Tim Parks is an English author and journalist who moved to Italy more than 20 years ago. In an effort to fully immerse himself into the culture of his new home, he began to support the local professional soccer team, Hellas Verona. This book is his diary of a season spent following Verona to all of their home and away matches.
Parks travelled the length and breadth of Italy accompanied by a motley and colourful band of supporters. Some were professionals, some students, some would-be hooligans, but all embraced Parks and welcomed him as one of their own...which he soon became. This book is not only an account of the trials and tribulations of a professional soccer team over the course of one season, but it is also an entertaining study of the Italian people and a travelogue of its cities and towns.
You don't have to be a soccer fan to enjoy this book although it certainly helps. If you are a soccer fan, you will be able to relate to Parks' experiences and you will realise that sports fans - and particularly soccer fans - are really the same everywhere. If you know a lot about Italian Calcio, you will really enjoy the book. If you want to learn more about the game, the country, the culture and the people, this is the perfect introduction.
It's not that this isn't a good book but if you've read any of these "follow the club for a season" book, it really offers nothing new other than following a team in another nation. Yes, we find out that all supporters seem hung up on chldish racist/sexist comments/chants. I did like the fact he incorporated Web site BBS postings as many of those were a laugh. I mean, I do get the whole group mentality male bonding deal that soccer fandom is all about but what i really wanted to know more than anything from this book was why Italian soccer is so popular yet so mindnumbingly dull to watch. How many 0-0, 1-0 matches does Italian Serie A produce? I wanted to find out why a vibrant and colorful culture of fandom (and food, art, fashion, politics, etc.) can somehow produce possibly the worst excuse for entertainment on the soccer pitch ever.
I recommend Tim Parks's books, "An Italian Education "and "My Italian Neighbors" to everyone planning a trip to Italy. His wonderful observations, funny stories are pure delight. I am an American, who has lived in Italy for 30 years. I understand the interest of the middle class Italians for "football." Much like the passion of the middle class Americans for American football. Mr. Parks's book is too narrow in interest. If you want to know about Italian football and the personalities of the players and the fans then read, "The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro." Now that book scores a ten! Frankly, this book is dead boring.
This book is anything but boring! Even more than Mr. Parks' previous books, this book presents both the beauty and the ugliness of present day Italy and Italian football. I especially enjoyed his portrayal of the Verona fans, both their good qualities (wit, camaraderie, fealty) and bad (fanatiscism with a touch of fascism). I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Italian football or Italy in general. Mr. Parks' two other books about his life in Italy, one titled Italian Neighbors, are also very good and highly recommended.