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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2003
A fascinating and moving book which is as much about the impact of war and brutality on ordinary life as it is about football.
In adding to what began life as a lengthy essay on Ajax during the Second World War, Kuper also examines the effect of the conflict on the game in England and Germany as well as Holland.
Frinstance: on the day Hitler began the invasion of Russia, around 90,000 people attended the German Cup final.
However, it is probably at its most compelling when examining the fate of Dutch Jews through the prism of their football clubs.
Jewish members, who start the war as important and influential people, appear in committee meeting minutes less and less frequently before finally fading away completely.
Will appeal to historians as much as football fans. Buy the book.
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on 24 March 2015
The cumbersome title and subtitle foreshadow the fact that this book is neither here nor there. It's not a story about Ajax, it's not about the Dutch, it's not about the War (nr 2), and it's not about football in Europe during the war. It's a bit of everything, drenched in a sauce of the author's own presence, opinions, righteous indignation, and the axes he has to grind. There is no scoop (the story of Ajax during the war is told in five minutes), other than the fact that the Dutch people in general weren't nearly as heroic during the war as they themselves (and others around the world) believe or were led to believe. However, a point like this should be made in a book written by historians, based on proper academic research. It feels inappropriate to have an amateur do this, especially when it is someone who clearly does not take a detached scientific view and instead rakes up anecdotes that fit his thesis (and gets indignant over at times insignificant events that happened 70-odd years ago). I'm sure the Dutch were much less heroic than they like to believe, but I'm not surprised. In a war situation and foreign occupation, a few people will be rotten apples, a few will be heroes, and the large majority will probably want to pretend everything is normal and continue their lives. One also has to consider the historical context. The bombing of Rotterdam only a few days into the war (more or less dismissed by the author as only costing a few hundred lives) must have made it very clear that the Germans weren't kidding. Also, I suspect neither the Dutch nor the Jewish people who were being rounded up could imagine that a people as civilised as the Germans could engage in industrial-scale extermination of human beings. Otherwise it's hard to explain why the Jews themselves rarely put up any resistance (as they did do in the latter days of the Warsaw ghetto).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 8 July 2004
Simon Kuper has written another gem, this time about a little known and less understood period of football history.
It is an intriguing book, bristling with tales of the unexpected and the unknown, and shatters several commonly held myths - even amongst seasoned football followers such as myself.
If you enjoy football history, you'll find this a great book; and even if you don't, its insights into wartime Europe and descriptions of football's political importance in the appeasement years provide gripping reading.
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on 12 January 2015
i was fascinated by the title of this book but thought it used a thin veneer of football history to simplistically brand all dutch people as little short than war criminals it uses denmark as an example but it takes no thought of how the nazis were helped by danish exports which greatly greased the nazi warm machine not mention of the 6,000 danes who fought with the nazis or the large amount of autonomy granted the danes thus freeing german troops to fight elsewhere ..the book also uses italy as an example though jewish people were deported from italian occupied areas in yugoslavia the fact that it uses a pro nazi country as an example is rather surreal there participation with the nazis prolonged the horror and conflict.
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on 1 March 2012
Being a football fan in a Dutch family whose parents lived through WWII, I had some reservations when starting this book. But these were quickly replaced with the absolute wonder of the story. Brilliantly written and one of those "secret" stories that few people are aware of - but should be.

If you are Dutch this book is a must read.

If you are a football fan this book is a must read.

If you like history or war stories this book is a must read.

If you are none of the above, you should still read the book!
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on 24 August 2012
This is an abolutely fabulous book, which does a great job at merging football journalism with popular history writing. It doesn't have one cloear cut theme, but rather merges many of them: Dutch football, Israeli football, the Holocaust, contemporary politics, international football. The overall result is a great and highly informative read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This book is written about an extraordinary period in the history of the famous club Ajax during the World War 2. The writer carefully analyses the backgrounds at the time in Holland and in Europe. People live merrily and without a concern for their lives. Interestingly most of all the Dutch under occupation do not feel the occupation or the hardships of war unless they are Jew. So few Dutch people joins the Resistance Movement. Ajax is not exempted from this whole picture either. They bar their Jewish members from membership and after the war they willlingly allow members to join even if they have cooperated with the occupiers. The book deserves a lot of attention as it goes beyond Ajax and Holland. The notorious Nazi salute given by the English football team before the war is analysed in detail, interestingly that was not the only example of appeasement in sports to growing fascism in Europe. Finally the book is written around Ajax in the beginning but later grew bigger to cover the whole era. The subject is interesting but Ajax has no history to be proud of during the War unlike Dynamo!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2009
Kuper is certainly one of the lesser known journalists among the mainstream but is definitely one of the best sport writers in the country. 'Football against the enemy,' Kuper's first book, was outstanding and a great read for football fans. David Winner's 'Brilliant Orange' gives us a better sense of Dutch culture and the history of the place but it's a bit tenuous at times. 'Ajax, the Dutch...' is more my type of book, it isn't garrulous and doesn't bog on about matches and tactics but talks about the human side and the deeper meaning behind sport. It tells a story but encourages the reader to reflect on Kuper's research. The Dutch have contributed so much to football and are an interesting bunch to analyse during the war. The title could easily have 'The Jews' inserted in the title and the story about their treatment by the Dutch is similar to that of Nazi Germany. If you like writers such as Ian Wooldridge or Simon Barnes then buy this. It's brilliant.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2004
A brilliant and moving book based on first hand research and interviews. The best football book I have read for a long time and a refreshing change from ghosted autobiographies.
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on 30 December 2011
Can't praise this highly enough for the depth of the research, the style of writing and the lengths Kuper has gone to interview the likes of Oscar Heisserer. This puts 99 percent of biographies to shame.
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