on 18 September 2012
I read this book in about 2 days while on holidays.
I only began to follow La Liga in the last 10 years mainly due to increased TV coverage and in recent years I have been able to go to games in both the Camp Nou and the Bernabéu. I don't really have a great preference for either team but I hugely enjoy the rivalry/drama between the clubs and the high quality of the players. I rarely miss watching a Classico on TV when they are played.
The book El Classico helped me fill in a lot of blanks about why this rivalry is so intense. I now appreciate why there is such dis-harmony/hatred between supporters of the clubs and how it reflects what a divided country modern Spain is. For example local Catalan tax is spent throughout Spain but the taxes of the Basque region are only spent locally!
What I really liked about the book is that offers a very indepth analysis into the personalities involved, especially that of Jose Mourinho. Also there are very interesting interviews with legends like Luis Figo, Hristo Stoichkov, Charly Rexach and current Spanish national team manager Vincente Del Bosque.
If like me you are interested in Spanish football but do not speak Spanish then I do not think you will get these insights anywhere else. Most journalistic coverage of Spanish football that I read is either will Messi score more goals than Ronaldo, which of them earns the higher wages or which team will spend the most money in the transfer window? For those who want to read non tabloid football journalism about Spanish football this is the book to read. The writer uses an easy simple style of writing with plenty humour and he gets the balance right between the history of the rivalry and what it is like for the fans of both clubs today.
on 21 February 2015
Nothing divides opinion quite like football and no-one expresses their joy and disappointment like football fans. For many fans, the most important matches of their entire season are the ones against their local rivals; the derby matches. English football has a number of these, but only the matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain have elevated themselves above mere derby status and earned their own name: ''El Clásico'' - the Classic.
Unlike most derbies, this isn't a clash between two teams from the same city or locality. Indeed, with many Catalans considering themselves Catalan rather than Spanish, it's not even considered a clash between two teams from the same country by some fans. Regardless, with the two clubs being the best in the Spanish league by some margin and, frequently in recent years, amongst the best in European club football, it's a clash that overshadows all else.
Fitzpatrick lifts the lid on a rivalry that has as much to do with politics and it does with football. Spanish politics is centred on Madrid and Spain was ruled by a dictator in General Franco for many years, which Barcelona feels gave Madrid an advantage with both the football authorities and match officials. It is largely this resentment that seems to have pushed Barcelona to greater achievements and has made the rivalry closer and more intense in recent times, especially as the spending power of both clubs has increased and enabled them to buy the world's finest footballers.
For those fans who thought football politics was about little more than boardroom wrangling, ''El Clásico'' is an eye opener. In Spain, football runs along completely different lines to in England. Television money isn't equally distributed, the fixtures aren't prepared months in advance and the clubs are run by presidents elected by club members. In addition, due to the sheer size of the country and some strange kickoff times, away fans are rarely present at matches. Apart from the blood and thunder of the 90 minutes, there is little here that the average English football fan will be entirely familiar with.
But what is here is very well done indeed. The differences may have caused me to read some sections with raised eyebrows, but thanks to the quality of both writing and research, I had to keep reading. Fitzpatrick had access to many notable figures from both clubs, from fans to players to club officials and they frequently talk about more than what happens on the pitch. As a 30 something football fan, many of the names were immediately familiar and their views were elevated way above what you experience from the average post match interview on ''Match of the Day''. In a country where football and politics are almost inseparable, the players appear equally adept at both.
I came into ''El Clásico'' expecting something a little more recent and more focussed on football matters, but I discovered that the rivalry runs far deeper and further back in time than I imagined. Spain is a culture shaped by its civil war, heated emotions and casual racism and El Clásico, as an integral part of that culture, is steeped in them all. As a perfect summation of that rivalry, this means ''El Clásico'' is also filled to the brim with these things. The Spanish attitude towards racism is shocking to a nation that has seen a current international and former captain in the High Court recently charged with that, but it's always a fascinating read.
This is a book for the slightly more knowledgeable fan, one who could debate the benefits of 4-4-2 against 4-3-3 rather than just abusing the players from the stands. It's a book for the fan who can recall the beautiful game before it became all about money and image rights. It's an eye opening book and how football can be at the very heart of a culture and can be, to paraphrase the late Bill Shankly, not just a matter of life and death, but more important than that. Any fan of the game will start reading for the football, be enticed deeper by the quality of writing and research and enthralled by the depth and scope of ''El Clásico''.
This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
on 17 September 2012
This comprehensive and very enjoyable read, gives us an objective view of the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid. As the author reveals, the story is so much more than a football match. Over the course of El Clasico he manages to successfully weave a sporting, cultural and historical saga into a great story, and this is a great story. Popular myths are exposed to reveal some very surprising truths. We know that El Clasico is biggest football show in town and thanks to Richard Fitzpatrick we now know why.
on 28 August 2012
I watched last Thursday's first leg of the Spanish Supercup through new eyes; informed,enlightened,intrigued thanks to this book.Fitzpatrick provides insight,pulling no punches, leaving the reader astounded at one moment,in stitches the next.The pages turn themselves. For any football fanatic,this book is a must. El Clasico conveys the world of football's greatest rivalry vividly,one enters another world, and watching Barcelona versus Real Madrid will never be the same again.
on 20 November 2015
This is the equal of Sid Lowe's wonderful 'Fear and Loathing In La Liga' and that is saying something! El Clasico is a fantastically informative and very accessible history of the intense rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid. It makes you appreciate just how deep the rivalry and hatred runs and gives a new perspective to watching the games on our TV screens - whether it be Real's brutal tackling or Barca's theatrical diving! Most importantly it shows how this football rivalry is a microcosm of a wider divided society in Spain, from the politics of the Franco era to the Catalan separatist movement.
Football though is all about personalities and the biggest strength of this book is the way Richard Kitzpatrick writes about the main characters from the two clubs - and lets be honest, between they have had some of the biggest characters the game has ever known - di Stefano, Cruyff, Raul, Figo, Messi, Stoichkov, Laudrup, Casillas, Zidane, Pushkas and Ronaldo to name just a few. The chapters towards the end on the Mourinho era is particularly entertaining and sound remarkably familiar to the headlines Jose is getting now in the Premier League!
Overall, simply a great book.
on 24 September 2012
As a Catalan Barça supporter since childhood, I was very curious to find out what was the author's take on the subject...this is why I engulfed this book. I really loved it, even though I was familiar with many of the stories from growing in Catalonia in the 70s and 80s. It is a very well researched book and very balanced in a subject that I'd consider very difficult to remain impartial about. This book is so much more than a book on soccer; there is history, politics and identity involved. After reading this book, I'd say next time you watch a Barça-Real Madrid match, you'll see it with different eyes!