Thursday 12 August 2010

Goal! How football conquered the world

Goal! How football conquered the world by Catherine Chambers (black dog books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74203-157-6
Reviewed by Anke Seib

Catherine Chambers has a wonderful way of blending the history of football with world history, giving readers a fully rounded context in which to view the game of soccer. Did you know that many early matches were more like mob brawls and that some leaders tried to ban them? A vast variety of information and a lively layout means this book presents readers with a treasure trove of spice and fun, including all that lies behind the game, its history and its fans.

Part of bdb’s magnificent Drum Series, this work shows football’s evolution through a variety of ancient ball and field sports to final standardisation of rules, explaining how soccer separated from contact codes like league, union and Aussie Rules. Chronological history is interspersed with player profiles, quirky information panels, quotes from big names and odd historical facts (e.g. in the 1870s a US cigarette manufacturer printed player pictures on cigarette pack ‘stiffeners’, thus creating our first ‘footy cards’.)

While hard to prove exactly who invented soccer, Chambers uses historical facts, archaeological evidence and statistics to build a picture of what is likely to have lead to the game we now know. She also reveals what balls have been made of and called in the past, how many players exist in the world, how many teams form FIFA and the rise of women in the sport. Despite Oscar Wilde being quoted in the 1800s as saying football was fine for girls but hardly suitable for delicate boys, it was not until 1970 that the Deutscher Fussball-Bund allowed these frail creatures to play!

Whether a sports buff or not, there is much to grab a reader’s interest. Certainly this book should be in every library and would be useful for many areas of study. I recommend it for readers ten and over but certainly not just for children. Anyone who enjoys observing human behaviour, widening their knowledge of history, or exploring what brings nations together in peace rather than war, will enjoy the spirit of all that is celebrated in Goal!

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