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Customer Review

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful, personal book, 3 Jan 2008
This review is from: Forza Italia: The Fall and Rise of Italian Football (Paperback)
This book is not primarily a history of Italian football but the personal reflections of journalist Paddy Agnew on his years (22, approximately) covering the sport in Italy. Indeed, it is semi-autobiographical with stories of his early days in the country (chapter one) and a non-football chapter on the village of Trevignano (ch. 5), where he lives. Therefore the book has the advantages of observation from within, as Agnew, for example, experienced the political climate under former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (the title is the same as the name of Berlusconi's Political party). Inevitably, the time period covered is mid-80s (when Agnew arrived) to the present. There is a short and interesting history chapter entitled "Mussolini Invents Serie A" (ch. 2) before the book moves on to Deigo Maradona and Napoli in the 80s. Here is what to expect:

The book reads more like a collection of essays or articles than a narrative so I'll mention specific chapters to give an idea of content and make some comments. Agnew covers Maradona (ch. 3) and his impact on Italian football. Maradona's chaotic personal life, including drug addiction, is considered, criticism mixed with a romantic joy for a massively talented but disreputable player. There is a less forgiving tone for Silvio Berlusconi (ch. 4), about whom I learnt a good deal here. His enthusiasm and knowledge for football came before the realisation that it could be used for political gain. Personally, I found the chapter interesting and enlightening.

Also covered are Agnew's views on Sven-Goran Eriksson in a chapter (6) which transitions into a comparison of the Italian media to the British media, with some interesting comments about newspapers. After talking about his experiences meeting Marcello Lippi and Giovanni Trapattoni and working in TV in Chapter 7, Agnew writes of Ettore Gandini (ch. 8), a goalkeeper who wanted to play at the top and did...for a matter of minutes. It is an interesting story, more focused on the lower levels of Italian football and a change from writing about higher level personalities. I enjoyed this chapter a lot.

The chapter on the Juventus drug trial (ch. 9) is the one I found the most thought provoking and actually rather worrying. It was a fascinating read, particularly for one who had only a cursory knowledge of the subject (the Juventus drug trial of 2003 with one of the defendants, the club doctor Riccardo Agricola, accused of doping Juve players. Major names - Zinedine Zidane, for example - testified at the trial and their quotes are rather interesting.). It left me wondering about the presence of "restorative" drug usage in football and the possible usage of illegal substances.

The book closes with chapters on match-fixing, racism and the hardline fans (the 'ultras'), and this edition (I've not read the first) finishes with 'Decline and Fall', which looks at Calciopoli and mentions Italy's World Cup win. Chapter 10 and 'Decline and Fall' include much information on match-fixing, the people involved and subsequent investigations. Fascinating stuff here.

Also included are cultural notes and Agnew's reflections on Italy. The Mafia is mentioned, as is Italian politics and society in general.

Overall, I thought this was a readable, enjoyable book. I've followed Italian football from afar but not in detail. This book could prove particularly useful to those in a similar situation, although less useful to those with a detailed knowledge of Italian football. I had problems with some of the journalese (too many cliches) and wasn't entirely interested in some of the more personal stories. I got through it quickly as the book is quite absorbing. I'm not sure of the complete differences between the two issues but the price (5.99) at the time of writing seems better value. Recommended.
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R. Gomm
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