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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and informative
As a regular traveller and visitor to Eastern Europe, and having taken in quite a few games in the process, I found this book most interesting and would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the region as a whole.

Minor criticisms would include the strange omission of Czech Republic/Slovakia and the Baltic states, and there is the distinct impression...
Published on 31 Dec 2006 by Robert Francis

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A worthy effort but the perhaps a missed opportunity
Writing any book about Eastern Europe must be a hazardous process. The chief problem involves a decision on whether to concentrate on life before the collapse of communism or what has ensued since. Most authors take the former course and so Wilson should be congratulated for attempting to tackling the chaotic, often anarchic, events of recent years.

Wilson does...
Published on 17 April 2006 by R. A. Langham


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and informative, 31 Dec 2006
By 
Robert Francis (Brussels) - See all my reviews
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As a regular traveller and visitor to Eastern Europe, and having taken in quite a few games in the process, I found this book most interesting and would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the region as a whole.

Minor criticisms would include the strange omission of Czech Republic/Slovakia and the Baltic states, and there is the distinct impression that this book should be viewed more as an introduction to the issues at stake rather than act as a definitive guide.

Nevertheless, Jonathan Wilson (who cannot be much more than 30, judging from some subtle dating in the text) clearly has excellent knowledge and experience of the area (with the possible exception of the Caucausus region, which seems to have been more of a flying visit) and hence this book should be required reading for any football and travel enthusiast who dares to look further than the dreaded Premiership for their sporting thrills.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abkhazia to Zagreb, 7 Oct 2009
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A terrific read full of great anecdotes and fascinating insights into the history of football in eastern Europe before & after the fall of communism in the region. If I have one critcism it's that the stories of some of the countries can be a little repetitive - the decline of Poland, Hungary & Romania as footballing powers all occured for essentially the same reason - lack of money. No Abramovich-type sugar daddies came along to replace the patronage & protection the big clubs in these countries used to receive from powerful figures in the Soviet political/military regimes, so their domestic leagues became a shambles rife with corruption, and any talented youngsters were sold abroad to the highest bidder ASAP. Having said that, there's plenty here to praise; the power-shift from Dynamo Kyiv to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukraine, and the ongoing intrigues between the oligarchs of modern Russia are all tales well told, but for me the best section of the book concerns the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. The story of how Serbia-Montenegro, Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina & Croatia have tried (and very often failed) to come to terms with themselves and each other as independent entities provides by far the most fascinating and moving chapters of the book.
Jonathan Wilson's previous book (the superb 'Inverting the Pyramid') had a much broader range, but 'Behind the Curtain' reads like a much more personal work and is all the more engaging for it. An excellent read - thouroughly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read, 9 Feb 2007
By 
Mr. M. R. Wassell (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
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This is a well researched, very interesting account of football in many Eastern European countries. Each chapter is well worth reading and personally, I have learnt a great deal about football in countries which get 1 or 2 lines a year in the British sporting press.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good account of the state of Eastern European football, 29 April 2010
By 
Jonathon Wilson has written an interesting overview of the current state of football in Eastern Europe. He worked for a football website and developed a lot of contacts in former Iron Curtain countries. He has used these contacts to help him arrange interviews in the various countries.

Wilson is a self-confessed football nerd (like myself) whose particular interest in Eastern European teams began on family holidays in Slovenia. Back in those days Eastern European clubs were invariably described in the build up to European competition ties as "crack" outfits, whatever that meant.

The book has a chapter for each country, or former country in the case of Yugoslavia. A visit by Wilson to the country is described as well as any matches he attended and interviews he did. A brief history of football both during and post Communism in each country is given. He talks to, or quotes some familiar football personalities such as Hagi and Bilic and many of them have very interesting things to say about football and their countries. Naturally football and history are intertwined, as the way the seismic changes in these societies affected clubs and the national team is described.

One can detect at times a hankering for the certainty of the old days although corruption and match fixing are a feature of both eras. There are plenty of anecdotes about dodgy refereeing decisions and not so benevolent dictators influencing results.

I would have some gripes with the author. For example why were former East Germany and former Czechoslovakia omitted while the Caucasus republics are included?

Overall though this is an interesting and well written book that will appeal to both the casual football supporter and someone with a bit more knowledge of European football.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intruiging view on a novel subject, 18 April 2006
By 
A.T. Tappman (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Behind the Curtain: Travels in Football in Eastern Europe (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed this book which is well written and takes the perceptive reader on a journey through eastern Europe with football acting as the Hitchhikers guide. Don't be lulled into thinking that this is simply a book about football in Eastern Europe - it is a book about people, politics, corruption and tragedy, with a great deal of humour, and empathy for the citizens of the nations that have emerged from Communist control.

I am not an avid football fan but have spent time in these areas and this book captures brilliantly the struggles of the new nations to find their own identity and deal with their past, whilst telling me all I could ever need to know about the old system and the way that football represented the microcosms of the communist lifestyle.

If you want to know about the great sides of the Communist era this book gives you what you need to know. If you fancy owning an eastern European football club (and I get the impression that it is quite easy to do this), this book is for you. If you want an interesting and thoughtful insight into an unexpecteed subject, this book is for you. Thoroughly recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A worthy effort but the perhaps a missed opportunity, 17 April 2006
By 
R. A. Langham "Rob Langham" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Behind the Curtain: Travels in Football in Eastern Europe (Hardcover)
Writing any book about Eastern Europe must be a hazardous process. The chief problem involves a decision on whether to concentrate on life before the collapse of communism or what has ensued since. Most authors take the former course and so Wilson should be congratulated for attempting to tackling the chaotic, often anarchic, events of recent years.

Wilson does well to capture the fast pace of change in Eastern Europe and the rise of previously unheralded clubs such as Litex Lovech and Groclin. The pace of events also proves to be his downfall though. It is quite possible that he should have waited until he was a bit older before writing the book (a mention of a 1992 school trip to Russia marks him out as startlingly young) and it is not clear if he travelled to the eastern Bloc before the end of the old systems, and recent astonishing events such as CSKA's UEFA Cup win and the huge sums dished out by the likes of Dynamo Moscow are relegated to the epilogue. He also states that "..for Steaua Bucharest, a second European Cup success is as far away as a second league title is for Ipswich". As I write, Steaua have secured themselves a place in the semi final of the 2005-06 UEFA Cup - merely weeks after this book was published. It is incumbent on the publishers to request amendments to the book in time for the paperback's appearance in the autumn of 2006.

Another frustration is the selective nature of the coverage. To be more authoritative, the book could have been a good deal longer, with a statistics section at the back listing league title winners in the various countries. It might also have benefitted from broad brush analysis and less reliance on the personalized accounts of whichever personality Wilson managed to track down at any particular time (interesting as some of these undoubtedly are.)

East Germany - and Dynamo Berlin's run of league titles in the 1980s - is a major omission. It would have been fascinating to have Wilson's opinions on how the likes of Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden have struggled in a united league. And what of Latvia? Their achievement in reaching the finals of Euro 2004 isn't mentioned at all.

Overall, however, the pace with which I read this book is a testament to how interesting it is and Wilson is certainly a football writer to look out for in the future.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting read, 7 Feb 2010
By 
B. Chapman - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Behind the Curtain: Travels in Football in Eastern Europe (Hardcover)
There aren't a great deal of books about football in Eastern Europe and the few I've read so far were poor translations. This version, written by a witty Englishman gives the reader an insight not only into the football played behind the iron curtain but the tactics, backroom shenanigans and corruption prevalent at the time.

Each country is viewed on a per-chapter basis with the Author selecting various stories to describe the football and atmosphere of the day. The Mighty Magyars aren't just viewed for their footballing prowess but also for their part in the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 while the breakup of Yugoslavia is viewed through footballing eyes.

The characters come to life with Wilson's excellent storytelling and the scenes he set are every bit as wonderful as he claims. Overall an excellent book on football in Eastern Europe ideally paired with Wilson's second book, Inverting the Pyramid.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellence, 17 April 2012
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A great dlight to be able to read about football form a completely different area of the continent. Great to see how differently things are don 'behind the iron curtain'
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, wide-ranging, funny, 23 April 2006
By 
Mithran Samuel (South London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Behind the Curtain: Travels in Football in Eastern Europe (Hardcover)
Behind the Curtain is a good and informative read, engagingly and often humorously written. Those without an interest in football should steer clear, however there is also something in it for anyone with a penchant for the political and social history of Eastern European in the communist and post-communist eras.

With a country-by-country structure, it tells the tale of the paradoxical role of football under communism. On the one hand, it is a tool of the state and, through a few chosen clubs, a Cold War weapon in European competition. On the other, it can be a source of dissent in the hands of other clubs and charismatic individuals who refuse to play along.

With communism's collapse comes the chaos of a free market, as, without the support of the state, clubs fold only to re-emerge in different towns under new names. The game becomes locked into a vicious circle as talented players go west, European success dries up and fickle investors go elsewhere.

Some chapters work better than others - Russia, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia and Bosnia are particularly strong. Others work less well, particularly when Wilson zeroes in too closely on the football at the expense of the wider society.

He is a good writer, however, and the book is lightened by plenty of irony and humour - all in all, worth a crack.
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 8 April 2014
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Really excellent for anybody interested in either the history of football or eastern Europe.Very good on Georgia ,Hungary,Poland and Yugoslavia
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Behind the Curtain: Travels in Football in Eastern Europe
Behind the Curtain: Travels in Football in Eastern Europe by Jonathan Wilson (Hardcover - 17 Feb 2006)
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