Top critical review
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entertaining and well-researched, but in need of editing
on 17 December 2002
This is an entertaining and well-researched book, although at over 400 pages it could do with a bit of editing. It's not so much a book about Brazilian football, but one about the Brazilian obsession with football. As such, it's more about Brazilian history, culture, society, politics and national identity, and the relationship of football with Brazil's other obsession - sex. This is not a book about the technicalities of football itself. Pelé, Garrincha, Tostão, Ronaldo, Rivelino, Zico, Carlos Alberto, Roberto Carlos and Romário all feature (though surprisingly not Rivaldo), with interesting insights and information presented (not always of a footballing nature). However, the real stars of the book are those eccentric characters who have extended Brazil's love of football to autoball (football involving cars!), button ball (table football), beach soccer and ball juggling (especially by women, including Ronaldo's wife). The names of Brazilian footballers are deciphered, emphasising the Brazilian preference for nicknames and the names of famous film stars and singers. Bellos discusses at some length the deep trough that Brazilian football sunk into after the defeat in the 1998 World Cup final, in particular the controversy around Ronaldo. The extent of corruption in Brazilian football that was uncovered at the time is also exposed. In a fascinating interview, Socrates explains his reasons for Brazil's failings in the couple of years before the 2002 World Cup. It's only a pity that the book was published before Brazil's subsequent success. Such a dramatic turnaround in fortunes, both for Brazil and Ronaldo, cried out for further explanation. Bellos states more than once that Brazilians view football as "a game in which prodigious individual skills outshine team tactics, where dribbles and flicks are preferred over physical challenges and long distance passes". The Brazilian team of 2002 showed that a combination of these attributes can be both successful and highly entertaining.