Goooooaaaal! Books about Soccer

FIFA World Cup 2014
By Danilo Borges/copa2014.gov via Wikimedia Commons under CC License.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our World Cup finalists! This Sunday will be the showdown between France and Croatia for the winner of the 2018 World Cup. If you’re already anticipating soccer withdrawal or football hangover, try one of the many books that the library has about the history, politics, and future of this global sport. Below are some places to get started to fill that hole in your heart left by the end of the World Cup.

Red Card book coverRed Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World’s Biggest Sports Scandal by Ken Bensinger

The definitive, shocking account of the FIFA scandal—the biggest international corruption case of recent years, spearheaded by US investigators, involving dozens of countries, and implicating nearly every aspect of the world’s most popular sport, soccer, including its biggest event, the World Cup.

The FIFA case began small, boosted by an IRS agent’s review of an American soccer official’s tax returns. But that humble investigation eventually led to a huge worldwide corruption scandal that crossed continents and reached the highest levels of the soccer’s world governing body in Switzerland.

In Red Card, Ken Bensinger explores the case, and the personalities behind it, in vivid detail. There’s Chuck Blazer, a high-living soccer dad who ascended to the highest ranks of the sport while creaming millions from its coffers; Jack Warner, a Trinidadian soccer official whose lust for power was matched only by his boundless greed; and the sport’s most powerful man, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who held on to his position at any cost even as soccer rotted from the inside out.

Remarkably, this corruption existed for decades before American law enforcement officials began to secretly dig, finally revealing that nearly every aspect of the planet’s favorite sport was corrupted by bribes, kickbacks, fraud, and money laundering. Not even the World Cup, the most-watched sporting event in history, was safe from the thick web of corruption, as powerful FIFA officials extracted their bribes at every turn. Arriving just in time for the 2018 World Cup, Red Card goes beyond the headlines to bring the real story to light, accompanying the determined American prosecutors and special agents who uncovered what proved to be not only the biggest scandal in sports history, but one of the biggest international corruption cases ever. And it is far from over.

Soccernomics book coverSoccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Spain, Germany, and Brazil Win, and Why the US, Japan, Australia – and Even Iraq – Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

Why do England lose? Why does Scotland suck? Why doesn’t America dominate the sport internationally… and why do the Germans play with such an efficient but robotic style?

These are questions every soccer aficionado has asked. Soccernomics answers them.

Using insights and analogies from economics, statistics, psychology, and business to cast a new and entertaining light on how the game works, Soccernomics reveals the often surprisingly counter-intuitive truths about soccer.

Twelve Yards book coverTwelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty Kick by Ben Lyttleton

No stretch of grass has been the site of more glory or heartbreak in the world of sports than the few dozen paces between goalkeeper and penalty kicker in soccer. In theory, it’s simple: place the ball beyond a single defender and secure a place in history. But once the chosen players make the lonely march from their respective sides of the pitch, everything changes, all bets are off, and anything can happen. Drawing from the hardwon lessons of legendary games, in-depth statistical analysis, expert opinion, and the firsthand experience of coaches and players from around the world, journalist Ben Lyttleton offers insight into the diverse attitudes, tactics, and techniques that separate success from failure in one of the highest-pressure situations sports has to offer.

Why Soccer Matters book coverWhy Soccer Matters by Pelé

Before Messi, before Ronaldo, before Beckham, there was Edson Arantes do Nascimento-known simply as Pelé. A national treasure, he created pure magic with his accomplishments on the field: an unprecedented three World Cup championships and the all-time scoring record, with 1,283 goals in his twenty year career.

For the first time ever Pelé explores the recent history of the game and provides new insights into soccer’s role connecting and galvanizing players around the world. He has traveled the world as the global ambassador for soccer and in support of charitable organizations such as Unicef, promoting the positive influences soccer can have to transform young men and women, struggling communities, even entire nations. In groundbreaking detail and with unparalleled openness, he shares his most inspiring experiences, heartwarming stories and hard-won wisdom, and he puts the game in perspective.

This is Pelé’s legacy, his way of passing on everything he’s learned and inspiring a new generation. In Why Soccer Matters, Pelé details his ambitious goals for the future of the sport and, by extension, the world.

Outcasts United book coverOutcasts United: A Refugee team, an American Town by Warren St. John

Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical Southern town until it was designated a refugee settlement center in the 1990s, becoming the first American home for scores of families in flight from the world’s war zones—from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly Clarkston’s streets were filled with women wearing the hijab, the smells of cumin and curry, and kids of all colors playing soccer in any open space they could find. The town also became home to Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who founded a youth soccer team to unify Clarkston’s refugee children and keep them off the streets. These kids named themselves the Fugees.

Set against the backdrop of an American town that without its consent had become a vast social experiment, Outcasts United follows a pivotal season in the life of the Fugees and their charismatic coach. Warren St. John documents the lives of a diverse group of young people as they miraculously coalesce into a band of brothers, while also drawing a fascinating portrait of a fading American town struggling to accommodate its new arrivals. At the center of the story is fiery Coach Luma, who relentlessly drives her players to success on the soccer field while holding together their lives—and the lives of their families—in the face of a series of daunting challenges.

This fast-paced chronicle of a single season is a complex and inspiring tale of a small town becoming a global community—and an account of the ingenious and complicated ways we create a home in a changing world.

Eight World Cups book coverEight World Cups: My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer by George Vecsey

Blending witty travelogue with action on the field—and shady dealings in back rooms—George Vecsey offers an eye-opening, globe-trotting account of the last eight World Cups. He immerses himself in the great national leagues, historic clubs, and devoted fans and provides his up-close impressions of charismatic stars like Sócrates, Maradona, Baggio, and Zidane, while also chronicling the rise of the U.S. men’s and women’s teams.

Vecsey shows how each host nation has made the World Cup its own, from the all-night street parties in Spain in 1982 to the roar of vuvuzelas in South Africa in 2010, as the game in the stadium is backed up by the game in the street. But the joy is sometimes undermined by those who style themselves the game’s protectors.

With his characteristic sharp reporting and eye for detail, Vecsey brings this global event to vivid life and has written a perfect companion for the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Masters of Modern Soccer book coverMasters of Modern Soccer: How the World’s Best Play the Twenty-First-Century Game by Grant Wahl

Masters of Modern Soccer is the definitive thinking fan’s guide to modern soccer. For a supporter of any team, from the U.S. national teams to Manchester United, or any competition, from Mexico’s Liga MX to the World Cup, this book reveals what players and managers are thinking before, during, and after games and delivers a true behind-the-scenes perspective on the inner workings of the sport’s brightest minds.

America’s premier soccer journalist, Grant Wahl, follows world-class players from across the globe examining how they do their jobs. This access imbues Masters of Modern Soccer with deep insight from the players on how goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and forwards function individually and as a unit to excel and win. Wahl also shadows a manager and director of soccer as they juggle the challenges of coaching, preparation, and the short- and long-term strategies of how to identify and acquire talent and deploy it on the field.

A book that will stand the test of time, Masters of Modern Soccer is the most in-depth analysis of the craft of soccer ever written for the American fan. For any fan, player, coach, or sideline enthusiast, this book will change the way they watch the game.

Inverting the Pyramid book coverInverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics by Jonathan Wilson

Inverting the Pyramid is a pioneering soccer book that chronicles the evolution of soccer tactics and the lives of the itinerant coaching geniuses who have spread their distinctive styles across the globe.

Through Jonathan Wilson’s brilliant historical detective work we learn how the South Americans shrugged off the British colonial order to add their own finesse to the game; how the Europeans harnessed individual technique and built it into a team structure; how the game once featured five forwards up front, while now a lone striker is not uncommon.

Inverting the Pyramid provides a definitive understanding of the tactical genius of modern-day Barcelona, for the first time showing how their style of play developed from Dutch “Total Football,” which itself was an evolution of the Scottish passing game invented by Queens Park in the 1870s and taken on by Tottenham Hotspur in the 1930s. Inverting the Pyramid has been called the “Big Daddy” (Zonal Marking) of soccer tactics books; it is essential for any coach, fan, player, or fantasy manager of the beautiful game.

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