The Worst of Football: From Brawls to Bribery, the Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game (Worst of Sport) Hardcover – 2 Apr 2008
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Football might be referred to as 'the beautiful game', but from its origins as a brutal inter-community contest, through to ankle-snapping challenges at the pinnacle of the modern game, its outer beauty often masks a snarling, aggressive and competitive game which brings out the worst in people.
But while football's ugly is side is frowned upon, acts of brutality can be just as memorable as pieces of breathtaking skill. Sure, the game is enhanced by the artistry of a Pele or a Cristiano Ronaldo, but they won't illicit a reaction as strong as when your centre-half puts an opponent into the stands.
Yet few books have celebrated the ugly side to quite the same extent as The Worst of Football: From Brawls to Bribery, the Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game. Far from taking the moral stance favoured by television during an on-pitch brawl, Times journalist Nigel Henderson unashamedly admits that many acts of thuggery, criminality, bad luck and poor judgement are exactly the kind of thing he, as a fan, wants to see.
So he rolls them out for our pleasure, from the worst fouls - and Keane on Haaland only makes number two - to injuries involving dog bites, collisions with goalposts and broken bones via refereeing decisions, goalkeeping errors, own goals, red cards and dodgy chairman.
Though England's failure to reach Euro 2008 may have caused many publishers to rethink their book output, Pitch Publishing have used it as a starting point for a revised edition of this book. Originally published in 2005, it features a new chapter on the worst of the European Championships, heavily featuring England goalkeeping errors by Messrs Carson, Robinson and Springett (if you can't remembers the early '60s, look it up).
Each incident features a rating variously called the 'Stud Marks', 'Pain Threshold' or 'Should have gone to Specsavers rating' to give it a context, and though a few more photos would have helped, the tone strikes a balance between humour and the genuine seriousness of some of the incidents. You may feel guilty reading it, but The Worst of Football is a pleasant trip into the darker depths of football. --Four Four Two
About the Author
Nigel Henderson works on the Sports desk at The Times newspaper. He is also the author of the Worst Of Cricket, also by Pitch Publishing and available on Amazon.
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Chapters on the worst fans and chaimen are the best of an excellent bunch.