The World is a Ball: The Joy, Madness and Meaning of Soccer Hardcover – May 11 2010
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- Hardcover : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0385664982
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385664981
- Item Weight : 544 g
- Product Dimensions : 14.61 x 3.3 x 21.59 cm
- Publisher : Doubleday Canada (May 11 2010)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #979,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Quill & Quire
The literature of soccer is extensive. From the lyrical whimsy of Eduardo Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow to the thorough social history of David Goldblatt’s The Ball Is Round to the ardent fanaticism of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, the beautiful game has been covered from every angle. In The World Is a Ball, Globe and Mail television (and sometimes soccer) columnist John Doyle steps into the long shadow of those earlier books to offer up his take on the world’s most popular sport and the culture that surrounds it.
The World Is a Ball loosely follows the model of Fever Pitch. It begins with Doyle’s boyhood discovery of soccer in Ireland and continues, after his move to Canada, with his rabid fandom and his travels to cover the world’s biggest tournaments over the last decade. Because Doyle’s main gig is not sports writing – a distinction that he insists on making several times in this book – his reports focus less on the game itself than on the culture of travelling supporters, the efficiency of stadium security, and the nature of big-event media.
Unfortunately for dedicated soccer fans, there isn’t much new in The World Is a Ball. Stipulating that the English are overrated, Dutch fans are legion, the Italian style is boring to watch, and African teams are thrilling underdogs doesn’t break any new ground. However, general readers will enjoy Doyle’s gonzo travelogue. The catalogue of the author’s sleepless nights, language difficulties, and trials as a foreign correspondent makes for compelling reading.
Although Doyle duly reports the match results and heralds the star players at each tournament he attends, by the time the final rounds are played, the match descriptions have been reduced to brief asides, as if the results are less important than the journey that leads to them.
For general readers, this is a good thing. For hardcore fans, however, the game’s drift to the sidelines is a disappointment.
"[This] book crackles with unexpected angles, and is written with a kind of naïve delight. It is the ideal present for anyone given to pontification about the brain-deadening effects of television."
— The Sunday Times, (UK)
"A marvelous read, with keen insights and laugh-out-loud moments..."
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
"I had to stop reading several times because I was laughing hysterically."
— Malachy McCourt
Top reviews from Canada
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Personally, I liked the sections describing fans attending World Cup and Euro Cup games, and the author's interactions with fans and locals. The book provides excellent background so someone who is not knowledgeable about world soccer can catch up.
It's an obvious perfect choice for the soccer nut in your family and well timed with this year's World Cup.
I appreciated the author's passion for the game, but I could not believe my ears when he described Zidane's head butt on Materazzi during the World Cup championship match in 2006 in Germany as "an artistic statement against mediocrity." Zidane (of Algerian ancestry) had a pretty bad temper and the Italians knew this well. They worked on him until he lost his head, pure and simple. Believe me, there was nothing Zidane would have loved more than to cap his career with a second world title for France. Instead, he lost his head and let his team and country down. He showed that in addition to being a soccer god he was also a fallible human being. Perhaps Mr. Doyle can find more poetry in that than in a romanticized interpretation of a sport that is art, drama and business in ever changing measures. Good read, funny at times, but a naive and romanticized view of a sport that is a HUGE business.
Top reviews from other countries
Don't expect detailed analysis on any of the matches played, most are not mentioned with more than a few sentences, so if you are looking for a history of the game type of book this is not it. This book is filled with many delightful tales of adventure before and after the 90 minutes have been played. The World is a Ball is about the beautiful game behind the eyes of a football journalist and more importantly a football fan.