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on 29 November 2010
I read this book while on holiday - my knowledge of italian football prior to it only extended back the five years or so i've been following it, alongside snipets of the scandals i've heard from elsewhere (mainly my sports lawyer brother). I found the book very engaging,there were very few times when it felt to me that it dragged. I enjoyed the personal touch, Agnew's inclusions of his family adjustion to Italian life. As someone who speaks some Italian, and is from Italian heritage, that was of interest to me. His knowledge of football was excellent, as was his research. I particularly enjoyed the chapter of Ettore Gandini, showing the other side of professional football. All in all, i felt this was a good book, and worth a read for any football fans.
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on 3 January 2008
This book is not primarily a history of Italian football but the personal reflections of journalist Paddy Agnew on his years (22, approximately) covering the sport in Italy. Indeed, it is semi-autobiographical with stories of his early days in the country (chapter one) and a non-football chapter on the village of Trevignano (ch. 5), where he lives. Therefore the book has the advantages of observation from within, as Agnew, for example, experienced the political climate under former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (the title is the same as the name of Berlusconi's Political party). Inevitably, the time period covered is mid-80s (when Agnew arrived) to the present. There is a short and interesting history chapter entitled "Mussolini Invents Serie A" (ch. 2) before the book moves on to Deigo Maradona and Napoli in the 80s. Here is what to expect:

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.
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on 18 January 2009
This wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but nonetheless makes for an enjoyable read. Anyone looking for an in-depth study of Italian football is recommended to consult the epic work on the subject of John Foot.

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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on 4 October 2010
I found the book to be interesting because of the human touch Paddy Agnew imbued it with. The story of he and his wife settling in Italy and all the travails it included added to the purely football insight made me enjoy turning the pages. Anyone who loves Calcio Italiano and the country of Italy will appreciate this fine book.
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on 9 January 2014
thoroughly enjoyable book I found it
informative yet easy to read and enjoyable, a great insight into Italian football and lifestyle.
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on 30 May 2016
Fantastic read for anyone interested in Italian football
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on 30 April 2015
Was a gift for a football mad Italian no more to add.
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on 29 September 2013
I have not read all the book yet, as I have not had time, it is a lot to read. But the pictures are goos and also the index is useful.
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