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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic footie find
What a great book. "Feet of the Chameleon" is a study of the growth of football on the African continent, from it's earliest post-colonial boom to the present day when the best players rapidly migrate to the Premiership, La Liga and the French First Division. Packed with interviews with people at all levels of the sport and written by a journalist who obviously has a real...
Published on 27 Aug 2009 by Paul Fillery

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Colourful and Chaotic
This book opens with a gem of an anecdote concerning a vice-president of FIFA entering a lift in the Zurich hotel where the 2010 World cup location was to be decided. Legend has it that on entering the lift, he was undecided. On leaving the lift in which he had come across a certain Mr Mandela, his vote was for South Africa. Egypt had sent Omar Sharif, Libya Colonel...
Published on 17 Sep 2009 by tallpete33


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic footie find, 27 Aug 2009
By 
Paul Fillery (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Feet of the Chameleon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What a great book. "Feet of the Chameleon" is a study of the growth of football on the African continent, from it's earliest post-colonial boom to the present day when the best players rapidly migrate to the Premiership, La Liga and the French First Division. Packed with interviews with people at all levels of the sport and written by a journalist who obviously has a real passion for the continent as well as the sport, the book explores several themes - such as why there are so many ex-pat coaches working in Africa, why the best players (Essien, Drogba, Adebayor, etc) are quickly snatched by Europena leagues (you will be surprised at how extensive the scouting system is on the continent), and how the sport has attempted to overcome corruption and fight for a fairer share of the FIFA pie - culminating in the forthcoming South African world cup next year. Fascinating, funny, and beautifully written, and packed with dozens of little sketches and vignettes of famous players, clubs and games - a highly recommanded read for anyone with an interest in football that extends beyond the Premiership.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Colourful and Chaotic, 17 Sep 2009
By 
tallpete33 (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Feet of the Chameleon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book opens with a gem of an anecdote concerning a vice-president of FIFA entering a lift in the Zurich hotel where the 2010 World cup location was to be decided. Legend has it that on entering the lift, he was undecided. On leaving the lift in which he had come across a certain Mr Mandela, his vote was for South Africa. Egypt had sent Omar Sharif, Libya Colonel Gaddafi....

Hawkey certainly knows his African football and this is a big and interesting, if slightly dry read. African football is a colourful, chaotic and often wonderful thing and all is well captured by the author in here. So often caught up in the politics of each country, used by dictators for egotistical purposes there are heart warming and heart breaking stories in here. Hawkey delves deep into the subject, telling us amongst other things, why the clubs employ white European "witch-doctor" coaches. "For us, it's important the boss drives a big car" (Celestine Babayaro, once of Chelsea). A lot of names such as Drogba, Milla and Weah will be familiar, the latter still a possible president of his country, Liberia.

Hawkey uses team nick-names and animal analogies to name his chapters in keeping with the African way, but to be honest this can make navigating the book a little tricky and there is no index which reduces it's effectiveness as a definitive reference. There is a list of the African Cup of Nation winners, World Cup appearances by African teams and Footballer of the Year etc but not enough to make wannabee "Statto's" too excited. The book also switches from topic to topic and team to team quite quickly so you have to concentrate fully to keep a handle on it and this can reduce it's enjoyment

Overall, a good in-depth read for the student of African football, not the casual fan as it is very detailed, but slightly flawed IMO for the reasons above.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hugely informative, but densely packed, 18 Oct 2009
By 
Mr. M. E. Merritt "MattMerritt" (Portsmouth UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Feet of the Chameleon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Okay, I like football. I wouldn't ever say I was the most knowledgeable fan though, I've never been able to reel off stats and can seldom even remember who scored the goals that sunk my team last saturday(I'm a Portsmouth fan, it's a good thing the submarine base is nearby as we're drifting further down with each week). What I do love though is the watching the game evolve and I'm fascinated by the way different cultures approach the game.

So, enough about me, what about the book? Well, it's bursting with information, from chapters about people and events you may not have heard of (being born in 1980 I was never aware of the breakaway Algerian 11 that fled France by night and were funded by a liberation group) to revisiting genuine modern legends like George Weah. The book flows well enough and Hawkey is an engaging guide, clearly passionate about his subject. Unfortunately though, there is so much information to cram into these pages that it often feels like you'll never reach the end of the chapter, let alone the book. The lack of an index (at least in this review copy, though I gather that will change for the on sale edition) is annoying too, requiring you to pore over whole chapters to look back when the book casually mentions a player you might have read about earlier.

All that said though, it's nice to have a football book that is reverential about history and covers a continent whose past is all too often brushed under the carpet, especially in an age where almost every major club has one or two players of African descent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Series of Articles, 11 Oct 2009
By 
R. P. Sedgwick "Grim Rob" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Feet of the Chameleon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Feet of the Chameleon is a book celebrating African Football. This is obviously a massive subject area, so what the book attempts to do is present a series of articles looking at particular events or countries over the last few decades.

I suppose the idea is that by looking at several areas in detail it hopefully gives you a brighter picture in mosaics than the duller image portrayed by a more generic, chronological history of football on the continent would.

The reality is that the book is actually a series of long articles with very little connection between them. Most of the articles are interesting in themselves, but in reality there is little to connect them and you would not lose much by reading them in the wrong "order" I suspect, or missing some out even.

With the next World Cup due to take place in Africa the spotlight will turn on African football like never before, so I suppose this book may have been timed to fulfil a possible need amongst football fans curious about sport on the continent.

It's no surprise then that one of the stories looks at South African football before and after apartheid, surely one of the maddest political systems ever devised. The South Africans were forbidden to enter international sporting events so had to invent their own "international" competitions between their own races. Although blacks, whites and indians were not allowed to play in the same teams they were allowed to compete against one another, so you'd usually end up with a Blacks v Whites final!

Another chapter in the book looks at the arrival of African footballers in the Premiership. There used to be a time when black players were unusual in English football, let alone black Africans but now you hardly bat an eyelid with the arrival of each new African player into our game. The chapter looks at how they get here in the first place.

There are several chapters dedicated to the various teams which have done well in the different world cups - Algerian, Cameroon, Senegal and so on. That's the only time I have ever taken any interest in African football, and I have some fond memories of all those shock opening games you seem to get in World Cups.

All in all it's a well written book by a top Sunday Times journalist. My only real issue with it is it just comes over as a series of disconnected articles for (say) the Sunday Times magazine, rather than a book with any coherent theme or message.

The real test of a book's quality though is how long it lives with you after you have read it. I suspect this book will live with me for quite a long time, both when I'm watching African teams in the World Cup, or when a new African player arrives in the Premiership.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but not a history., 6 Oct 2009
By 
Glasgow Dreamer (Glasgow Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Feet of the Chameleon (Hardcover)
This is not the story of African football, as the cover proclaims. It is a collection of articles about various aspects of African football, the sort of articles you may read in World Soccer or some similar magazine, albeit rather longer.

Each chapter is around twenty to thirty pages long, and deals with one particular facet of African football. There are many great stories in here; stories of football matches; stories of revolution and political intrigue; and stories of remarkable individuals, among others. Each of these stories is important in the development of African football, but they do not together constitute a history - possibly a collection of highlights, but not a history.

The chapters can be read individually, and I would recommend this to any reader not already familiar with the background, as there is (understandably) a huge number of names to contend with (players, coutries, teams, politicians, journalists, etc), and it can be difficult to clearly follow the narrative.

In addition, the chapters are not strictly in chronological order; their general themes may be in time order, but many follow themes which span a large period of time, so the reader constantly finds himself moving backwards and forwards in time.

This is all fine, and not meant as any sort of criticism.

Apart from the claim that this is the story of African football, the only criticism I have is that the author does not seem to trust his reader's knowledge enough. There are too many references to players of today, and the few African world stars of the last few years. Their names seem to dropped into every chapter, no matter how tenuous their links to the actual subject matter of the current chapter. It is as if the author thinks we will lose interest if he fails to mention Didier Drogba, or Samuel Eto'o, or George Weah, for a few pages.

It is, however, a highly enjoyable read, and I trust the final released text will have been properly edited, as the review copy provided to me under the Amazon Vine programme was awash with grammatical and spelling errors.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best Football Book I have Read, 25 Sep 2009
By 
Minutor (London, Engand) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Feet of the Chameleon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Even though I am not a huge football fan I really enjoyed the book because of its African theme. The book not only traces the rise of today's African stars, many of whom are household names, but also of the football pioneers of Africa which goes back a lot further than I had realised with players such as Arthur Wharton, the first black professional footballer in the 1890s, Hassan Hegazi, Fulham's `Egyptian wizard' and Matateu the Mozambican-born Portuguese player.

I was also interested and shocked at the exploitation of young Africans by fraudulent and corrupt academies especially in West Africa.

Hawkey identifies the time when African football first really entered onto the world scene when in 1974 Zaire qualified for the World Cup and the country's dictator President Mobutu's role in what ended up as a debacle. He also looks at the role of football in politics and the number of footballers who subsequently became politicians and leaders.

He covers a wide range of subjects, from the different styles comparing North African with sub-Saharan African traditions, the sinister side of African football and an optimistic outlook for the future.

Even if you are not a football fan I would recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feet of the Chameleon - A Review, 21 Sep 2009
By 
sb (Lancaster) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Feet of the Chameleon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book sets the scene perfectly for next year's world cup in Africa by giving a potted history of African football from it's colonial driven beginnings to the independant modern day game.

Fascinating insights are given into the politics of the game in Africa and highlights the difficulties faced by many national teams and players in pursuing their sport in the face of corruption, presidential interference, racial divides, mystical beliefs, lack of funds and poor organisation. Yet, somehow, Africa continues despite these setbacks to produce some of the worlds best footballers who grace pitches in Italy, England, Spain etc.

An excellent stocking filler for any football fan with one eye on South Africa 2010.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book, 16 Sep 2009
By 
M. V. Clarke (Durham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Feet of the Chameleon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a superb book that deals with the history of football in Africa. Hawkey, through his journalistic career, knows his subject well and communicates with authority. The chapters of the book deal with different countries and regions of the continent, tracing the early history of colonial influence through to more recent times and the successes of African football teams at the World Cup and Olympic Games, as well as in the African Nations Cup. He also give interesting insights into the early careers of several of the most famous African-born footballers, such as Eusebio, Roger Milla, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba.

Overall, several common themes emerge - the finanical problems and allegations of corruption that have plagued many successful African teams, particularly in world cups, the role of foreign coaches, and the struggle to keep talent in Africa against the lure of European success and money. Interviews with coaches, players and ex-players illuminate the text with first-hand views. Throughout there is wry humour, penetrating insight, and occasional moments of real poignancy, such as the plea from the Ivory Coast team, after qualifying for the World Cup, to the people of their country to stop fighting and look for peace and unity.

Keen football fans will find plenty of memories triggered in this book - for me, particular ones were Nayim's goal from the half-way line against Arsenal, and the fabulous Cameroon team that played so well at Italia '90. Warmly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lorimer and Jordan!, 15 Sep 2009
By 
David J. Kelly (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Feet of the Chameleon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a Scot of a certain vintage I remember the 1974 World Cup and the Scotland v Zaire group opening match. We won 2-0 and then Zaire collapsed losing nine goals to Yugoslavia in the next game. This book gives you the background to that story and how that story has repeated itself so many times in the African participation in the World Cup, not always but maybe too often. This book was enjoyable, the authour is knowledgeable about African football and we follow Africa' development as a footballin continent geographically by region and through history. An example is the FLN Team of Algerian Championnat players og the late fifties who exiled themselves from France to play as sporting ambassadors in Algeria's fight for liberation. They were probably the best international team Algeria ever produced but would have to have played for Les Bleus in the 1958 World Cup where they could have challenged Brazil for the tournament.

Hawkey manages to tell his story despite many disparate threads and somehow shows how football can bring Africans together without blurring the regional, national and even, dare I say it, tribal identities. Again, as a Scot of some Irish ancestry, the tribal nature of footballing identities is something i am familiar with. It is not a comprehensive history of African football and its impact on the world and on Afrca but it is an engaging, readable and enjoyable one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, 12 Sep 2009
By 
G. L. Haggett "glynlhaggett" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Feet of the Chameleon (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A detailed examination of the recent history of African football and its influence on the rest of the sporting world.

Hawkey is an accommodating guide through the often mysterious ways of Africa and provides what is at all times an interesting insight into the game on the African continent; informative throughout, the book is also often moving. He goes beyond the standard cliches to locate the truth behind the colourful characters and the often scandalously haphazard organisational arrangements to highlight the ccontinued influence of European clubs and coaches on the African continent and the consequences of it. One for the football fanatic and the interested general reader alike.
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Feet of the Chameleon
Feet of the Chameleon by Ian Hawkey (Paperback - 26 April 2010)
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