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Stick to the Travel Guides,
This review is from: The Rough Guide to Cult Football (Rough Guide Travel Guides) (Paperback)
Of all the travel guides on the market, I've always found the "Rough Guides" series to be comfortably the best available. With soccer's 2006 World Cup approaching, I picket up its "Cult Football" title - hoping for a sporting version of its travel guides : an easily read, well-researched, informative book.
Opening with a series of football-related photos - some clearly picked for the embarrassment value - the book looks at the game from a number of angle. Different topics covered include, for example, the game's history, its legends, the clubs and the grounds. However, while it intention may have been to compile some sort of miscellany, it's far from perfect.
At times, the book is somewhat misleading. The section entitled "The Legends" - featuring people "whose fame will last as long as the game" - features some of those you would expect to read about : Clough, Kopa, Garrincha, Maradona and Best are rightly included. However, for no apparent reason, characters such as Barry Fry, Perry Groves, Rodney Marsh, Dave Beasant and a referee with an unfortunate surname are included at the expense of Platini, Cruyff, Zico, Socrates, Muller and Beckenbauer. This section also mentions the Brazilian striker Edmundo - specifically recalling an incident from his spell at the Italian club Fiorentina. With the club challenging for the Serie A title and with Gabriel Batistuta injured, there was possibly an increased reliance on Edmundo. With some derision, the book notes that Edmundo chose to go to the carnival in Rio at this time. Strangely, it fails to mention permission for Edmundo to attend the carnival had been agreed and was written into his contract. (The book also states that Edmundo later played for Cruzeira - the club is actually called Cruzeiro).
The section on the game's history may also be a little misleading. An early Italian form of the game, Harpastum, is described as a hybrid of rugby and American football - despite predating both codes by around 1600 years. (Furthermore, given that it doesn't sound anything like soccer, I couldn't see why it was mentioned). The Aztecs, meanwhile, apparently crossed football with the Eton Wall Game. I wasn't aware the Aztecs sent their sons to the noted English public school ?
At other times, the book gets things wrong. If you were to repeat the book's claims that Tommy Smith, Norman Hunter and Ron Harris were "full-blooded but fair", it's quite likely people will laugh at you. The comments about Roy Keane can also be dismissed - I suspect a personal bias against the Irishman, rather than any real appreciation of the game. There's even some blatant mistakes; for example, Internazionale's Ivan Zamorano apparently wore the number `1+8' on his shirt in the 1999 Champion's League Final. Unfortunately, Inter were knocked out that year by Manchester United in the quarter-finals, with the English club going on to beat Bayern Munich in the final.
For a brief introduction to the sport, this book is ok for flicking through - just don't believe everything it tells you.