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on 3 May 2002
Much more than just a book about Brazilian football, and much more interesting than a book just about Brazilian culture, this wide-ranging work takes the reader right into the heart of the spiritual homeland of what Pele may or may not have called 'the beautiful game'.
From the sweltering depths of the Amazon to the barren wastes of the Faeroe Islands, Bellos takes us on a voyage of discovery into the cultural significance of Brazil's most important gift to the rest of the world.
Want to know what made kicking a pig's bladder around the most appealing game for Brazil's poor huddled masses? You'll find the answer here. Puzzled by the connections between samba, candomble religion and Brazilian football? Look no further. Interested in whatever happened to auto-football/button football/futevolley? Bellos is your man.
Along the way, we discover a football tournament where beauty queens score as many points as the players themselves; meet the man who designed Brazil's iconic strip (and supports the team responsible for the national tragedy that led to its creation); and delve into the heart of darkness that characterises Brazilian football's current relationship with its paymasters.
As we all gear up for the moneyfest that will be the forthcoming World Cup in Japan and Korea, this book represents a valuable reminder of the deep humanity at the heart of our planet's most valuable sporting commodity.
Anyone who has ever marvelled at the perfection of Carlos Alberto's goal in the 1970 World Cup Final should read this book. Anyone who hasn't, should get themselves a tape of the game, then read this book.
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on 17 December 2002
This is an entertaining and well-researched book, although at over 400 pages it could do with a bit of editing. It's not so much a book about Brazilian football, but one about the Brazilian obsession with football. As such, it's more about Brazilian history, culture, society, politics and national identity, and the relationship of football with Brazil's other obsession - sex. This is not a book about the technicalities of football itself. Pelé, Garrincha, Tostão, Ronaldo, Rivelino, Zico, Carlos Alberto, Roberto Carlos and Romário all feature (though surprisingly not Rivaldo), with interesting insights and information presented (not always of a footballing nature). However, the real stars of the book are those eccentric characters who have extended Brazil's love of football to autoball (football involving cars!), button ball (table football), beach soccer and ball juggling (especially by women, including Ronaldo's wife). The names of Brazilian footballers are deciphered, emphasising the Brazilian preference for nicknames and the names of famous film stars and singers. Bellos discusses at some length the deep trough that Brazilian football sunk into after the defeat in the 1998 World Cup final, in particular the controversy around Ronaldo. The extent of corruption in Brazilian football that was uncovered at the time is also exposed. In a fascinating interview, Socrates explains his reasons for Brazil's failings in the couple of years before the 2002 World Cup. It's only a pity that the book was published before Brazil's subsequent success. Such a dramatic turnaround in fortunes, both for Brazil and Ronaldo, cried out for further explanation. Bellos states more than once that Brazilians view football as "a game in which prodigious individual skills outshine team tactics, where dribbles and flicks are preferred over physical challenges and long distance passes". The Brazilian team of 2002 showed that a combination of these attributes can be both successful and highly entertaining.
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on 16 August 2003
Futebol is the Brazilian way life. Alex Bellos' description of how a simple game has changed the face of this vast country is both fascinating and hugely entertaining. From the introduction of the game to Brazil by Charles Miller in 1894 to the corruption and greed of the Brazilian Football Confederation before the last world cup, it's all here.
Funny stories of Brazilians in far flung outposts such as the Faroe Islands, superstitions and spells, help the reader to understand not only Football in Brazil but the bigger picture of the struggling economy and colourful culture. This book is an education, and if you've never been to Brazil you'll certainly be inspired to travel there!
As with all good books the final chapter is simply the best. Alex Bellos describes his interview in a Sao Paulo bar with Socrates or now Dr Socrates. And yes he is named after the original, and has is own political and philosophical views, much beyond the simple game of Futebol.
Not a book for the statistician or those looking for details of games, but a thoroughly enjoyable read even for non football fans.
Graeme Parker
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on 1 October 2003
A wonderful annecdotal, factfile of Brazilian life and how it's seemingly totally entwined with football. Football is life to Brazilians and they take the playing of the game to extremes of all kinds! The wonderful telling of beautiful but tragic tales of players such as Garrincha and Barbosa and the "Fateful Final" of the 1950 World Cup where the whole of Brazil seemingly mourned the defeat against Uruguay.
Terrific book and a real eye opener on Brazilian culture and life...
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on 23 March 2007
This is quite simply one of the best football books you'll ever read.

Rather than a dry history of the game in Brazil, Bellos has attempted (and very much succeeded) to put across exactly why the country and its population is so obsessed with the beautiful game. If you're looking for Charles Miller and the growth of football in the country then look elsewhere. If you want an interesting and highly entertaining look at how football impacts every part of Brazilian life and culture then this is it.

You will find this hard to put down and out of the vast numbers of football books I've read this is up there with the very best. It's a gem.
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on 29 June 2005
Having read this book I now know why Brazil are far more superior at Football (Futebol) lots of Amazing stories and at times very funny - a good educational book for football fans to understand the game from Brazil's Grass Roots to the National World Champions, Stories about games been stopped so players could see who could kick the ball the highest to a game off football using cars, Ronaldo of Real Madrid - a chapter about arguably the greatest Brazil player of all time Garrinchia. a Must for all football fans
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on 6 May 2002
Anyone curious about Brazil in general should read this book. Although I am interested in Brazilian soccer , I also found this book interesting because it cleverly uses soccer as a context to explore and explain Brazilian society. For example, the excellent chapter on Garrincha ( probably the greatest Brazilian player ever)goes beyond his feats on the playing field to uncover his tragic life, with which many poor Brazilians closley identify. In the chapter on the president of one of the big socer clubs in Brazil, the profile of Eurico Miranda goes a long way to explain the corrupt and chaotic status of Brazilian domestic soccer. Bellos also gives a good account of the entertaining and revealing governmental inquiries which were held following the mysterious World Cup final in France.
I read this book in two days; it is an entertaining read because it is basically a collection of lucid, perceptive and amusing stories about Brazilan football in its widest form. I also felt that I learnt something more profound about Brazilain society at the same time
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on 9 November 2003
I have been a fan of Brazilian football since the 1970 World Cup. Now, after reading Alex Bellos' superbly written and painstakingly researched book, I am a fan of Brazil itself. If only the people of the Old World could share in the infectious joy of living of the Brazilian people, and if only I could retrace Alex Bellos' journey....maybe someday!
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on 8 September 2009
Alex Bellos has written a book about Brazilian football with some very interesting chapters. Unfortunately there are a few chapters that might be described as filler.

There are great chapters about the not very glamorous lot of the Brazilian footballer in the Faroe Islands and the Brazil's obsession with the 1950 World Cup final loss to Uruguay. Bellos has done a lot of research and travelled extensively inside and outside Brazil for the book and the reader is rewarded by some gems of information and a few surprising revelations. The slightly manic atmosphere surrounding clubs and matches is well described.
Sometimes these excellent chapters are followed by entire chapters on nicknames, football related beauty pageants and various types of table football, which I found only slightly interesting. Could he have been under pressure to produce a book of a certain length and needed to fill it out a bit? Perhaps he was encouraged to write about as many "quirky" events and characters as possible to attract the not so serious reader? Maybe I'm just a football snob? In any case the book could have benefited from being three chapters shorter.

The author does get across his love of Brazil and of football. He also has the outsider's sense of bemusement in describing some aspects of the Brazilian obsession with "futebol". He also displays a reporters instinct as he questions dodgy club chairmen and explores the link between politics and football.

This is a well written book on an interesting subject but maybe there is too much padding to cut through to reach the gems.
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on 17 August 2002
Much like the country's national futebol team, this book looks great on paper. Also, like the team, it often doesn't entirely produce the high standards expected. Yeah, in places the writing is interesting and the insights are without doubt fresh, but after a while you get tired of reading about cars playing football and the Ronaldo trial, and instead want a few more chapters like the one Socrates and other greats.
There is a very good chapter very early on covering the progress of a selection of Brazilians who had moved to Norway to ply their football trade. The problem is that this chapter and the Socrates chapter are the best parts of the book and the content in between is somewhere between slightly interesting and tedious. You could say that it is not a million miles away from having Cafu and Roberto Carlos on the flanks and Mirandinha playing through the middle.
This book could be your cup of tea if you're interested to learn about Brazilian culture (from most perspectives). However, if you're looking to read a book on the best footballing nation in the world and read tales about the greats, this is not the one to go for.
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