Midweek Books: Fan-friendly World Cup guides

On Wednesday I highlight noteworthy new sports books, with links to reviews, interviews and other information about the subject and/or author.

This also continues a series of posts this week about the World Cup, which kicks off June 12 in Brazil. Previous posts are here and here.

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There are so many books devoted to soccer in general, and the World Cup in particular, but I’m going use this post to highlight new World Cup that examine the upcoming tournament in Brazil, and give an historical overview of the event.

Eight_World_CupsThese kinds of books have been published generously in the United States, starting in 1994 when the World Cup was here, but they have proliferated to cater to a more expansive, global fan base. And that’s a good thing.

I can’t think of a better gateway to the World Cup for non-fans, as well as for obsessives, than George Vecsey’s “Eight World Cups.” It’s part travelogue, part memoir, as the now-semi-retired columnist for The New York Times dates his experiences back to 1982. He includes the famous 1999 Women’s World Cup in the United States, where I first met him.

Vecsey’s always had just the right touch when it comes to writing about anything, soccer in particular, and this is a treat for all. Review¬†here from the Christian Science Monitor; excerpt here in The Times from Spain ’82, his first World Cup. Vecsey will be a guest today on Major League Soccer’s Extra Time Radio podcast; more details here.

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At the World Cup I covered in 2002, I was privileged to meet venerable British soccer journalist Brian Glanville, who has penned thousands of newspaper and magazine articles and dozens of booksStory of the World Cup 2014about soccer and the World Cup. This year he’s updated his longstanding volume, “The Story of the World Cup.” As in previous editions, it’s a good general history of the event in each of its renewals, and Glanville doesn’t spare readers his often acerbic views on FIFA. Like Vecsey’s book, this is more narrative than statistic-laden, but it serves as a useful historical reference for a tournament that had much humbler roots when it began in 1930.

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If you want more than just an overview of the World Cup, Nick Holt’s “The Mammoth Book of the World Cup” ought to fill the bill. It’s nearly 800 pages of narrative history, statistics, results and other basic reference material.

MammothWCIt’s part of the “Mammoth” topical series of books published in Britain, and Holt generously begins with a very ample bibliography, terms and tactics and how the sport is organized around the world before digging into the history of the event, tournament by tournament, in chronological order.

He also devotes a chapter to the “globalisation” of soccer, including the Women’s World Cup and Olympic soccer. Each tournament includes the starting lineups for the teams in the finals, as well as the referees and other relevant and useful information for true trivia buffs.

There’s so much information, anecdotes, personalities and much more vividly brought to life by a talented writer who’s mastered the material well, and who presents it for readers no matter their level of interest.

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Virginia-based self-described “zine” writer and e-book author Raven Mack has just published what he calls “Football Metaphysics: World Cup 2014.” It contains some basic nitty-gritty of each of the 32 team rosters, their World Cup histories. Mack presents these details with information about odds, for those of you interested in placing bets, friendly or otherwise.

But in his introduction, Mack explains what’s really behind this volume, declaring football metaphysics to be that “small somewhat unexplainable but easily discernible world where science and religionFootball Metaphysics cross over.”

Describing himself as a “dumbass American by birth, and a degenerate Southerner (of America) by the grace of God,” Mack starts off sounding quite a bit off the wall, out of the ordinary and not just a small bit profane, even for an American who, like me, caught the soccer bug at USA ’94. (Here’s a bit more about him.)

“Football Metaphysics” certainly is a very different read than the standard reference guides and books I’ve listed above, and that abound elsewhere. But this is a sport that continues to accrue offbeat creatures, fans and participants alike. Mack is armed with good material, and good data, and has interpreted it all in an accessible, fun and refreshing way. I’ll leave you at the start of it all:

“This visionary preview of the World Cup is dedicated to all the degenerate yet upward-thinking American dumbasses who have gotten themselves into soccer deeply enough to actually refer to it non-ironically as ‘football’ yet also want to stab hipster American soccer fans in the fucking eyeballs on the regular. You are Ultras of the People, and I hope my words are part of your heart.”

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