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Customer Review

on 25 August 2002
If the rating system allowed half stars, I would give this book three and a half, because overall I would recommend it (and three stars does not imply recommendation quality). At times the book is 5 star in Kuper's cultural insights on the game but unfortunately stoops to lows in the author's tendency towards a confusing writing style.
I feel I have to disagree with The Times's purportion that 'If you like football read it. If you don't like football read it.' Pay no attention to the latter - for the uninformed this book is only mildly interesting. However, I was compelled at times to read excerpts to my girlfriend, who may or may not have been interested, and a prime example of this is found on page 72, where the author quotes Luther Blissett (while at AC Milan) as having remarked; "No matter how much money you have got, you can't seem to get any Rice Crispies."
The confusion in the book is due to Kuper's vague initial aim, which is two-fold: (1) to discuss the relationship between politics and football around the world and (2) various cultural habits that suggest the ways different styles have come about. Perhaps he should have concentrated on the cultural explanations of style, as it becomes a little repetitive when we hear of presidents and leaders taking charge of their national team. Having said that the chapter, Argentina, campeon!, which discusses the corruption during the 1978 World Cup, is mindblowing. However, Kuper's argument in 'Gazza and the fall of Margaret Thatcher', where the author tries deperately hard to convince the reader of some weak comparisons between Gazza and John Major, fails miserably but is nonetheless very entertaining.
The book's high-points are the chapters on Brazil and Cameroon. Kuper paints a rather amusing portrait of Roger Milla... The explanation of the flamboyant Brazilian style as an outgrowth of the ancient sport of the capoeira as practised by the 'Malandro' in Brazilian folklore, is brilliantly argued and well-explained.
Overall, this book made me realise how much the game has changed in the last ten years and given that this book was first published in 1994, when for me football was only beginning to be explained in aesthetic terms, perhaps we should give the book a little extra credit. For those wanting a more refined aesthetes discussion of football, look at David Winner's 'Brilliant Orange'.
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