Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
Great Story - Ruined
on 25 October 2009
I think this review will mirror most on here that have acheived 3 stars or less. As an avid follower of lower league English football (not soccer) and witness to my very own 'Miracle' as a fan of Burton Albion aswell as having Italian blood and being a rabid Juve fan, I was intrigued and excited as I picked up the book having read the premise from the blurb, not only a miracle on the scale of which we probably are yet to see in England - a town of only pop. 5000 acheiving promotion to Serie B - but a writer given the inner sanctum of being a part of this mystical story as it unfolds.
Given the access that McGinniss is privy to within the workings and everyday life of the team, this should make for a rivetting read into not only the mind and body of a lower level Italian team but also a view that allows fans of the sport to see the rumblings of such a roller coaster ride of a football season from a new and privlaged perspective that we do not get from merely following our teams. That this season was one of the greatest ever stories in Italian football virtually guarantees that the book will be a decent read, however, what potentially could - and probably should - have been the best football book ever written is spoiled, ruined and leaves you angry and unfullfilled at the end. Ironically the same reaction as the Author but for pertinently different reasons.
As noted elsewhere, McGinniss is new to the game having recently discovered it in his native America at the 1994 World Cup. Thus one can forgive his idoms of 'soccer', 'offense' and 'overtime' but his naivity, egotistical demeanour and self rightousness that, in my experience, can only be that of an American, ruin the readers experience. Whillst this may be a generelisation, it is not an untruth and his constant refferal to the ratings issued in the sports press as being the be all and end all in judging performance really shows the American love of a statistic (and true misunderstanding of the great game) which eventually grates after a while.
Indeed after a good start, where the book seems to build up and rattle along nicely, with the author starting to get a feel for the game as a fan and his writing style making it seem like you are there at times, you think you will never want to put this book down. His complex and often enlightening look into the distictly shady people behind the football club and the many tragedies and tantrums they befall it are portrayed beautifully but, unfortuntely, should be done as a narrative only, without the personal opinion of the author often taking over matters where an overview would suffice. As the authors confidence in the native tongue grows, so does his absolute inexplicable brashness and contempt for all things culturally Italian and his lack of respect borders on the absurd at times. That he, the author who only discovered the game two years previously, can think to question a coach that has taken this village team to the upper eschelons of pro football is perfectly within his remit, not on one but on many occasions (not withstanding the fact that he advises playing an attacking formation away from home to better teams on numerous occasions and any resulting 0 0 is treated by him as a failure of sorts!) is beyond a joke.
To top it all off, at the end, to someone who claims throughout the book to have a love of Italian football (or il calcio as he puts it) he belittles the enourmous acheivement of this team by acting disgusted and totally self rightous towards the end of the book. The fact that a level of corruption exists in Italy, indeed more specifically once a team is assured of their league position, 'favours' to opposing teams who are still fighting are seen as a norm (ask Gab Marcotti on that one) his overreaction may show a level of decency but also compounds his misunderstanding of the scenario and of the culture.
To put it bluntly what happened there would not have shocked any true football fan with knowledge of the inner workings of Italian football back then, and also should not be used as a matter for judging the players character or personal beliefs as they, unlike him had their hands tied. The fact that McGinniss does judge the players on this leaves a sour taste in the mouth at the end of the book, not because of the situation, more that what should have been the greatest book ever written about one of the greatest footballing stories ever, wasn't, and all because of one thing - the unfortunate misplaced self rightous opinions of the author coming across as more important than the amazing story itself.
Buy it for the legend that is CDS, then understand why it left me feeling underwhelmed.
PS. An afterthought into the warped view of McGinniss that the coach Jaconi was an idiot with no eye for a player. The following season he did indeed drop the apparantly 'goalkeeper of the century' in McGinniss' eyes Lotti, who, despite our authors keen write up and supposed footballing knowledge, didn't go on to the perceived greatness he thought, while the tactically inept and backward thinking Jaconi replaced said goalkeeper with a young lad from Milan called Carlo Cudicini. He didn't mentioned that in his afterword!