor of hosts South Korea. I highly doubt that the author would be so nonchalant if England suffered the same fate.
In spite of these expected biases it is good book and good introduction taken with grain of salt so to speak.