Simon Kuper, the European football-writer, co-authored one of the best football books ever a few years back with "Soccernomics". That book brought never-before seen insights into the game of football, and what a joy it was. This is Kuper's next book.
Originally published in Europe as "The Football Men: Up Close With the Giants of the Modern Game" (383 pages), it appears on the US market as "Soccer Men: Profiles of the Rogues, Geniuses, and Neurotics Who Dominate the World's Most Popular Sport". It is important to understand that this book is mostly (but not entirely) a collection of previously published columns that Kuper wrote for a variety of publications, including of course the Financial Times for which Kuper was the weekly sports columnist for many years, but also The Observer and some Dutch publications. As an avid reader of the Financial Times I was afraid that I would recognize many of the columns but thankfully this was not the case. Nevertheless, I was somewhat apprehensive about this book. Well, I shouldn't have been.
"The Football Men" brings about 65 "short stories" (averaging about 10 pages per) on the megastars and not-quite-megastars of the game, some even getting more than one profile or story (such as the legendary Johan Cruijff). They are written with a dry, if not wry, sense of humor, and I found myself reading this with a smile on my face most of the time. In a column on Wayne Rooney: "There are two types of British footballer: ugly ones like Rooney, Paul Gascoigne and Nobby Stiles, and pretty ones like Beckham and Michael Owen. The British public usually prefers the ugly ones." Haha! On Lothar Matthaus's rise to stardom: "The transfer of power officially took place on 17 June 1986, in the final minutes of the game against Morocco, when the Germans were given a free kick. Rummenigge was getting ready to take it when Matthaus shoved him aside and scored." Zing! And on and on. Highly recommended for any fan of the beautiful game!