A great book loosely based upon Verona's epic 2000-2001 Season in Serie A. The book is in diary form, so the author, like the reader, doesn't know the eventual outcome when he writes each chapter. This somehow adds to the excitement whilst reading it.
As well as Verona the book covers many asides in all sorts of areas such as Italian politics, hooliganism, life in Italy, the Italian language, racism, the difference between the north and the south, the bias towards the big clubs and the Italian police's awful treatment of away fans.
My favourite part was the description of the regular supporters of Verona, and their travels to away games (the first chapter is an absolute classic). Parks clearly adores Italy and his enthusiasm for the country is infectious (I challenge anyone not to want to stand on Verona's Curva Sud after reading this book). Parks also gets to interview some of the players, management and club owners which adds to the pure adventure of the unfolding tale.
At the end of the day - despite all the differences between Italy and England - the comforting fact to know is that being a fan of any football team, especially a small, unfashionable one, is essentially the same.
on 2 May 2002
As a long term Sheffield Wednesday fan I was most pleased to find this book on the shelf of my favourite bookshop a couple of weeks ago. I've always loved stories about football, but especially about mad football ites, people like myself who follow their beloved team week in and week out. Although I've never been to Verona and I don't know anyone in Italy, I felt like I have an awful lot in common with the people Mr Parks amazingly describes. The excellent thing about this book however, is that even people who are not particularly keen on football, can easily read it. It clearly emerges from the pages of this manuscript that Mr Parks is not only a passionate supporter of Hellas Verona, but also a clever academic. At some stages of the book i envied the author for his incredibly huge ability to describe the emotions us football fans go through during a whole season.
Needless to say that although it is quite a thick book (about 450 pages) I read it in less than two days.
Thanks Mr Parks for sharing your passion with us readers, I wish you all the best for your professional life and your team.
on 2 May 2002
After reading Nick Hornby's 'Fever Pitch' many years ago, I felt at the time that no one would ever produce a better novel of this type.Tim Parks has proved me wrong.
Unlike Hornby, Parks does not have the luxury of relying on a lifetime of childhood memories or championship triumphs for material.
Initially I asked myself, how can he write about Hellas Verona without having rheems of material on the club's scudetto (championship) winning season in 1985? Not an easy task, but one which Parks overcomes by going beyond the standard subjects addressed in the pulpable post Hornby contributions of the same genre.
The irrationality of loyalty, local rivalries and the post modern condition associated with violence, constitute standard fare for this type of book, and accordingly Parks, unlike others who have followed the same path, does not disappoint. However, the book's real strength (Mr Hornby et al, please note) is the manner in which it identifies the intracies of Italian history and contemporary life in modern calcio. This is seen, for example, in the case of the Verona supporter who ignores the Italian national team, preferring to concentrate on the exploits of the Rumanian international midfielder (Mutu) who plays for the club. The manner in which Parks does this has as much to do with the strong residual feelings of pre-unification city-state parochialism and incomplete Italian national identity, than any perceived petty fanatacism. All this substance from just one paragraph in the book!
Parks' least generous critics could argue that the book is aided by Hellas Verona's dramatic 2000-2001 season. This is not so, because these events without the analytical context provided by Parks would read like a long (and boring) chronological report. A chronology which this Reggina tiffoso, as evidenced by the book's last chapter, would not bother revisiting if there was not a broader and original tale to be told.
on 23 October 2006
I won't bore you with my loquacious opinion on this magnificent book (other people have done that probably better than I can among these readers' reviews). No, I will simply tell you the truth.
When I finished reading the book in May 2003, I booked a flight to Verona and a hotel near l'Arena, and went to the stadium for the last game of that season (Bari, 1-1, for the statiticians among you). I had to see la Curva Sud for myself. Since then, having made friends with one or two members of I Piu Mati (ciao Christian, ciao Alberto, ciao Fabio!) I've been back several times (including a memorable 5-3 win over rivals Vicenza [di merda!]) and they've even been over to see my humble bunch of sleeping giants (the West Country's top team, Bristol City. Well, excluding Yeovil). In short, the book inspired me, it coursed through my veins and I was like a junkie, needing a fix of the Brigate Gialloblu (minus the violenza!). A terrific, vibrant, inspiring read. Forza Signor Tim!
(PS If you liked the social/cultural/non-football parts to the book, make sure you read his Italian Neighbours and Italian Education books. The description of which coffee to drink when in the former book is as good as the opening chapter of A Season With Verona)
on 15 May 2002
This is one strange book. It starts with about fifty pages introducing you to these hard core fans on a long long away game. It's fun and you think. Right, it's going to be one of those books. And instead then it changes, and it changes again and again, with all the weirdest ways of thinking about football or describing games. At first some of it's a bit off-putting and you think maybe it's going to get pseud, but as it goes on, talking about the players, and girl fans, and the football calendar and Italy, you realise what he's really talking about is all the ways football invades you head and what it means that you let it do that and that you experience emotions that maybe have nothing to do with the 'important' things in your life. Anyway, a great book, I really really enjoyed it and read some of the sections twice. Can't understand ..being predictable. Don't think I've ever read a book that turned out to be more different than I first thought.
on 11 March 2002
One of the best books about football ever, and a superb dissection of contemporary Italy to boot.
Parks supports unfashionable, vilified Hellas Verona - he's lived in the Veneto for more than 20 years. Last season he went to every game, home and away, and his account of the travails of the club is a potent critique of fandom.
Not one for the kind of people who think books about football should be written in the platitudinous style of the mainstream press and inarticulate "pundits", but a great (and original) essay on what it means to be a football supporter and the unique joys and trials of Italy's Serie A.
on 1 May 2002
This will surely become one of the legendary books about soccer and about Italy. It is also a brilliantly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable book that you won't be able to put down even if you have no interest in soccer at all. A long-time resident of Verona, Italy, Tim Parks decides to follow the fortunes of its soccer team through one long, harrowing season that eventually builds to an extraordinary climax. Along the way we are treated to a close-up view of a world that is never described in the tourist brochures. We travel with the most rabid fans as they trek the length and breadth of Italy, and we listen as they tell their stories and share their hopes, dreams and obessions. Parks draws a warmly telling portrait of his cohorts, and builds and intriguing picture of the world they inhabit. Although they are continually accused of racism and a fondness for violence, Parks sets them firmly in a culture which is struggling to absorb ethnic and social change. He has a marvelous feel for the warmth of their camaraderie, their idiosynchrosies and their glorious humanity. Parks also gets to know the players, the management, and the journalists, indeed the whole apparatus of the Italian soccer circus. And he travels Italy as no tourist will ever travel it, escorted by the police through stone throwing mobs into sunblistered stadiums, rolling through long nights in squalid busses listening to the almost mythical sagas of the supporters and flying in luxury with a team of pampered athletes whose trainer seems interested only in thrillers. In short, this is about as rich and wonderful a book as you are ever going to read. Congratulations Mr. Parks and thank you for an amazing treat.
on 10 March 2003
A great idea for a book and this is a great and interesting read. Hellas Verona much like my team Norwich City, haven't really won much. Straight away I could relate to the book.
The amazing story of the club and it's fans gripped me throughout. Their friends and rivals in the Italian league is also pretty amazing and quite bizzare. I knew quite a bit about Italian Football before I read this book but this provides you with some great views on the Italian league that I haven't really come across before.
Tim Parks includes a great insight to the fans of Hellas Verona and the extermists within Brigate Gialloblu (Verona's hardcore fans). The story starts with a superbly written piece on a bus journey to Bari. The twists and turns on this journey alone is enough for a book!
The sad state of Hooliganism, Rascism and Fascism in Italian football is well explained and I think Parks restrains himself well not to get involved with the politics in these matters. The authorities clearly need to sort this out!
It took me less than a week to read (450pgs) so that shows it really is a gripping book and one I couldn't wait to get back to read.
One of the best books I've ever read and a 'must buy' for all passionate football fans!
on 6 September 2004
Parks - an Englishman who has lived and worked in Italy for some 20 years - spends a year following his local football team: provincial alsorans, Hellas Verona. He travels the length and breadth of the country, attending every match of the 2000/01 season; a campaign which dissolves into a desperate struggle to maintain Serie A status. Set in the style of a match by match diary - the first few months are written from the perspective of an ordinary fan; but when the club get wind of the book, Parks is invited to spend time with the management and playing staff.
Reading as part travel, part soccer book - it offers a fascinating insight into Italian fan culture: the hierarchical power struggles within the 'Brigate Gialloblu' - the club's notorious followers; allegiances (strictly adhered) with a select few Serie A peers; and the equanimous acceptance of season end match fixing. The access granted to the squad enables a close observation of the rarefied atmosphere in which a professional football club operates: pampered but secluded players, concerned more with their own careers than of possible relegation; the morose and under pressure head coach, cutting an isolated figure when results go against him; the financial burdens of keeping an unfashionable club afloat amongst the top echelon. Italy's regional idiosyncrasies, stereotypes, and rivalries are also explored: the Veronese are regarded by outsiders as parochial, uncouth racists; indeed the Brigate initially treat an Englishman within their ranks, with a mixture of suspicion and bemusement. For extra flavour, the book is peppered throughout with Italian dialect, helping to bring the myriad of colourful and passionate characters encountered to life.
The author's obvious enthusiasm for his adopted club and country is both endearing and infectious; inevitably, it's all too easy to become engaged in his team's plight. Football fans everywhere will empathize with the agony and ecstasy, the nail-biting obsessiveness, Parks has to endure over the course of what turns into a dramatic season; and - with writers' serendipity - climaxes in the most thrilling denouement. A splendid read.
on 9 January 2004
When I looked at the outside of this book for the first time, I thought it would take ages to read it, but I became so immersed with the fortunes of the team, and the banter of the away trips, that I flew through it. One of the strong points is one that has been elaborated upon before; how it manages to combine the ins and outs of football fan culture with the quirks of a travel-log. It is essential reading for real football fans who know there is more to the game than you can ever hope to see on Sky Sports. For all the positives and negatives described in the book, it succeeds in reminding us of all the sights, sounds and scents of a genuine football experience, as opposed to a good night's television viewing, or a once in a lifetime aeroplane trip to see you team.
Verona are not a glamorous club. The Brigate Gialloblú, Hellas' Ultras group, whom Parks travels with, is one of the oldest of such groups in Italy and Europe. Perhaps Parks doesn't do their history and importance to the club justice, as most of the club officials, although likeable, treat the fans with little interest. It is well explained though, how little a team like Verona actually makes on gate receipts though, with sponsorship and wheeling and dealing in players more important revenue streams. The reader sympathises with the fortunes of a club often on the wrong end of dodgy, possibly corrupt refereeing, and smiles when the team gets the little bit of fortune they need in their relegation struggle.
Parks also manages to inject much appreciated (at least from this reader) humour into the book too, though, mainly courtesy of the escapades of the Brigate, in their mammoth, epic, drink-fuelled away trips. Getting off the bus after an away trip with a thumping headache, covered in muck, beer, and occassionally even vomit or blood, is a sign of a good away trip, and for a married bloke, Parks gets remarkably close to this kind of banter, and for the most part, describes it excellently. The anecdotes involvong his family life are also refreshing, in the context of a football fan culture book.