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Forza Italia: The Fall and Rise of Italian Football Paperback – 2 Aug 2007
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"Excellent ... A superb background guide" (Independent)
"Superb" (Sunday Telegraph)
"Splendid ... Occasionally makes for pretty disturbing reading ... An enlightened and compelling study " (FourFourTwo)
"entertaining and immensely readable" (The Guardian)
"a fascinating journey to the heart of Italian soccer" (Choice)
A unique and personal journey into the heart of Italy and its football, including the national team's dramatic 2006 World Cup victory and the match-fixing scandalSee all Product description
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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.
Agnew does provide a certain amount of historical background, but this is a much more personal project, detailing his own experiences of moving to, and settling in, Italy. Sometimes, football is incidental, but it is nevertheless an engaging story with some well related anecdotes.
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