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4.0 out of 5 stars Interview with the author, 10 Aug 2010
This review is from: Four Weeks in Montevideo: The Story of World Cup 1930 (Paperback)

What were the problems in reconstructing Antonio's diary?

First, I wasn't sure whether the diary was a contemporary document (written by Antonio at the time) or written post facto. Antonio said the diary was written during the tournament but it was difficult to gauge whether or not he was telling the truth. The diary and style of writing looked old but it was hard to tell if it was from the Thirties, Forties, or Fifties. The diary was in English, which made me wonder if it was written much later than 1930. He was 18 in 1930, so surely it was more natural for him to write the diary in Spanish (his first language) or maybe Italian, which is the second language for many Uruguayans. But Antonio was a bit of an Anglophile, and spoke near-perfect English when I met him.

Second, when I was writing the book, I had to transcribe my own shorthand notes that were ten years old. I was, and still am, a creature of the tape recorder, so I was concerned at the reliability of my own shorthand notes.

Third, some of my notes also included vignettes and information that Antonio relayed to me in conversation. Ten years on, when I wrote the book, it was impossible for me to differentiate between what was in the diary and what Antonio told me in conversation. I regret that and regard it is a significant flaw in the book.

The words attributed to Antonio are important in providing an essence of what life at World Cup 1930 might have been like. But I don't think the diary, as published in Four Weeks In Montevideo, is a reliable historical document or even an important one.

I state early in the book that the project was a search for a flavour of World Cup 1930, because the facts - or perceived facts - have long been in the public domain. I regret not making it clear that there were inherent problems with the diary. This issue has been addressed for the electronic edition of Four Weeks.

What was Antonio like ?

He was an old man who, I think, tried to make his past seem more interesting than it really might have been. But I was less interested in him then than I am now. I spent a few hours there. I originally planned to write a newspaper article about my meeting with Antonio but I mislaid my notes. If I met such a person now, I would have state-of-the-art recording equipment and infinitely more enthusiasm.

How difficult was it to address the myths of World Cup 1930?

The myths start with the official World Cup 1930 report, which was published later that year by the Asociación Uruguaya de Fútbol. Many of the "facts" published there were disputed by contemporary match reports (particularly in El Dario and El Grafico). And then there were the anecdotes from the likes of John Langenus, the World Cup final referee, who wrote in his autobiography some colourful stuff about Montevideo 1930.

What Langenus wrote was significant because of who he was, just as the reportage in the official report is significant because of what it is. How much of this stuff is true is another matter.

For example, did it really snow in Montevideo at the start of the World Cup, as Lucien Laurent, the France player, suggests? I doubt it snows much in Montevideo but maybe there was the evidence of heavy hailstones that gave the impression of snow. But false impression cannot be discounted. Ultimately, my plan was to disseminate the anecdotes, the stories, the different perspectives, and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

How did you acquire the biographical information in the Appendix?

As I said, the facts are already in the public domain and many great researchers deserve the highest credit for some great and significant stuff. There are some excellent publications, excellent books, and excellent websites about world football. The RSSSF archive is a quite remarkable achievement.

In Uruguay, the Estrellas Deporitvas publications of 1980 are also important, for they provide much information about the Uruguayan players of 1930. The German-published history of the 1930 World Cup provides biographies of many of the key personalities of Montevideo 1930.

One must not forget the books by David Goldblatt and Tony Mason, both of whom have done much to emphasise the importance of inter-War football in South America. And then there is Brian Glanville's Sunday Times History of the World Cup, published in 1973, which has been updated every four years.

Colin Jose, the leading American soccer historian, and Rony J Almeida have both done much to set the story straight about the 1930 USA team. Jose's articles on the 1930 World Cup and Almeida's book, Where The Legend Began, are recommended. The official 1930 World Cup report cannot be discounted, and nor can the official 1930 World Cup memorabilia catalogue that was published in 2000. The catalogue's article about how the World Cup poster came into being is superb, as, indeed, are the stories of how the match tickets were designed and printed.

I am fortunate to have a fairly large library of books and memorabilia, so my trips to the British Library have been less frequent in recent years. My official 1930 World Cup report is an original. And then there is the internet, which has given us the double-edged sword of Wikipedia (which contains a wealth of information about the 1930 World Cup) and of, which is at last beginning to challenge the myths of World Cup 1930.

By drawing on, and in many cases challenging, the facts and impressions in many dozens of magazines, newspapers, books, and websites, I was able to disseminate the stories of the men who made the first World Cup. The stories are not mine. They belong to the people of Montevideo 1930.
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Initial post: 24 Nov 2013 20:17:00 GMT
Gareth, are you actually the author? If so, great book.
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