I first knew Kuper from his columns in FourFourTwo magazine and had heard good things about this book. Sometimes the depressing books are better than the happy ones, and his stories of Eastern Europe, Argentina and Africa are quite depressing. And yet the tone of the book never loses hope, and shows why the personalities described therein never lose hope.
I have two complaints. I wish Kuper had discussed Italian football more. And the edition I bought, in the U.S., is a U.S. edition, titled "Soccer Against the Enemy." (John Foot's magisterial "Calcio: A History of Italian Football" also becomes "Winning At All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian Soccer.") My problem isn't with the title (after all, the vast majority of English speakers do call the sport "soccer"), but it seems as though some editor over here used a word processor to turn every instance of the word "football" into "soccer" -- resulting in phrases like, "He had to sell a player for a soccer" or "He was buried with a soccer," instead of "...with a football" or "...with a soccer ball."