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This review is from: A Season With Verona (Paperback)
Parks - an Englishman who has lived and worked in Italy for some 20 years - spends a year following his local football team: provincial alsorans, Hellas Verona. He travels the length and breadth of the country, attending every match of the 2000/01 season; a campaign which dissolves into a desperate struggle to maintain Serie A status. Set in the style of a match by match diary - the first few months are written from the perspective of an ordinary fan; but when the club get wind of the book, Parks is invited to spend time with the management and playing staff.
Reading as part travel, part soccer book - it offers a fascinating insight into Italian fan culture: the hierarchical power struggles within the 'Brigate Gialloblu' - the club's notorious followers; allegiances (strictly adhered) with a select few Serie A peers; and the equanimous acceptance of season end match fixing. The access granted to the squad enables a close observation of the rarefied atmosphere in which a professional football club operates: pampered but secluded players, concerned more with their own careers than of possible relegation; the morose and under pressure head coach, cutting an isolated figure when results go against him; the financial burdens of keeping an unfashionable club afloat amongst the top echelon. Italy's regional idiosyncrasies, stereotypes, and rivalries are also explored: the Veronese are regarded by outsiders as parochial, uncouth racists; indeed the Brigate initially treat an Englishman within their ranks, with a mixture of suspicion and bemusement. For extra flavour, the book is peppered throughout with Italian dialect, helping to bring the myriad of colourful and passionate characters encountered to life.
The author's obvious enthusiasm for his adopted club and country is both endearing and infectious; inevitably, it's all too easy to become engaged in his team's plight. Football fans everywhere will empathize with the agony and ecstasy, the nail-biting obsessiveness, Parks has to endure over the course of what turns into a dramatic season; and - with writers' serendipity - climaxes in the most thrilling denouement. A splendid read.