Football Nation by Andrew Ward and John Williams
Millions and millions of people watch English football each and every week. Most prefer Barclay's Premier League and the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal. Others might enjoy the intimacy of a Non-League club. Take all of those fans around the world that bought a share of Ebbsfleet United, a team now slated for relegation. What is missing is an exhaustive, intense history of the English game.
Our prayers has been answered. Football Nation: Sixty Years of the Beautiful Game by Andrew Ward and John Williams will soon be available for purchase. It is part history lesson, part story-telling. Over 400 pages are dedicated to English football, from its humble beginnings to the billions invested in today's Premier League.
It gives you a new perspective on the origin of football and how far it has come. It goes beyond your standard match reports to the locker and board rooms, where decisions were made. Content also comes from fans in the stands, their homes, and at their favorite pubs. Controversial issues like hooliganism are handled with great professionalism.
The text does a great job discussing the rise and fall of lesser-known clubs, even those now involved in Non-League play. The book best describes the relationships fostered by the beautiful game. The authors say it best.
"The heart and soul of football lies in the relationships it generates. Football is not simply all about a ball; it is about the relationships that the ball provokes. Player and player. Spectator and player. Brother and brother. Father and son. Spectator and rival spectator. Player and manager. Journalist and reader. Player and God. Us and Them. The list is endless."
Football in England can be described as reliable.It has been there in good times and bad, through times of war and peace. It is accessible by anyone, rich or poor, educated or not. This is a charming, yet informative text that is worth a look during the Premier League offseason.
African Soccerscapes by Peter Alegi
"This is an African World Cup, this is a world-class event. There is no contradiction between being African and being world class." - Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 Local Organizing Committee
The lines above came from the final paragraph of African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World's Game by Peter Alegi. The author, like many others, chose to finish with a poignant ending. This shares the enormous expectations for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, an event that could change many things for all Africans.
Alegi, an emerging expert on world soccer, says it best. "South Africa's hosting of the World Cup represents the latest and most ambitious attempt by an African country to use football to showcase its political achievements, accelerate economic growth, and assert the continent's global citizenship." This could prove to be one of the most important events in the history of South Africa and the region as a whole. A successful event could serve as a turning point for the entire area, while any problems will surely considered a setback of epic proportions.
This text is both thorough and entertaining. It helps us understand the historical context of the 2010 World Cup and the development of the African game. It provides this discussion in a very compact way (roughly 130 pages, not including notes and a bibliography) that leads to a quick and easy read.
The reader is not overwhelmed with unnecessary information, but rather is presented with relevent, thought-provoking content. It allows you as the reader to gain a new persective on Africa and its role in the world soccer scene. It covers a variety of topics and time periods, giving you a solid snapshot of each. Alegi takes the reader on an incredible journey from colonialism through modern day successes and failures.
The World Cup is just one piece of the African soccer puzzle. The development of women's soccer and the youth game is another that will make the continent relevant for years to come. Africa has a great deal of potential in its players and style of play. You see the potential in every corner of the globe. It might be Didier Drogba or Michael Essien playing in the highest level of English football or the dozens of young African players in Major League Soccer. The future is now for Africa and it is incredibly bright.
More than Just a Game by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close
June and July will be a special time for all Africans as the world's most popular tournament comes to the continent for the first time. It should be a time of reflection for those who made this possible. Thousands struggled against apartheid on the streets of South Africa's cities and towns. A great deal were unjustly arrested and sent to "hell on earth," better known as Robben Island.
Many brave men suffered and died at the hands of their warders on this notorious island. Yes, it was a place where dreams were crushed and everyday life was an immense struggle, but it was also a place of affirmation, redemption, and birth for a new nation. What the prisoners failed to realize is that they were practicing to govern out in "the real world". Those political prisoners that were beaten, tortured, and worked nearly to death would become the leadership of a new South Africa.
More than Just a Game: Soccer vs. Apartheid: The Most Important Soccer Story Ever Told, by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close, represents a true triumph of the human spirit. It is an inspiring story that teaches us about the transformative power of the beautiful game, a game that brought people together in the most horrific of conditions. It will be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who has been told they can't do something or that they aren't good enough. It is a story that has a universal quality that will be enjoyed by the masses.
Soccer has unified rivals, stopped civil wars, and brought enjoyment to billions of people. Yet a story like this has never been told. It is a narrative that is best described in the words of the prisoners:
- "Football was a way of testing men's values."
- "Football gave thousands of prisoners hope, motivation, and a sense of purpose."
- "Robben Island should be seen as a triumph of the human against the forces of evil...a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness. A triumph of the new South Africa over the old."
Divisions of organized soccer, run by the Makana Football Association (MFA), would bring pleasure and joy to a place that was founded on torture, fear, and unjust laws. The MFA was an incredible organization, run entirely by prisoners, that created a formal schedule with dozens of fixtures each season. Each and every action of the association was governed by a constitution that brought them into full compliance with FIFA regulations. The matches played on the hallowed grounds around the prison represented some of the best football in the entire country. It wasn't just the quality of play, but it was the struggle and the passion involved with playing in the first place.
It is an unlikely story of how prisoners challenged their captors and the institution of apartheid that imprisoned them. Justice would eventually be served as apartheid was brought to its knees; it is safe to say that soccer played a small part in that.
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The Glorious Cup by Alan Black and David Henry Sterry
Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. It is nice to see a title that reflects common sense and a sense of humor. A true bargain at $12.00, The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatic's Guide is a change of pace from the rest of the World Cup titles out there.
It is refreshing, something that you would want to keep next to your recliner as you watch the World Cup in all its glory. It is a good fit for hardcore followers and casual fans alike.
It's a little bit of history, stand-up comedy, and art all wrapped in one. Creative graphics and solid photography add to the mix. Everyone will also enjoy the contributions of Simon Kuper, Po Bronson, and Irvine Welsh. It is a unique book that is both entertaining and informative. It is a great way to prepare for the World Cup in South Africa, looking back at the famous stories and players that have made this epic tournament the pride of billions.
It will certainly give you a new perspective on the World Cup, hopefully one that will provide enjoyment that comes only every four years. This is definitely one that is worth a purchase when it is released on May 4, 2010.
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Feet of the Chameleon by Ian Hawkey
Hawkey is one of the world's premier experts on African football. He should be after living in four African countries and visiting another twenty-four while doing researching for this wonderful title.
Timing is everything in the publishing business. Dozens of World Cup titles will be available in the months leading up to the world's most famous sporting event. Feet of the Chameleon: The Story of African Football is one of the best. It is a must read for anyone interested in African football or this year's World Cup, the first on the African continent.
This text accurately captures the spirit and mystery of Africa's beautiful game. The World Cup in South Africa has created a flurry of interest about the continent's footballing history. This title is the answer to all of your questions. It is incredibly comprehensive and insightful, covering everything from politics to economics.
The colorful title comes from famous broadcaster Zama Masondo. He used to say "now let's see it again with the feet of a chameleon" when referring to the use of instant replay. It tells us that we need to stop and take a better look at the game in Africa, learning to love and appreciate it. We all know Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o, and Emmanuel Adebayor as the giants of this generation of African footballers. This book gives us an opportunity to better understand their careers and background. It will also help us understand the great players of the past and future players that will come out of this talented continent.
It provides a rare glimpse into the African game, which is one of the last frontiers of world football. Africa's involvement in sports is often misunderstood, even though it is often called "a sleeping tiger on the world football scene".
Reading this book will give you a deeper appreciation for the teams participating in the World Cup. It sure would be fitting for an African squad (South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast) to make it to the final round. The game there has come leaps and bounds since its inception and it is finally time for them to get the credit they deserve.
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Alive & Kicking by Keith Binns
Keith Binns tells a lively story about the history of American soccer. However, it is not one full of dates and statisitics. It is the story of a personal journey that is spread over decades, a journey of a soccer pioneer. This journey would take him around the world, leaving his love for the game at every stop.
It all started when a newcomer from England decided to transplant "the beautiful game" in America. In 1955, the owner of a community sporting goods store didn't even know what a soccer ball looked like. Today, that same sporting goods store would likely be supported by the many soccer fans and players in the city.
Promoting soccer would become Keith's life as he promoted the game to men, women, and youth alike. Many feel that "The Father of Madison Soccer" was years ahead of his time. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that this is indeed the case.
Binns shared his life experiences in a relaxed. conversational style that was incredibly effective. It was almost like hearing your best friend tell a treasured story.
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Maradona: The Autobiography of Soccer's Greatest and Most Controversial Star by Diego Maradona
Some things about Diego Maradona are undeniable. He is arguably the world's greatest footballer. He is also the most controversial and the most misunderstood. Maradona is best described as an enigma.
The book was simply amazing. It is hard to imagine a better story about Maradona because it comes right from the source. It captures the true emotions of the man, one who loves both his family and the beautiful game. He is upfront and honest about every event in his life. Controversial topics, such as "the hand of God" and rumors of drug abuse are handled with grace and professionalism.
I have to say that the book gives you a new perspective about the man, the myth, the legend called Diego Maradona. Argentina's national team has had quite a wild ride recently with Maradona at the helm, but we wouldn't want it any other way. The happy ending might just be "The Great One" winning it all in South Africa. Imagine Messi and Maradona side by side, hoisting the World Cup above their heads. This is going to be a hot title with the World Cup mere months away.
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Bloody Confused by Chuck Culpepper
Sometimes you just need a change. This was certainly the case for American sportswriter Chuck Culpepper, who was sick and tired of covering the usual sport suspects: MLB, NFL, NBA, and even the Kentucky Derby. Super Bowls no longer brought him the joy they once had; everything here in the States had lost its luster.
So an intense curiosity was born, a curiosity for English football. Culpepper dropped everything and went to England to see one of the wonders of the world, the English Premier League. This text becomes a story of a professional writer turned fan who completely immersed himself in the England's game. He began to follow teams all across the country with a particular curiosity towards those threatened by relegation. Culpepper eventually chose the upstart Portsmouth franchise that was beginning their ascent up the table. He would travel to small town and large cities and see the smallest clubs and the giants of the game. He describes his journeys with depth, insight, and thoughtful discussion.
He became a fan of not only Portsmouth, but of its players and fans. It became quite obvious that the life of a English soccer fan was full of ups and downs, highs and lows. The joys of promotion were just as great as the fear of relegation. Both ideas are unheard of in American sports, but would clearly add some excitement. Could you imagine the lowly Detroit Lions or the Cleveland Browns playing to survive in the NFL? Or the New York Knicks clawing their way out of the cellar just to play another season in the NBA? Crazy stuff indeed, but exciting nonetheless.
That life Culpepper shared with the English was a beautiful one, but as his final words state: "I think it is hard being a fan". His short time in England was a time of discovery and redemption in some ways, but a challenging journey that left a lot to learn about the English game. It is definitely hard to be a fan, especially a new one.
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Outcasts United by Warren St. John
What would motivate a reporter from The New York Times to write a book about a youth soccer team? An amazing story that is a modern day depiction of "The American Dream". This is not your standard Horatio Alger story, but a text created from a patchwork of narratives from around the world. The stories are told by refugee children and their families. These children from are brought together by one simple thing: their love for soccer. Soccer became the universal voice for the players on the Fugees.
Amazing stories of survival are combined with a women that was on a mission to make a difference in the world. This dedication led to a "family of 120" as Luma Mufleh became a coach, mentor, teacher, and social worker to the many refugee families in Clarkston, Georgia. The community would take time to accept the new arrivals and it wasn't an easy journey to say the least. Eventually one person's dream to build a team morphed into a year-round organization.
Helping her players became her sole purpose in life as she devoted every waking moment to helping them succeed in life. There were obstacles along the way and a lot of struggles, but the end result was an inspiring story about overcoming adversity and beating the odds. Where else could you see children from Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Liberia play as one on the pitch? Simply said the book is amazing and brilliant, a true work of art.
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Brilliant Orange by David Winner
No writer has tackled the topic of Dutch soccer with the vigor and enthusiasm of David Winner. Most graze the surface, but Winner went through a period of immersion into Dutch culture. He discusses every aspect of Dutch soccer from unlikely perspectives: art, history, politics, and even architecture. It gives us generous insight into the game that has been admired for generations.
The book is an intense read that brings you into the background of "Total Football," the style of play that has become a staple and trademark for the Dutch. The author takes the reader into the legendary careers of Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Rinus Michels, and the one and only Johan Cruyff. Many wonder how a small country could produce such greatness in the world's game.
Winner chronicles the roller coaster ride of Holland's favorite pastime with all of the highs and lows. You will hear about triumph and despair, victory and defeat. Many tears have been shed during Holland's play in major tournaments. Winner is able to explain why the Dutch have failed to gain much hardware in the elusive Euros or the illustrious World Cup.
All of this is done through a wide lens of culture, society, and sport. Winner is able to peel away the enigmatic status of the Dutch game and break down their style in an enchanting manner.
This title is incredibly thorough and detailed. Winner's passion for the game comes through loud and clear. Most of all anyone could get value from this book as it tells the story of a great society that just happens to be a master of soccer. Any hardcore soccer fan would find this a welcome addition to the discussion of our treasured game.
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Long Distance Love by Grant Farred
Farred approaches the content with the eye of a scholar and the pen of a wordsmith. The text has a natural flow that is not impeded by an intense vocabulary and loads of information. The subject matter varies greatly from Argentine dictators to racism in football to the rule of apartheid in South Africa.
It is as much about history and sociology as it is about football. Farred recalls the greatest players and the greatest moments in Liverpool's storied history as only a fan could. It is clear that he lives by the famous words of manager Bill Shankly: "Football is not a matter of life and death. It is much more important than that."
The author shows how his life has always been connected to Liverpool, whether he was a child, an adolescent, or an adult. You can never doubt his passion or enthusiasm for his club. Farred provides us great insight into the careers of prominent players from Howard Gayle and John Barnes to Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard. He brings the past to life by recounting groundbreaking events, such as the 2005 Champions League Final, with such detail and depth.
The most important lesson for the reader of this text is simple yet profound: the game of football is not angelic or a thing of purity. Like everything else it is affected by politics, race, class, and tradition. However, it is still the greatest game on earth, one that deserves to be loved from any distance.
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The Beckham Experiment by Grant Wahl
The Beckham Experiment was this summer's blockbuster, written by one of America's premier sportswriters. Some might wonder why you would want to read another book about David Beckham. That has all been done before, right? You need to understand that this is a different book with a different story. Wahl has simply created the best discussion of American soccer ever. Some might call it controversial, considering that "Beckham's handlers certainly disagreed with some parts."
Yes, the book focuses on David Beckham and his impact on Major League Soccer. It chronicles the journey of "the world's most famous athlete playing in a humble league." However, it doesn't start and stop there. It shows MLS from the inside out, like we have never seen it before. Wahl creates multiple, intertwining storylines about people and events other than Beckham.
Take Alan Gordon, who represents "what is good with American stars." Or Landon Donovan, whose comments were deemed controversial by the news media, but remains the best player in the entire United States. Or the story of Ty Harden, which had not been heard before. Harden, a twenty-three-year-old defender for the Galaxy, retired from pro soccer to pursue a career in community service. Apparently the $30,000 salary wasn't cutting it.
Wahl discussed the role of every Galaxy player, from those making $12,900 a year to the only one making $50 million. He leaves no stone unturned, offering a sneak peek into the locker rooms of three very different coaches. The best part of this text is his understanding of the big picture, the story of American soccer. Wahl has the best insight into the game not yet embraced by all Americans. His 12 years of experience at Sports Illustrated gives this book and this league instant credibility. I mean that even non-soccer fans have read the book and loved it.
So what does Grant Wahl say about American soccer? It is making "gains, but culture takes a while to change." The U.S. National Team is emerging and continues to improve. MLS continues to expand and grow, but the best it has to offer might be 10-15 years down the road. And Landon Donovan might not return to Europe to prove himself worthy of the title "America's Greatest Soccer Player."
Wahl makes one thing perfectly clear: Major League Soccer is different than any other league in the world. Ruud Gullit was a former World Player of the Year and one of the biggest names in European soccer as both a player and coach. His tenure in Los Angeles was simply disastrous. He would not be the first or last foreign coach to struggle within the confines of the American league. Some players like Abel Xavier and Celestine Babayaro failed to make an impact for Los Angeles despite their lofty European credentials. I guess you can say there is no sure thing in Major League Soccer other than regulation and a conservative outlook.
Wahl actually makes some suggestions on how to help improve the stock of Major League Soccer. First, changes to the Designated Player Rule and the salary cap are necessary. More star power and funds to create a "MLS middle class" would greatly decrease the gap between American soccer and football worldwide. Youth development is always a hot topic for discussion and Wahl also sees it as a priority for the future of the game in the U.S. Wahl's optimism and forward thinking are a welcome sign from the mainstream sports media. His faith in the game is apparent and will likely inspire others to think the same.
The biggest questions still remains: Will the Beckham Experiment be declared a success? It is not a simple question or a simple answer. Beckham's loan with AC Milan and his desire to play in the 2010 World Cup at any cost would cloud the picture a bit. There were many questions about whether or not he would fulfill his record 5 year, $250 million contract. On the other hand, Beckham has repeatedly declared his interest in owning an MLS franchise after his playing days are over. He did return to the Galaxy to help them make a playoff run. He did bring attention to a league that needed coverage and a team that needed a star worthy of Hollywood.
The text is fascinating, brilliant, and insightful. Our suggestion: Buy the book, renew your subscription to Sports Illustrated to see Wahl's work more often, and get a hold of some Galaxy tickets to see the Beckham Experiment in person. It might be another 30 years to see someone take on Beckham's role as an American soccer ambassador.
It helps us understand America's beautiful game in a deeper and more thoughtful way. It allows us to see why Bruce Arena is almost a lock for the 2009 MLS Coach of the Year. Arena has made order out of disorder and got the most of young talent like Omar Gonzalez and A. J. DeLaGarza.
The Fix by Declan Hill
Words are a bit hard to come by when discussing the virtues of this riveting text. The best way that it can be described is groundbreaking, genre bending, and above all controversial. You can say that the book opens a "whole can of worms". It causes you to rethink the idea of professional sports and to question the purity of the beautiful game. Simply put, the book is pure brilliance. It is perhaps the finest work of sports journalism since Gavin Newsham's Once in a Lifetime or H.G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights.
Declan Hill, one of the world's premier investigative journalists, brings out many issues facing the future of the world's most popular game. Hill is able to create an engaging story that is backed up with unprecedented interviews, loads of research, and a strong passion for the sport. The book is one for literary critics and hardcore soccer fans alike. The text raises so much doubt about the game we all love that you might not be able to see things the same again. What causes this doubt and questioning? Allegations of corruption among the small leagues of Asian soccer to the world's biggest stage, the World Cup. You will hear stories of greedy players, referees, coaches, and national soccer regulators. All made a choice to throw away their careers and chose an easy path to money and eventually shame. The key word to describe the corruption is widespread; Hill suggests that this is not a national problem or even a regional one. It is an issue that threatens to undermine the legitimacy of worldwide soccer.
Hill is given a formula several times on "How to Fix a Soccer Game". This is not just a general explanation, but a precise step-by-step process on who gets the money and how the fix goes down. It seems hard to believe, but Hill will learn the results of matches before they even happen.
I think the most important element of the book is the fact that it is completely believable. Every instance of corruption is supported with a great deal of evidence. Hill takes many risks to bring out the truth; meeting dangerous people in dangerous places is just the tip of the iceberg. Hill underwent a globetrotting adventure to find out if all the stories and legends of match-fixing were true. Unfortunately for the sport, he found fixed matches from fixed clubs in fixed leagues.
The book raises doubts, but offers solutions to slow corruption and save the game. The ending is one of hope and inspiration, a fitting way to end a text that shakes the foundation of soccer as we know it. Anyone who loves soccer or even sports in general will find it difficult to put this one down. I have to say it is one of the finest works of literature and storytelling that I have ever seen.
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Soccer in a Football World by David Wangerin
At first glance this looks to be just another text on the history of soccer. There are many on the market today, but none delivers the message of this book. Soccer is an American game, one with deep roots in North America. It is not un-American or a game played by communists. David Wangerin takes on these old, worn-out arguments and shows why it is a game we can call our own.
Much of his research and discussion had never been seen before. Many soccer fans know about "The Miracle" at the 1950 World Cup. A hodgepodge of unknown American players were able to take down the mighty England, the birthplace of "the beautiful game". The general public did not know this had ever happened until a movie was released in 2005. It was a far from a blockbuster, but at least it was out in the mainstream.
Wangerin tells us the story of the many heroes of American soccer. Without them, soccer may not have survived. Without Wangerin, we may never have heard their stories of triumph and disappointment.
Most people know of Giorgio Chinaglia, David Beckham, and Pele. But it was Archie Stark, who was the first star of soccer in the U.S. Stark scored over 250 goals in the fledgling ASL. He would later give way to Billy Gonsalves, who played in the league that was clearly past its prime. Gonsalves also played in the first two World Cups.
It was clear that American soccer, particularly the U.S. National Team and Major League Soccer, exists only because a strong foundation was built in the past. It is not always a distant past. Even Tab Ramos, Peter Vermes, Tony Meola, and Eric Wynalda have done their part to make their own impact on the game.
Thomas Cahill could be called the "Father of American Soccer" as his dream created several firsts: the first soccer federation, the first professional league, and the first steps in a national team system. He nurtured the game and prevented it from falling into extinction. He did this not once, but many times as Cahill would be called upon when disaster struck. For soccer, a disaster was a common occurrence.
It was strong leaders like Lamar Hunt, who took American soccer on their shoulders, that ensured that there would be a future for soccer and it would be a bright one. His Crew Stadium would be the first of its kind here in the States: a true soccer-specific facility. And he funded it almost entirely with his own money.
Events had even more of an impact on the game as we now know it. Wangerin calls November 19, 1989 "a defining moment in American soccer history" as the U.S. qualified for the World Cup in Italy. Unfortunately, this monumental moment went unnoticed by many. This happened to be the trend for the sport. It has taken too long for people to notice the game and give it the coverage, and more importantly, the respect it deserves.
The author has a daunting challenge: telling stories and providing research at the same time. Wangerin does it flawlessly, seamlessly integrating facts and statistics with great stories of monumental success and devastating failure. This book has factual value, but it is the stories of our game that sets it apart from all others.
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Winning Isn't Everything: The Untold Story of a Soccer Dynasty
One word comes to mind when you think of the University of North Carolina athletics program: dominance. You might come up with the men's basketball program led by many great players and legendary coaches.
However, their women's soccer program has to be the best kept secret in all of collegiate sports. The UNC women have played their way into the record books, becoming one of the most storied programs in NCAA history. All of this success can be attributed to two impressive coaches, who continue to produce the biggest stars in the game of women's soccer.
Anson Dorrance and Bill Palladino have inspired a new generation of women athletes and provided them with the values necessary to be successful on and off the pitch. Resilience, selfless teamplay, toughness, and sacrifice are taught on a regular basis. This has led to a true team that is winning consistently in "the age of parity".
This documentary provides fans unprecedented coverage into the UNC program, coaches, and players. It is done in a personal yet professional manner. Glimpses of the players' lives are merged with gameplay footage in an incredibly effective manner. Most of all it is one of the few films to focus on the women's game in the collegiate ranks.
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I Speak Soccer: A Terry Kegel Film
Brilliant yet simplistic. Original yet universal. Moving yet expected. This documentary chronicles a worldwide discussion of "the beautiful game". We see the game in its simplest form: a pickup game. The journey takes the viewer from Brazil to Nigeria to Thailand. Brazil is a world power in futbol, Nigeria is a place of much promise, and Thailand simply an unknown.
The film gives us three very different perspectives from three very different locations. Brazil is known for its beautiful soccer and naturally skilled players. Nigeria is described by Kegel as having "frustrated potential." Thailand is a place of passion and joy despite the lack of basic soccer skills. We see real people playing a real game away from the bright lights and the big money of top-flight soccer.
However, the game seen in the documentary is pure and entertaining. It teaches us about culture, dreams, and a universal language called soccer, futbol, or calcio.
Kegel is able to capture the true spirit of the game, which is often lost in the modern sport. He reminds us why soccer is the world's favorite game and why millions play every day in every corner of the globe. The film has a lot to offer and is an absolute bargain at $9.95.
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