Fascinating and thrilling account of football at its most bizarre and profound. Full of wonderful anecdotes that stick with you long after finishing the book. Looking forward to the forthcoming 'Billionaires Club'.
Two decades ago Simon Kuiper travelled the world to write “Football Against the Enemy”. Had he wanted to keep down his carbon footprint he needn’t have travelled so far. James Montague’s travelled back and forth from Libya to Iran and Yemen to Syria and all points in between and found endless animosities. There is international rivalry but most of the bitterness is internal. I’ve taken the title of my review from a remark by an Israeli fan but it could have come from many of the countries he visited. There was an earlier edition of this book. This is a revised edition. The period covered runs from 2007 to 2013 so it incorporates elements of the Arab Spring. Montague is sympathetic to his subjects but paints bleak pictures whether it’s of qat-chewing in Yemen or of oil-money abuses in the Gulf and corruption just about everywhere. Reading it my feelings were s mixture of gladness and sadness. I’m really, really glad I don’t have to live in that part of the world with its levels dysfunctionality and hatreds. My sadness was for the ordinary men and women who just want to play the game they love but are plagued with problems whether it be Iraqis knowing that bombs might be set off while they were playing by people who don’t want Sunni and Shia, Arab and Kurd to unite or whether it is Palestinian girls, mostly Christians, trying to tackle not merely their opponents on the field but also the Israeli-Palestinian problem, the Hamas-Fatah rivalry and objections by some Muslims to girls wearing shorts.
I'll keep this review short and to the point, this book is a superb read and not solely for football fans. If you have any interest at all in the Middle East or, with the ongoing issues in the area wish to learn more, then this book is for you. The passion for football in the area is a lot stronger than I had expected, it's on the same level as many fans in the UK and there are some wonderful personal stories to show this.
Having this book on my bookshelf really impresses the ladies... Whether it's a date I've invited round for dinner, or an escort girl.... They always ask how come I have James Montague's book? And ask to borrow it. After that we normally have some dinner. Usually a chicken and a nice bit of salad.
This book is a must read for those who like their football all over the world. The message of this book is that football is universal; the passion for the sport is global even in an alien land that many people feel it is not of utmost importance.
The book is not just about football matches; but the bureaucracy and administration nightmares that ensue because of religious beliefs and political ideologies. Also it is a travelogue that is eye-opening and enthralling, as the author is taken in by strangers and made to feel welcome in a very foreign land.