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A History of Football in 100 Objects – Fun and Informative

Gavin Mortimer In A History of Football in 100 Objects has written a beautiful, funny insightful history of the beautiful game through various objects which helps to bring the history alive. It mainly is a clever and quirky history that rather than another boring book about football’s history but a unique and interesting account of the games history.

While the history starts in a typical way, at the beginning, from the public school roots of the game with the school bench and a cricket bat through to modern day wad of Euros. Mortimer has taken the timeline of the game and has interpreted it for the reader in a way that they can associate and understand the history. While understanding that history they can retell various parts of that history via the humour and objects in this book.

Object 46 the typewriter took me back to the days when I used to race home from Maine Road (now gone) to get home for the arrival of the Pink Final which had the match report plus all the results of the day. Now we have the internet and it is not just the same, now smell of the ink the bright pink newspaper long gone.

Today when we think of the world cup we think of the money spent the security around the trophy and England’s constant failure since 1966. Who would think that the trophy was once carried to the tournament in a suitcase all the way to the first world cup over in Uruguay? We all know about England not going to that tournament because there is nothing Johnny Foreigner can teach us.

This is a fabulous book for any football fan because we all love our facts and stats to quote at others as if we have a Masters degree in the game. This is a well researched, well thought out incisive history of the beautiful game one that can be read and reread at will.
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on 22 February 2015
Given how long it's been played and how many books have been written about it, any new history of football needs to have some kind of hook to make it stand out. Gavin Mortimer may have found that, but presenting his history as ''A History of Football in 100 Objects''. This prompts the question as to whether the whole of football could be reduced down to a mere century of objects. But then, if Chris Waring's "From 0 to Infinity in 26 Centuries" can make a history of maths worth reading, I guess anything is possible.

In terms of the span, this is certainly a comprehensive history, beginning with a school bench to represent the origins of the game and ending with FIFA's Ballon D'Or, which is the current trophy given to the world's best player. The book is completely up to date, covering the recent demise of Glasgow Rangers as well as events since the close of the 2011-2012 season. Thinking through what I know of the history of football, I can't recall offhand any important event that hasn't been covered here, with vital innovations such as substitutions and red cards all included, as are less vital innovations such as the vuvuzela.

In terms of the objects themselves, there are some interesting decisions here. Although clearly carefully selected, some of them do require a little explanation. The use of a £1 coin to represent the downfall of Rangers is relatively easy to explain, but the NASA logo for the 1970 Brazil side takes a little more effort. Although Mortimer is able to link his objects with what they are meant to represent, there were moments where I moved onto the next object and immediately thought "what?" Things soon settled out, but it did prove a minor distraction.

On occasion, the tone used was also slightly distracting in parts. Although the flow of the words works well, the tone comes across at times as if Mortimer is giving a lecture, rather than having a chat. Where Martin Kelner's "Sit Down and Cheer: A History of Sport on TV" was written in the warm tones of a TV presenter, this book is written in a stiffer, slightly more formal tone. Whilst this doesn't detract from the content, it does make it a little more difficult to read than other books I've read. This becomes more obvious when Mortimer is criticising Sepp Blatter and FIFA, which he does fairly frequently.

It also means that this is a book that seems to be lacking passion, as the stiff tone doesn't permit an awful lot of that to come through. For a game largely built upon the dedication of the fans and players, this absence does create a bit of a hole and that's more obviously absent than any object Mortimer could have missed out. Given that one of his objects is the prawn sandwich Roy Keane referred to when he criticised the lack of passion shown by corporate fans at Old Trafford, this seems to be a strange omission.

But these things should not detract from what is a comprehensively researched and well presented history of football. The unusual basis of the idea makes the book stand out as being different and well worth looking out as a gift for the football fan in your life. It may well be slightly better in theory than I found it to be in practice, but the theory is distinctive enough to make it worthwhile, even if the football fan in question would ideally need to have a fairly prominent place in your life for it to be worth spending out on a present with only limited novelty value.

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on 13 September 2014
The first professional match I saw was in September 1945 a month after VJ Day. It was a League South game - a combination of the teams that had been in the First and Second Divisions in 1939 from " the South". I remember many of the changes the objects represent.
Well written, the events are well chosen and altogether an admirably told story.
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on 6 April 2013
After buying the history of England in 100 Places, I found Gavin Mortimer's book equally intriguing and informative. Well researched, and a recommended read for footy fans who love their history.
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on 10 July 2014
Interesting and informative read
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on 28 November 2012
I am no expert on football but the book appears to be interesting. it is a different approach that will appeal to younger readers. The paper is very poor quality!
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