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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People's football - one man's revolution
A must for all those remotely interested by either football or China and preferably both! Englishman Rowan Simons manages to effortlessly entertain, amuse and inform us as he leads us on his own one man odyssey for the right to play amateur football in modern China. He combines his often hilarious anecdotes and extraordinary experiences with a rare insight into the...
Published on 27 Aug 2008 by Super Blue

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars bamboo shoots saved
An interesting book on China but Rowan can come across as a bit too clever for his own good. Worth a read to maybe get a feel for what China thinks about football but not for those looking for a more human interest story
Published on 11 Sep 2010 by M. French


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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People's football - one man's revolution, 27 Aug 2008
This review is from: Bamboo Goalposts (Hardcover)
A must for all those remotely interested by either football or China and preferably both! Englishman Rowan Simons manages to effortlessly entertain, amuse and inform us as he leads us on his own one man odyssey for the right to play amateur football in modern China. He combines his often hilarious anecdotes and extraordinary experiences with a rare insight into the history and culture of the game in a country he has clearly come to understand profoundly. From his student days in Tiananmen Square to his unlikely role as Chinese television's favorite soccer pundit, Simons treats us to a rare insight into the complexities of modern China. For anyone who has ever played the game, from Sunday league upwards, this is a fascinating, sometimes unbelievable and always enjoyable read. Highly recommended to all lovers of sport in general and football in particular, this book has to be read to be believed!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Problem with China, 13 Jan 2009
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bamboo Goalposts (Hardcover)
I've long wondered why the Chinese national men's soccer/football team hasn't had anywhere near the success as their women's squad. Many of the ingredients appear to be there: large sports infrastructure, huge talent pool, a sport that doesn't favor a particular body type, and generally strong team spirit. Well, this is a book that attempts to answer that question and mostly does a pretty good job of it.

Simons is an Englishman who came to China as a university student in the late '80s, fell in love with the country, and hustled his way into a position to return and make a life there. He combined a few contacts in sports promotion and media with his Chinese language skills and an entrepreneurial spirit to build a multifaceted career in the just-developing Chinese television market. Be warned, it takes a good 100 pages of his backstory before the soccer content really gets going. But that's OK, because his stories about being a Westerner in Beijing when Westerners were relatively scarce are well-told. They're also en excellent reminder of the rapidity of China's growth and opening to the outside that's happened in the last 20 years. Indeed, probably the best part of the book are Simons' eyewitness accounts the Tienanmen Square protests and the bloody response.

The latter 2/3 of the book cover the choppy (and often corrupt) history of modern Chinese soccer, both at the national and and club level, along with the story of his own efforts to start an English-style amateur football club,and all the logistical, financial, and bureaucratic obstacles that faced. Simons lays the lion's share of the blame for the pathetic state of Chinese pro and national soccer at the door of the central government. The Chinese sports model has always been a top-down approach, with central control seeking to identify the elite athletic talent and directing all resources toward that elite. However, by never developing any kind of "grassroots" youth and amateur club system, or allowing the civic space for one to develop on its own, the authorities have severely limited both the spread and appeal of the game.

Simons also identifies a problem with how the outside soccer world has interacted with China. Plenty of foreign clubs have come to China on tours, and many have tried to establish some kind of semi-permanent presence, but all have failed. Instead, he suggests that entire leagues need to come to China in a coordinated effort -- an approach that has worked wonders in other sports, such as the NBA's effort to popularize basketball, and the NFL's initial efforts to raise interest in American football. Unfortunately, with all the attention he gives to structural and bureaucratic elements, he never provides any interactions with players or coaches from the Chinese system. It's a large missed opportunity, since presumably some of the foreign ex-coaches would have plenty to say about what's wrong, and some players might be willing to speak off the record.

As the time frame of the book moves closer to the 2008 Olympics, Simons realizes this is his best chance to influence the development of the beautiful game in China. And in fact, near the end, it is revealed that this book served as one of his main outlets for critiquing the Chinese system and is clearly meant to spark internal debate and changes. The problem is that there is thus no epilogue about whether or not his critiques have had any impact on the Chinese football authorities. So the book ends up being this fairly interesting journey building up to a big moment, and then it just ends abruptly. Still, it engaged me enough as a soccer fan to want to seek out further information about Chinese soccer and how it develops over the coming years.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holiday book i could not put down, 2 Sep 2008
By 
This review is from: Bamboo Goalposts (Hardcover)
many football books about other countries just talk about how they have developed and grown and talk about their famous teams. This cannot be written about china as their football is not developed in such a way. The football history they have starts in the 3rd century with a game credited as the birth of football. fast forward 800 years and Rowan Simons could not find a place to play. This book is as much about a foreigner in china as it is football. This is the story of one mans mission to change a countries sporting psyche taking him from the tiananmen square protests to tv personality.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars bamboo shoots saved, 11 Sep 2010
By 
M. French (Kingston UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bamboo Goalposts (Hardcover)
An interesting book on China but Rowan can come across as a bit too clever for his own good. Worth a read to maybe get a feel for what China thinks about football but not for those looking for a more human interest story
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