In Ajax, the Dutch, the War
, Simon Kuper, broadsheet journalist and author of the bestselling Football Against the Enemy
, turns his attention to the Dutch club Ajax of Amsterdam, and the hidden history of the Nazi occupation of Holland in WW2.
At one level the book can be seen as an investigation into the mystery of how and why Ajax, like one or two other of Europe's major club sides, are considered to be a Jewish team--their supporters, of no discernable faith, still wave an Israel flag at matches; in return some rival fans revel in anti-Semitic language and gestures. Kuper tries to locate the roots of this alignment through interviews with the ever-decreasing number of living witnesses, players, club officials and supporters, who experienced the period from the early 1930s to the end of the Second World War in 1945--a time in which the soul of Amsterdam, "the city of Jews and bicycles", was indelibly stained by the horrors of occupation, ghettoisation and the Holocaust.
What he finds is the story of a city, its people and its football team, that challenges the semi-truths and misconceptions about civilian lives in wartime that most of us hold--including how and why the mass obsession with football thrived in the unlikeliest circumstances. It's a personal history too. Kuper's parents, Jews from South Africa, moved to the Netherlands more than 30 years after the war had ended, but were confronted by its legacy at every turn.
By weaving himself, his family and the contemporary voices of ordinary people into what is essentially a book on a facet of 20th Century Northern European history, Kuper pulls off the remarkable feat of creating a readable, entertaining work out of potentially difficult material. Free of the occasionally pompous, cod-academic tone that soured parts of Football Against the Enemy, the book breathes a little more easily, is more involving, funnier, and more moving than its predecessor--and as such, is warmly recommended. --Alex Hankin
FEATURES THE TIMES - article by the author on 13 JanuaryTHE HERALD - articleabout the book on 4 JanuaryJEWISH TELEGRAPH - author interviewLONDON JEWISH NEWS - interview with SimonTELETEXT - interview TV GMTV SUNDAY programme - interview with Simon about the book on 2nd February RADIO BBC RADIO 3 Nightwaves 17 January. Simon reviewed a football documentary but got a plug for his book too.BBC RADIO 4 TODAY discussion with Simon during week of 27 JanuaryLONDON LIVE Robert Elms Show interview (broadcast week of 20 January)TALKSPORT interview 15 JanuaryBBC RADIO 5 CHILES ON SATURDAY - interview with Simon on 15 FebruaryBBC RADIO 5 SIMON MAYO programme - discussion and review of the book on 13 FebruaryBBC Radio York - interview on 17 JanuaryBBC Radio Humberside - interview on 15 JanuaryBBC Radio Jersey - interview on 17 JanuaryBBC Radio Leicester - interview on 22 January REVIEWS 'Kuper's poignant and perceptive account again proves that there can be more to football writing than fanzines and pale Hornby imitations.'GQ - January 03 'This book makes you realise that Bill Shankly's statement about footy being more important than life and deathis not far off.'FRONT - March 03 'Kuper is an orginal, sophisticated and adventurous writer.' THE SUNDAY TIMES 9 February 'passionate and moving volume' THE GUARDIAN - 1 February 'His writing combines scholarly graft, a feel for political complexity and quiet but powerful wit.' THE INDEPENDENT - 25 January'An absolute belter.' Danny Baker THE TIMES 7/6/03 'Kuper has produced a beguiling book, not only for aficionados of the beautiful game or connoisseurs of Jewish history, but for anyone curious about our not-so-distant past.' FT -18 January 'Kuper has fashioned a work which brilliantly juxtaposes the everyday life of football clubs with the awful fate suffered by so many of their Jewish players, officials and supporters.' TIME OUT 19/03/03 THE EXPRESS Non-fiction Read of the Week **** 16 FebruaryTHE INDEPENDENT sports section 'Bookof the Week' 17 FebruarySUNDAY TELEGRAPH - 26 JanuaryTHE TIMES - 1 FebruarySUNDAY TELEGRAPH - 2 FebDAILY TELEGRAPH - reviewFHM - review 1st June 03 SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY 19 January 'football history at its best' TLS - 24 January 'Kuper's book demonstrates how football can be treated in a way that broadens ourview of the world' THE SPECTATOR - 18 January 'Hereby hangs a fascinating tale which Kuper describes particularly well.' JEWISH CHRONICLE - 17 January '[A] moving and compelling account' 'Simon Kuper is one of the country's brightest and most sophisticated sports writers.' THE TABLET - 12 April WATERSTONE'S BOOKS QUARTERLY Spring 03 'Not just for football fans. This book is filled with human stories and intelligent commentary on the relationship between football, politics and the war.' FOURFOURTWO - 5 FebruaryWHEN SATURDAY COMES - February 03 'compelling, but also disturbing' 'Kuper has delivered a fantasticaddition to the literarture of God's Game' DUBLIN EVENING HERALD 'Kuper's book is a relevation...Moving and enlightening, this is an unexpected triumph.'LEEDS GUIDE 1/03/03 Staffordshire Journal - reviewHAM & HIGH - review 17 --The Times