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on 15 May 2012
Really enjoyed Jimmy Burns' Barca book so I was keen to read La Roja as well. Similar to Barca the author is deft at knowing when to provide us with his own insights - and knowing when to let the fans, managers and players speak. The Spanish have the English to thank originally for giving them the game, but once embedded in the culture the History of Spanish Football has a story uniquely tied to its own politics and spirit. La Roja is a story involving a civil war and proud and fractious regions (whether it be the Basque Country or Catalonia) - but the ending hints at the harmony that Spain has achieved through no small help from football.
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on 15 May 2012
This book provides a wonderful blend of politics, history and sports journalism. Jimmy Burns weights his material well and has a writing style superior to most other football journalists. La Roja is particularly strong on Real Madrid and Barcelona, which is not to mean that the author ignores other teams. I enjoyed the final third of the book most as Burns gives us a behind the scenes look at how both Barcelona and Spain have triumphed in recent years. One can't help but be touched by Burns' admiration and affection for the likes of Pep Guardiola and Del Bosque.
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on 20 May 2012
Jimmy Burns writes with authority and
enthusiasm. The book starts with the origins of Spanish Football, inherited from the English, but it is not until the author interviews living witnesses to the players and politics of the game that La Roja really hits its stride. The book is a subtle guide to the History of Spain in the 20th century, as well as its football.
As well as being a keen observer of why Spain have recently been successful, the book is also particularly strong on the eras of Cruyff (as player and manager) and Raul. Muy terrific.
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on 12 July 2012
Delving, as it does, into Spain, "La Roja," has as much to do with politics as with that country's world champion national soccer team.

Jimmy Burns has written an amenable yet substantive story about how Spain went from a bullfighting nation to kings of international football.

He goes way back to the 1880s and an English-owned mine in Huelva where the first games of football were played exclusively by Brits. The journalistic knitting continues as Basque teams assert primacy and then Argentines come to enliven the game with a quick passing style.

"La Roja" is about the places where such trends were born and the people who sowed them on Spanish soil.

Burns's chronicling of Barcelona F.C's role as an expression of Catalan culture and its rivalry with Real Madrid is deftly woven into discussion of the defeated Republic, the Monarchy, the Falange and, poignantly, the names of soccer players killed during the Spanish Civil War.

Noteworthy, too, is Burns's analysis of the Franco dictatorship's aggressive engagement with football as a tool to soothe tensions on the Iberian peninsula, as a propaganda weapon, and as diplomatic entry to worlds otherwise closed to the regime.

Burns suggests Franco made the Spanish national team a projection of homegrown fascism. A group possessing the "racial" qualities of true and pure Spaniards, and which brought to the playing field a particular "Spanish Fury." A sobriquet that stuck.

Like many people in Spain who had little time for the national selection over the years, Burns believes that the "The Spanish Fury" amounted to a whole lot of nothing, and that success in world-class tournaments would be elusive until a more modern and technical conception of Spanish soccer could be born.

Of course it happened. "La Roja" was released on the occasion of a repeat European Cup championship for the team of the same nickname. An unprecedented kind of success for such a national outfit.

Although his lead-up to the latest and most glorious chapter in Spanish soccer is first-rate, this reviewer did not find Burns very clear on why the ultimate transformation occurred.

Was it a special generation of players who learned how to transcend the rivalries carried over from the club level? Ditching Raul? Was it David Beckham's impact as a media and celebrity item on future Spanish stars? The Argentines?

Maybe it's in there, but in any case, "La Roja" remains an always engaging look at a sudden dynasty. Its author understands soccer as culture and an expression of collective identities without forgetting that it is still sport.
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VINE VOICEon 25 May 2012
Its a book I found myself flying through in no time at all. A stunning read which looks at how the football of Spain has evolved over the years and how history and politics have played a huge part in the process. This is a wonderful story of Spanish football, from its anglo saxon roots, to the current world and european champions. Its been a long journey which has been shaped by the country's political history. Don't get me wrong as this is a football book but Jimmy Burns does a terrific job in telling a story beyond that goes beyond sport and into the heart of Spain's fractious past.

Another bright spot is that the big two (Real and Barca) only really feature the the second half of the book. Whilst there are some great books about these two giants, its refreshing to see the author focus on other teams such as Bilbao and Racing. Jimmy Burns has written fantastic books of Barca and Maradonna in the past and this is worthy to be along side them. Just a shame it wasn't longer!
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on 21 May 2012
I've enjoyed some of Jimmy's other books but "La Roja" has to be my favourite. If you love football, Spain and Spanish history this is the book for you. The author takes us on a journey around Spain and its diverse regions and explores how British mining speculators, engineers and servicemen brought the game to Spain. From Bilbao to Seville and back north to Barcelona via Madrid the main characters of bygone ages through to the present day are discussed. How the game developed with help from the Dutch and South Americans into what we are now witnessing with the current Spanish selection....a great read. Incidentally I finished the last few pages, very aptly, flying over the Pyrenees on my way to Alicante.
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on 21 June 2012
A fantastic read for anyone who either loves Spanish football or interested in 20th Spanish history.There is a particular focus on Athletic Bilbao which any soccer fans who cheered their exciting soccer played last year in Europa Cup will enjoy
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on 30 October 2013
Another excellent book by Jimmy Burns.
Well researched and well written, this is an extremely insightful account of the history of Spanish football.

My only criticism (very slight one at that) - is that one could easily be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information presented but then again it makes it a thorough and comprehensive read. Better to have too much information than too little.

So taking this into consideration, for those with a keen interest in Spanish football, this is a must and an excellent reference book.
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on 19 June 2014
A really interesting and thought provoking book on the rise of Spanish football since the days of Franco.
It chronicles its national and domestic teams through the decades, culminating in the Euro and World Cup wins in the last couple of years.
An insightful read into Spain's passion for football - highly recommend.
Quite ironic that i write this article on the day after they are knocked out of the World Cup!
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on 27 September 2012
Interesting and thoroughly researched. Amazing insight in a fascinating political landscape. Excellently written and offers a real glimpse of Spanish football, including some interesting looks at history and how that affects the football.
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