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The Miracle Of Castel Di Sangro
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on 8 January 2018
This book is one of the best I've ever read, and it almost transcends sports entirely.This book is a wonderful example of using sport to tell a very human story, an extraordinary skill. Get it for your football-mad teenage son/nephew/friend/etc who will only read about sport at once.
The lazy town of Castel Di Sangro, population of 5,000, hosting a Serie B team was crazy enough, the fact that the story of their 96/97 season was told by an American, even crazier. Joe McGinnis, a writer who fell in love with the Sport during the '94 World Cup, follows up his obsession with Roberto Baggio and travels to Italy, discovers the story, and decides he must report on the fairy-tale. McGinniss doesn't just report on the wonderful sporting story of the minnows one promotion away from the world's best league, but instead becomes part of the family of the club, living opposite the manager, befriending the players, dining at the team restaurant, even having relationships (albeit strained) with the shady ownership.
The thing that makes this book great is the human qualities and stories of the players, a remarkable collection of Italian men who despite their profession lead very different lives. If you love football, you'll love it, but the book touches on scandal, racism, communism, corruption, drugs, death, imprisonment, and that's just off the top of my head. You might improve your Italian as well.
The protagonists open up to the author so much so that every goal conceded is a dagger to your heart, every point gained in the struggle to avoid relegation celebrated. Quite frankly, this review cannot do it justice. It's simply too great, and too real a story. Forza Castel Di Sangro!
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on 26 May 2014
I'm not sure if you really need to be a football fan to read this, though I guess it would help. What a story, at first very funny but darker and darker as it goes on, as I recall. Especially the description of Castel di Sangro's match in a lightning storm in Genoa is unforgettable.
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on 29 July 2015
I really enjoyed this book. It was extremely well written, with tragedy and humour in equal measure.
It stands as an excellent social history of football and gives a great insight into Italian culture and the diversity of human nature. By the end of the book I felt that I knew the characters like my own family. I read this in Sicily on holiday and felt a real sense of place.
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on 24 October 2017
Undoubtedly one of the best 'football' books written to date and in my top 10 generally. Marvellous stuff.
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on 22 April 2014
A truly epic book brilliantly written by an author who was candid and honest about all things and all people, including himself. The season for this tiny football team in Italy's Serie B division had everything - major triumphs, genuine tragedies and a rollercoaster ride of emotions. This book is an absolute must read for any football fan.
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on 6 July 2001
I am an Educational Consultant and train teachers. I mention this because my background is crucial to why I think this book is exceptionally good. As a self-professed "intellectual", I have shunned sports all my life. Why, in high school, I skipped Phys.Ed so I could go to the library instead. I jokingly tell my friends that I am philosophically opposed to sports, and was so proud of myself when I bought my husband a sweatshirt imprinted with "Boston Bruins" on it because he loves basketball. ( They play hockey.) Enough about me! The point is, if I liked this book, anyone who remotely likes soccer will LOVE this book. I bought it for a soccer-loving friend, and leafed through it. The crisp prose and interesting visual imagery made me keep reading. I found I got involved in the life of the townspeople of Castel Di Sangro, and began to care about them. I kept reading. What surer evidence of a compelling story is there than that? I have been to Italy a number of times, and have relatives there. The book could be a social commentary on the Italian culture, and the passionate sub-culture of the soccer world in Italy, especially in the "Mezzo-Giorno" South. I had trouble putting the book down. Unlike many contemporary novels that are uniformly horrifying, or saccharinely upbeat, this one had the true patina of real life about it. I even learned a thing or two about the game, much to the amusement of my friends and family. I highly recommend it and applaud McGinnis for his work.
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on 22 November 2011
I have read a few reviews of this book where there is a great disappointment and irritation at the author bumbling his way into the inner sanctum of the club. But for me that is one of the more endearing aspect of this book - Castle Di Sangro is such a small place and a small club that it is very easy for Joe McGinniss, with his limited knowledge of Italian language, customs, football culture and tactics, can find himself so immersed in the goings-on of a Serie B outfit, albeit one punching well above its weight.

Maybe its the fact that he's an American with some typical sterotypical traits (a big personality, a desire to know and learn, a misguided belief that he is somehow important and deserves to be listened to, and a well-intentioned ignorant brashness) which means he keeps on poking his nose in despite numerous warnings to back off, which leads him to uncover some unpleasant truths of various types amid the generally uplifting story of a village team competing in their most exciting season ever.

I would argue that it is only someone like Joe who could have made this book possible, every other (normal) person would have taken a step back and would not have uncovered half as much of the intriguing information as he does, often by accident. I can see how it could be considered annoying to some readers that he gets involved in the events whenever possible and becomes a character in the story rather than just an observer, but at times it is the various reactions of the locals and the club staff to his clumsy interference that reveals the most about their true thoughts and opinions as they are often either so taken aback by his un-Italian manner that they let their own gaurd down, or are so obviously unhappy at him that their emotions spill over and makes for some amusing or revealing reactions.

Overall, well worth reading if you like Italy, football, unusual true stories, meddling Americans or a combination of these!
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on 19 June 2017
Loved it. To anyone who has an affinity or love of Calcio then I fully recommend this book. Imagine yourself there, it's enough to make you want to be a part of it yourself.
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on 18 August 2005
The first season spent in the dizzy heights of Serie B, in their entire history, by Castel Di Sangro is shared by American writer Joe McGinniss in this fascinating book.
McGinniss spends the entire 1996/97 season in the small hamlet of Castel Di Sangro. It's calcio (football to you and me, maybe soccer to the author) club is at the very heart of this remarkable tale of survival. The author gets so close to the team though that the book is about far more than football. Lies, deception, scandal and tragedy all come to the fore whilst the footballing miracle unfolds.
In fact, so much unfolds between September 1996 and May 1997, that you will not want to do anything else but read on. The book, by and large, seems to be written with the American audience in mind, which in actual fact helps the tale have small respites for avid football followers. The season is described chronologically, which again makes the story very readable.
The only negative is that the author, despite by his own admission being new to the sport, seems to consider himself an expert in the game. Frequently he describes how he told the manager to do this or that, and seems genuinely surprised when the experienced Italian coach rebuffs his ideas.
Overall, a fascinating tale of an almost surreal season for Castel Di Sangro. Joe McGinniss is welcomed so much into the heart of the community and club, that we find out a great deal about the activities of a small Italian football club, in this intelligently written story.
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on 10 August 2012
Joe McGinniss tells a story that reveals the true romance of football. It delivers on every emotion a supporter and player can experience - and plenty of drama too.

A rollercoaster ride at a club where almost anything was possible, a dream turned into a reality. As the book reminds us, "...not all fairy tales have happy endings. Just like not all miracles are forever."

For fans of the English Premier League, Carlo Cudicini (currently at Tottenham Hostspur, formerly with Chelsea) used to play for the team at the centre of this book - Castel di Sangro.The Miracle Of Castel Di Sangro
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