You'de think that every aspect of the great game around the world had been covered by now, definately not so ! While we probably know as much about Serie A or the top leagues in Spain and Germany as football fans in those countries do, there are still some areas that have received scant coverage - James Montague has to some extent rectified that with his excellent story of football in the Middle-East.
A statistical history this certainly isn't, a tale of football surviving in the most volatile places in Earth it is. Amusing at times, almost heartbreaking at others, Montague recounts his journeys - and inevitable mishaps and misunderstandings - among the football fanatics of the Middle East, meets lots of important people, drug smugglers and everyday fans - and manages to tell their story, without ever trivialising the all too real political problems prevalent there. There's a good balance between his stories and the factual background details that are necessary in order it make it convincing.
The countries of the Middle East are not renowned for their footballing prowess, yet this book makes clear that the game is nonetheless hugely popular there. In an area beset by political, ethnic, religious and humanitarian problems, the popularity of football seems to be both an escape from the difficulties of everyday life and yet also a means for particular groups to assert their identity and values. Montague travels extensively through all sorts of infamous places watching football and getting to know players, officials and fans. His writing is good, setting the football in cultural context in an engaging way. His attempts to prove his own rebelliousness are a little bit tiresome, but on the whole these don't detract from an excellent read.
This book is an intersting reading about the huge fotball passion in the Middle East and there are both funny, sad and unexpected parts. The author writes with great passion and i truely enjoyed his stile. I would recommend this book to any football fan or to any person who is intersted in a different perspective on the Middle East.
A great book, even if you are not a huge football fan. Terrific insights into life as lived by local people, & the huge difficulties & repressions they suffer. Well written, it rocks you along, even when the events described are horrible. This isn't a jolly sporting romp, it is a serious look at life as lived by local people, who are the stars of this book, as they find kindness & moments of joy in very difficult situations. As well as coming out with massive admiration for these people, you will also get a new insight into what a shared passion for a sport can do, to support & bring people together. Unfortunately, not women, as they are barred from stadiums ...they gather outside during matches, braving the potential dangers of such shows of support ! I am looking forward to reading his next book, which covers some more countries in the Middle East.
I met the author of this book whilst I was in Brussels with the Tartan Army to watch the Belgium v Scotland World Cup qualifier. He said he was on a holiday but I and the guy's that were with me all suspected that he was researching another book. It did not bother us as we were concentrating on the pre game entertainment. I hope he does write another and we are all part of it.