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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the funniest books I've read!, 8 Jan 2003
By 
Gordon Charles Ros (Germany) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and its World Cup Dream: Liechtenstein's World Cup Odyssey (Paperback)
As a football fan and having lived and worked in Liechtenstein for a year, all I kept thinking as I read this book was: why the HELL didn't I write it? I would recommend this fantastic book to anyone who is either A) interested in football, B) interested in Liechtenstein or C) just wants a good laugh. I lived in Liechtenstein in 1988-99 (I think) and so can totally relate to alot of the things Charlie Connelly says about the country, its people and its football team. The best thing about the book is his hilarious use of irony and understatement which made me laugh out loud. As a student and teacher of German I would have liked Charley to say a bit more about the dialect (which is almost impossible to understand) but the book is about football afterall. A great book! I absolutely loved it! Read it!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Football Reclaimed, 26 Jun 2002
This review is from: Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and its World Cup Dream: Liechtenstein's World Cup Odyssey (Paperback)
For any football fan poisoned by the excess hype and crass commercialism of today's game, this is the perfect antidote. Connolly's account of Liechtenstein's World Cup campaign is charming and funny without ever being patronising. He introduces us to a team that though small (manager Ralf Loose can select from only two hundred players in the entire country) is far from being a Mickey Mouse outfit. From the back room staff through to the players they display a dedication and a professionalism that would put many other countries to shame. In the space of just eight years the team have travelled from being whipping boys (losing 11-1 to Macedonia) to being a well organised side capable of holding a Spanish side containing the likes of Raul, Mendieta and Hiero to just two goals. Not bad for a side containing just six full time professionals. Connolly introduces us to the characters behind the story and in passing gives us an insight into life in this tiny country of which he becomes increasingly fond. We meet Patrick Hefti, the appropriately named centre half, who must organise his career and banking exams around his football; Henry Zech, the sweeper, who is forced to miss a match because his vineyard is at a crucial stage of the harvest; Ernst Hasler the journalist who fills in three pages of sport everyday for the local paper; and Mario Frick the star centre forward who goes on to claim a place with Seri A side Verona. Such is Connolly's skill as a writer that the reader soon begins to empathise with these unlikely heroes as they battle to compete with the giants of football. This is not just a good football book; it's also a fine travel book and like all good travel books, come the end you feel as though you've just passed a journey in excellent company. When you do turn the last page you'll feel privileged to know something about this country and the wonderful people who represent it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little knowledge......., 5 Feb 2003
This review is from: Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and its World Cup Dream: Liechtenstein's World Cup Odyssey (Paperback)
is a great thing. Scandals, club v country, power crazed chairmen, great results away from home, apathetic fans. Just like being at home. A great read with a potted (or maybe not given the size) history of Liechtenstein. Held my interest all the way and I'd recommend it to anyone - even those who don't like football! Up there with Pasavotchka (excuse the spelling).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True stars, 17 Oct 2002
By 
T. F. Kerr (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and its World Cup Dream: Liechtenstein's World Cup Odyssey (Paperback)
After reading about the (rare) highs and (frequent) lows of the Liechstenstein I am left in the position that I can only hope my own national side never faces them, as I would struggle to decide which side to support. Connelly writes and portrays the players and country in such a light that you can't help but to fall in love with this tiny nation. No longer am I ignorant of the talents of Martin Telser, or the potential of Peter Jehle, or indeed who the identy of the greatest journalist in the world is.
The book is truly laugh a minute, but while Connelly could have taken an easy route out and simply unfairly ridiculed the country and their team, he seems genuinly smitten by the country and there are more laughs at his own expense than at Liechstenstien.
If you are looking to rediscover football than look no further than this book. There are few books that I've taken more pleasure from reading than this.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amongst the Underdogs, 17 Oct 2004
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and its World Cup Dream: Liechtenstein's World Cup Odyssey (Paperback)
A quirky combination of travelogue and soccer aficionado essay, this book succeeds and fails in fits and starts. The premise is fairly straightforward, Connelly decides to investigate the state of soccer in the nation that is the laughingstock of the sport in Europe: Liechtenstein. Basically, he's interested in the process by which a country of around 30,000 people fields a team to compete against sides loaded with international superstars in the quadrennial European and World Cup qualifying rounds. Armed with little more than a 50-year-old guidebook to the country and an enthusiastic email response from the country's tourism agency (er, agent), he sallies forth and installs himself in a guesthouse in the capital.
Naturally, Connelly provides the requisite potted history the the wee place, which is delivered in the straightforward prose seasoned with quips and asides that has become the default style for travelogues ever since Bill Bryson started making the bestseller lists. Sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland, Liechtenstein has been a sleepy collection of valleys and villages until the last thirty or so years, which has seen it emerge as a financial services powerhouse with a phenomenal standard of living. In a relatively brief amount of time, Connelly manages to make a number of contacts who are all too willing to show him the splendors of Liechtenstein. Alas for him, this often involves strenuous hikes...
As nice as everyone is, the real focus of the book is on football, and the national side's journey through the qualifying rounds for the 2002 World Cup. Best known as a doormat for opposing sides (one win against Azerbaijan, two draws against Ireland and Hungary, 35 losses and six goals scored in international play), they showed glimmers of improvement in the Euro 2000 qualifiers two years previously. For this campaign, the team features a mere six full professionals (most of whom play in the Swiss leagues), and the remainder are semi-professionals who play in the Liechtenstein. league and hold day jobs. Given the superstardom accorded to national team members in other countries, it's rather amazing to read about the center midfielder who must choose between representing his country and pursuing his career in banking, or the sweeper who must miss a match due to his grape harvest! It makes for a very nice change of pace from the usual ego trips and gazillion dollar signing bonuses and salaries one normally associated with international soccer.
Liechtenstein. is placed in a group with Spain, Israel, Bosnia, and Austria, and Connelly does his best to wring as much drama out of the matches as possible. Of course, the issue isn't whether they will qualify or not, but whether they will win a game! Unfortunately like many, if not all, books about soccer, the flow of a game just doesn't translated well to the page. Once he gets to the matches, one desperately wishes for videos of them to watch before turning back to the book. Because the national team is such small fry, Connolly's given all access to the players and the manager, which allows one a real insiders view. Unfortunately, they all tend to repeat the same cliches about what an honor it is to be able to represent their country, and how amazing it is to play against such superstars, and how they just want to do their best. After a while, this gets a bit tedious, but Connelly does his gamest to keep things interesting with such peripheral figures as Liechtenstein's number one sportswriter, who manages to write three pages of sports news every day! And toward the end, there's a mini-controversy revolving around the one true star, "Super" Mario Frick, a forward who manages to make it into the Italian Serie A. On the whole, it's maybe a touch overlong, but if you're looking for a book about soccer that isn't tainted by the big money that revolves around the game now, this is a good one. And I guarantee it'll make you root for all those little guys in international competition, I know I'll be looking for the Liechtenstein scores next qualifying round.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super Book, 22 Jun 2002
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This review is from: Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and its World Cup Dream: Liechtenstein's World Cup Odyssey (Paperback)
Excellent Book and worth a Read. Charlie captures the highs and lows of Football well. From the opening page to the last page Charlie makes this book laugh and cry. For any football fan this is a must. 10/10. I will read more from this author.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A tale that builds from an iffy start, 11 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and its World Cup Dream: Liechtenstein's World Cup Odyssey (Paperback)
In what is quite an intriguing concept which appeals to the international football geek in me, Charlie Connolly followed the tiny Principality of Liechtenstein’s 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign. However, my inner geek was initially disappointed to find that I as reading more about the lack of interest Liechtenstein’s streets, and the author’s interactions with surly barmaids, than about the football team.

I should point out that Connolly does state that he is a travel writer, which explains a lot of the flowery prose describing very little in the opening pages, and the repeated sections of “what I did at the weekend” that some travel writing seemingly consists of, rather than giving the reader a deeper insight.<!--more--> He glorifies in his lack of knowledge of Liechtenstein, which wouldn’t be surprising for your average man in the street, but is a bit strange for a travel writer. Deciding that since Liechtenstein has a castle and sounds gothic, presumably meaning Germanic, he prepares for his trip by watching Frankenstein and reading Gothic novels, a theme he then uses to comment on the locals and locality once he arrives in Vaduz.

I don’t want to sound overly harsh as it is very informative and written in a pleasingly chatty way, but it took a good fifty pages before we actually got into some football, having ticked off Liechtenstein’s history, the author’s fear of settling down now he is thirty, his dull commute in London, and his loathing for Luton Airport. In a football book, pages and pages of such irrelevant detail start to grate.

But once the football starts things certainly liven up, culminating in a magnificent bar exchange with many of the players. We get to know the characters behind the Liechtenstein team and several of those playing in it, as Connolly graduates in the eyes of the locals from strange foreigner with an inexplicable interest in Liechtenstein football to friend, confidante and all round Liechtenstein fan. From encounters with visiting fans in the Rheinpark Stadion to heavy nights on the beer with several of the players and the country’s main football journalist, the insight Connolly gains into the footballing psyche is truly compelling.

Even the travel writing sections improve after the dreary opening thanks to encounters with some of Liechtenstein’s more interesting residents; notably the Prince himself. The national day festivities and the mountain hikes complete with various interactions give us a decent glimpse into the life of the Liechtensteiners and provides some explanation for why football, and their national team in particular, is no big deal to them. For the players on the other hand, it is a huge deal, and the reader feels he is getting to know some of them along with Connolly and I found myself rooting for them as he did as their World Cup campaign progressed.

Despite my initial reservations on the first sections of the book, it develops nicely and provides a warming tale of the travails of one of Europe’s football also-rans and some insight into the country and its people and gives an interesting read to anyone interested in international football’s backwaters. It also left me feeling in stronger agreement with the players’ thoughts on whether such tiny nations should have to face a pre-qualifying round or not. I’d previously felt it best to have such a round to weed out the real minnows, but the Liechtenstein players have put forward their point of view through Connolly, and I must admit it is a compelling one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable, 13 Feb 2012
This review is from: Stamping Grounds: Exploring Liechtenstein and its World Cup Dream: Liechtenstein's World Cup Odyssey (Paperback)
Charlie Connelly follows Liechtenstein's national football team as they attempt to qualify for the World Cup. In all truth, it doesnt matter which World Cup or who the players involved are as this is a perennial problem for Liectenstein. The story is excellent, providing an insight into what life is like for footballing nations at the lower end of the scale. As with other books, this shouldnt be limited by the time period which it covers as it would still be an excellent account almost a decade on from the actual events.
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