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Death or Glory! - The Dark History of the World Cup Hardcover – 3 May 2010
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A jaw dropping expose of the seamier side of the world cup...
--Four Four Two, June 2010
Spurling's attention to detail and eloquence helps paint a picture of the intensity surrounding the world's most watched sporting event. --When Saturday Comes, July 1, 2010
You have to like a book featuring an Italian Fascist with happy memories of Mussolini plus his disgusted anti-Fascist son. --Financial Times, May 6, 2010
Brilliantly insightful... he consistently unearths and spotlights the kind of footballing stories you just can't help but be interested in. --Maxim, June 10, 2010
A jaw-dropping expose of the seamier side of the World Cup.
--FourFourTwo, May 10, 2010
About the Author
An Assistant Headteacher by day, Jon Spurling is also a freelance football writer who regularly contributes to numerous magazines at home and abroad, including Four Four Two, Football Punk and When Saturday Comes. In 2006 he wrote the critically acclaimed Highbury, The Story of Arsenal in N5. He lives in Canterbury with his wife Helen and daughter Phoebe.
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Spurling's travels have taken him to South and Central America, Europe and Africa, and the quality of his interviews with a number of footballers and writers are astonishingly revealing. My favourite chapters include "Das Deutsche Duell" where the author investigates the clash between East and West Germany in '74 and the previously untold story of Secret Police involvement, and the two chapters on Brazil, which show that beneath all that glitter and gold, lies a tale of ingrained racism, and political machination. The cliche free chapter on England's uneasy relationship with Argentina was also first class.
Spurling has written a revelatory page turner, which should be an essential addition to anyone's football book collection. What David Winner's book "Brilliant Orange" did for Dutch football and Jonathan Wilson's "Behind The Curtain" did for East European football, this book does for the World Cup.
The uncomfortable conclusion is that in the midst of societal madness and murder (specifically the "Soccer War", Argentina in '78 and Haiti in '74) the countries concerned were enjoying a golden era on the football pitch.
A superb book, laced with political intrigue and dark humour. Can't recommend highly enough.
This book is not and should not be viewed as a complete history of the World Cup; Brian Glanville's The History of the World Cup 2010 Edition (Non-fiction) is better in this regard (and of course for the statisticians amongst us, there are a number of almanacks specifically on the World Cup). Instead, Spurling has elected to discuss a range of specific events and teams; Zaire's ill-fated 1974 sojourn, the battle between East and West Germany at the same World Cup, the Korean heroics at both the 1966 World Cup (North Korea) and the 2002 World Cup (South Korea), the all South American final in 1950, the Brazilian glory of 1970 among others. Other topics discussed in "Death or Glory" include: The 1969 football war between Honduras and El Salvador; the Colombian scene 1990 - 1994; the intense rivalry of Algeria vs Egypt (WC qualifying - 1989 and 2009) and of Uraguay vs Argentina 1930; the troubled voodoo nation of Haiti 1974; fascist Italy and the 1934 and 1938 events; Bloodthirsty Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and his national side in the 1970s, and the military junta behind the Argentinean World Cup in 1978.
Extensive interviews all over the world with past players, officials and even a political prisoner or two reveals the going-ons behind the scenes and the drama of the various events that are the subject of the narrative. But "Death or Glory" is also part history and travel story as Spurling tracks down potential interviewees - these can be interesting in themselves as he navigates sometimes seedy parts of Brazil, Argentina and Colombia and other countries tracking elusive players and officials who have little time or inclination for the media. A riveting and sometimes entertaining read. Timely released, the stories are brought up to date for this year's event. Includes an insert of a mixture of black & white and colour photography.
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The great politics of the event make it the perfect vehicle for despots, dictators and murderous...Read more