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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Of Times - The Worst Of Times,
This review is from: Death or Glory! - The Dark History of the World Cup (Hardcover)As the author points out in his introduction to this remarkable book, there is not an awful lot more which can be said about Gazza's tears, or Tardelli's crazed celebration in '82. Similarly, there aren't a whole lot more superlatives which can be deployed to describe the fantastic French in '98 or Brazil in '70. So if you're looking for a rehashed history of oft described events, then this book won't be for you. If however, you're keen to discover how a bunch of despots, including Mobutu in Zaire, Argentina's military junta in '78, Mussolini in the '30s, the Duvaliers in Haiti in '74, Medici in Brazil, the hardline Iranian Government, and even Idi Amin in Uganda have used their national team's World Cup adventures for their own ends, then this book is for you.
Spurling's travels have taken him to South and Central America, Europe and Africa, and the quality of his interviews with a number of footballers and writers are astonishingly revealing. My favourite chapters include "Das Deutsche Duell" where the author investigates the clash between East and West Germany in '74 and the previously untold story of Secret Police involvement, and the two chapters on Brazil, which show that beneath all that glitter and gold, lies a tale of ingrained racism, and political machination. The cliche free chapter on England's uneasy relationship with Argentina was also first class.
Spurling has written a revelatory page turner, which should be an essential addition to anyone's football book collection. What David Winner's book "Brilliant Orange" did for Dutch football and Jonathan Wilson's "Behind The Curtain" did for East European football, this book does for the World Cup.
The uncomfortable conclusion is that in the midst of societal madness and murder (specifically the "Soccer War", Argentina in '78 and Haiti in '74) the countries concerned were enjoying a golden era on the football pitch.
A superb book, laced with political intrigue and dark humour. Can't recommend highly enough.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read one sporting book this year... read this!!!,
This review is from: Death or Glory! - The Dark History of the World Cup (Hardcover)Death or Glory is an amazing read. With the World Cup fast approaching eyes always turn to the glamorous aspects, the silky skills, the flair, or sheer determination of underdogs. This book captures those aspects, but goes so much further. From tales of voodoo witch doctors to the influence of the Stasi, Jon Spurling has crafted a piece of non-fiction that at times left me in wondering if it really was non-fiction, such are the intrigue of the events that take place and indeed, the style and quality of writing throughout.
Over the coming months I'm sure many world cup books will be released, most tales of teams or tournaments sticking to match reports and country fact files. No other book will even come close to capturing what the World Cup means for so many people around the world, the lengths they will go to just to qualify, or the pain they dish out to those who let down their country.
This truly is a fantastic read. The tales the author tells and the way he relays it to the reader make you feel that you were there with him. Some of the aspects I had heard about in passing before, many were new, all were shocking. Filled with firsthand accounts from players, officials and fans alike, buying this book will not disappoint you. Happy reading!!!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A World Cup Classic!,
This review is from: Death or Glory! - The Dark History of the World Cup (Hardcover)There are some consolations to a wet Bank Holiday weekend - it meant that after receiving this book on Friday, I was able to devour it over the course of a couple of days. The author takes an intriguing perspective on the World Cup, and demonstrates that via political machination, murder, terror, and downright evil, a series of unscrupulous political leaders from diverse countries including Haiti, Zaire, Argentina, Brazil, Italy and North Korea, have used their countries' World Cup adventures for their own unpleasant ends.
It's gripping stuff from start to finish, and although the whole thing has the potential to get a bit depressing, it never does, because Spurling knows when to weave in anecdotes and off the wall humour. Whether he's arm wrestling a 100 year old Argentina fan who went to the first World Cup Final in a Buenos Aires bar, being given short shrift by East Germany's coach in 1974, or visiting the bar where Andres Escobar was assassinated, it's fair to say that Spurling is a brilliant story teller, with an eye for the bizarre. He's certainly done his travelling, and anyone who's visited Colombia and Haiti and asked awkward questions has my respect. So much of what I read - and I've read quite a bit on the World Cup - was new #and shocking to me, especially the sections on Haiti, Zaire, and Iran.
Like Brian Glanville's World Cup book, this is destined to become a classic which stands the test of time. Loved it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening,
This review is from: Death or Glory! - The Dark History of the World Cup (Hardcover)Like the Olympics the World Cup has never been purely about sport.
The great politics of the event make it the perfect vehicle for despots, dictators and murderous generals.
Jon Spurling makes this patently apparent in a genuinely illuminating book which deserves a wide audience.
My only criticism is that the chapters are a little short. The more fascinating tales such as the Argentina 78 and Iran's escapades are far more interesting than others yet have only the same space to play with.
Still a terrific effort however and highly recommended in a World Cup year.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A riveting look at the dark side of the World Cup,
This review is from: Death or Glory! - The Dark History of the World Cup (Hardcover)Some may argue that sport should be distinct from politics, and "never the twain shall meet". Of course, the reality is much different. Jon Spurling, occasional scribe for renown soccer magazine "FourFourTwo", has written a fascinating and insightful look into the back story behind the heroics and failures of the World Cup (and occasionally the efforts to qualify for the World Cup), and it is striking how much the Football World Cup has become mired in politics, as various governments utilise the hosting of the event or their national teams for their gain - usually to solidify their own, often corrupt and sometimes downright nasty regimes.
This book is not and should not be viewed as a complete history of the World Cup; Brian Glanville's The History of the World Cup 2010 Edition (Non-fiction) is better in this regard (and of course for the statisticians amongst us, there are a number of almanacks specifically on the World Cup). Instead, Spurling has elected to discuss a range of specific events and teams; Zaire's ill-fated 1974 sojourn, the battle between East and West Germany at the same World Cup, the Korean heroics at both the 1966 World Cup (North Korea) and the 2002 World Cup (South Korea), the all South American final in 1950, the Brazilian glory of 1970 among others. Other topics discussed in "Death or Glory" include: The 1969 football war between Honduras and El Salvador; the Colombian scene 1990 - 1994; the intense rivalry of Algeria vs Egypt (WC qualifying - 1989 and 2009) and of Uraguay vs Argentina 1930; the troubled voodoo nation of Haiti 1974; fascist Italy and the 1934 and 1938 events; Bloodthirsty Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and his national side in the 1970s, and the military junta behind the Argentinean World Cup in 1978.
Extensive interviews all over the world with past players, officials and even a political prisoner or two reveals the going-ons behind the scenes and the drama of the various events that are the subject of the narrative. But "Death or Glory" is also part history and travel story as Spurling tracks down potential interviewees - these can be interesting in themselves as he navigates sometimes seedy parts of Brazil, Argentina and Colombia and other countries tracking elusive players and officials who have little time or inclination for the media. A riveting and sometimes entertaining read. Timely released, the stories are brought up to date for this year's event. Includes an insert of a mixture of black & white and colour photography.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A guilty pleasure,
This review is from: Death or Glory! - The Dark History of the World Cup (Hardcover)A cracking book about the shady side of the World Cup, from cheating to murder. Some obvious incidents covered, but in depth, and it never fails to entertain. The only weak points are the chapter on a disastrous World Cup draw (out of place here) and one on Uganda (not much meat here).
Oh, and Argentina do feature. A lot.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read,
This review is from: Death or Glory! - The Dark History of the World Cup (Hardcover)A cracking footy read (could've done with a bit longer with the proofreader) with some first-time interviews. I particularly enjoyed the Zaire chapter. You may need occasionally find that having Youtube open when specific events are mentioned, but that only adds to the nostalgia.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting,
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This review is from: Death or Glory: The Dark History of the World Cup (Kindle Edition)An interesting book on what would be my specialised subject on mastermind, however i feel the chapters lingered on a few things not necessary and no details on the important things.
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Death or Glory! - The Dark History of the World Cup by Jon Spurling (Hardcover - 3 May 2010)