Review: The Story Of The World Cup

The Story Of The World Cup
The Story Of The World Cup by Brian Glanville

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I desperately wanted to love this book: it was given to me by my wife as part of a Christmas tradition where we buy each other a second-hand book that we might not have bought ourselves, but which we think “Of course!” once we open the wrapping. I’m a football fan, a lover of the World Cup (one of our favourite shared memories is of me utterly failing to remain quiet whilst watching Australia v Japan in a hotel room during WC2006 whilst she unsuccessfully tried to get some sleep next to me), an utter football tragic in as many ways as time and money let me be. This looked like a good fit. I really, really wish it had been.

Sadly, the book turns out to be a depressingly mundane read from an author who seems to have been given a word-a-day calendar for Christmas and grown bored with it by about January 5th: every winger in the history of the sport is ‘insidious’ (and half of them ‘little’); every right foot that scores a goal a hammer; every left likewise; and while ‘fulminating’ may be a cool word to pull out and use when you want to impress a girl you like, I hadn’t read it in a text in something like 20 years, which makes the sixteen times it appears in this book so laughable it verges on a drinking game.

More disturbingly is Glanville’s preoccupation with describing players via their skin or hair colour. Three types of players exist in Glanville’s world: those with a mane of blond hair, like Gabriel Batistuta or Luis Hernandez; those who are ‘dark’, like Gerd Muller or Franz Beckenbauer; or most worryingly, those he simply describes as ‘black’. In the early pages, in those first few tournaments where it is quickly apparent that Glanville has no direct experience and is pulling together reports from the time, such a description can be accepted as a yardstick of the modernising effect that black footballers were having on the national aspirations of countries like Brazil and Uruguay. It serves to highlight the special attributes certain players brought to their tournaments, and what they overcame to get there. By the time we get to 1994, an he still insists on singling out players like Aron Winter for this description, there’s only one conclusion that can be reluctantly drawn. There is simply no need for the description anymore. It is Glanville, not the circumstance, who accords importance to the colour of a player’s skin.

It leaves a lingering taste in the mouth, but it’s not the only problem.

Glanville can’t decide whether the book is to be a Wisdenish collation of facts or a more personal, opinionated series of recollections by a man who performed journalistic duties at a long series of the World Cup events, and has been able to extend his research back to cover those that occurred before his time. It leads to a schism of approach between pre- and post-1966 reportage: dry as dust to begin with, and lapsing increasingly into irrelevant asides that do nothing to advance the narrative of each tournament (his constant niggling at, and denigration of, for example, both Kevin Keegan and Bobby Robson, is never at any stage backed up with a reason why he feels this way towards an admired player and manager). Ultimately he tries to cover both styles, and falls between them both, coming across like nothing more or less than the boring nerk at the end of the bar who thrusts himself into a passionate fan argument without being asked, and proceeds to bleed it dry by acting like an utter anorak: lacking humour, original insight, or anything approaching an understanding of the passions that drive the argument in the first place.

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TIDBITS TO TIDE YOU OVER

Things are still mega busy at the new Batthome, so just to keep in contact, a couple of thoughts–

ON THE PREMIER LEAGUE

Is the anything funnier than seeing a fat, shirtless, toothless Geordie man crying?

ON POULTRY BEHAVIOUR

So to bide our time while Mum nipped into the shop, Erin, Connor and I sat in the car and told each other jokes. I was still crying with laughter from this effort when Lyn got back:

ERIN: Connor, why did the chicken cross the road?
CONNOR: (Pauses for well over half a minute while he contemplates possible answers. Finally….) Because he’s stupid?

Laugh? I nearly wet myself.

More soon, with added substance!

OH, IT’S A GOOD DAY TO BE RED

Nottingham Forest 3, Manchester City 0.

Babbyyyyyyyy 🙂

That score again: sleeping giant of world football slowly starting to emerge from decade long nightmare of disaster 3, laughable so-called richest club in the world with a history of doing nothing impressive in its entire miserable existence NIL.

That’s right, people. We might not be able to scrape past the footballing might of Doncaster, but if you come from Manchester, you play in the Prem, you dress in slightly effeminate blue, and you’re just a bit more shit than you think you are, you can be our bitches today.

Gloat mode disengaged…

OH GOD, HOW MUCH DO I LOVE FOXTEL?

Sunday night, thanks to Fox Sports Some Channel or Other, for the first time in several seasons, guess what I got to do?

That’s right: actually watch Forest play!

I may have had a sportsgasm. I won’t try to deny it.

The first game of the new season, the first time we’ve been promoted in almost a decade, and thanks to Fox’s one-game-a-week coverage of the Championship, I got to see the boys in red take on the 2nd-level might of newly-relegated Reading. And what a fist they made of it, too: despite injuries to 4 of the 5 strikers in the squad, and bookies odds that had us marginally better value than the return of Jesus, we ran, harried, held and passed our way to a well-earned draw with a team mooted as one of the very heavy guns of the division. What’s more, we did it with style: I had expected lump-it-and-chase football, but we kept it on the ground, maintained possession (over 70% of possession, by game’s end), and apart from one magnificent save from keeper Paul Smith, held our much more fancied opponents to a game of desperate lunges and hopeful shots. Survival football is one thing. Stylish, European ball play is a much finer one, and we played football.

Robert Earnshaw, on whom I had bestowed grave doubts, was a dynamo up front, his constant movement and darting runs a genuine disturbance to the giant Reading centre backs, and young Frenchman Guy Moussi is already looking like the find of the season: if he maintains that kind of imperious form, what chance a Premiership approach come January? Quick message to all Prem teams: fuck off. Young Lewis McGugan was a constant threat, involved in everything until a silly booking…. for a team with all but two players under the age of twenty five, we played with poise and steel, and that as much as anything gives me hope for the long season ahead.

Do I sound excited? Am I babbling? Do I resemble a sad fanboy finally getting to bask in some sunshine?

Picture my happy face 🙂

Swansea next, and on the form we displayed on Sunday, don’t discount us having three points in the bag by game’s end. Come oooooon, you Reeeeddddsss!

HOWAY THE… ME?

Busybusybusybusybusybusybusy….

Not much posting in the foreseeable future. Much working and mentoring and working and I promise I’ll do those edits sally and working and stressing and mentoring and applying for grants and bugger me I’m exhausted….

AUTOMATIC FOR THE (LONG-SUFFERING) PEOPLE

It’s taken a long and painful two years, but finally, we’ve cracked automatic promotion back to the Championship where, sadly, we belong. With all due respect to the passionate footballing people of Tranmere, Cheltenham, Crewe et al, I hope I never have to think about you again. It’s the turn of Leicester fans, now, to weep into their lagers 🙂

But please, lads, my lovely red-clad footballing lads: just for me, if not for everyone who actually gets to go along and see you play, could we please do something to ensure that I never again have to sit anxiously by my computer waiting for news of whether we’ve managed to overcome the might of a footballing colossus like bloody Yeovil on the last day of the season?

No pressure.