Starting as a outsider, Vecsey followed and covered the beautiful game as it grew from a curiosity in America to a major player among the ESPNs of the world. He saw the national team at its early stages, the small crowds and the unfamiliar faces and how the women got off to a better start when it came to hardware. This book is a story of American soccer told from a global angle, i.e. how we fit into the bigger picture of international soccer.
The veteran sportswriter talks about the action on and off the field and the powerful personalities he met along the way. He talks about getting the runaround from Maradona, meeting Sepp Blatter in New York, and how Jack Warner squeezed CONCACAF for everything it was worth.
It was great to see the World Cup and the sport from the eyes of someone who had covered others during his career. It provided a freshness that many other titles are lacking, something that both casual and hardcore fans would enjoy.
Starting with Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria was pure brilliance, showing how far we have come since the 1980s.
We enjoyed his talk about the “Group of Mass Extinction” in Spain ’82, which made us feel a lot better about the “Group of Death” this summer in Brazil. His discussion of Bob Gansler was great as well, showing the role the Hungarian-born coach had in shaping the early days of the U.S. national team program.
He was pretty hard on Warner and Blatter as mentioned before, accusing the former of overselling and overprinting tickets for T&T fans in a move that endangered the spectators. Somehow that didn’t keep Warner from gaining more power within FIFA. I guess Vecsey was right on that one since FIFA has since parted ways with the former CONCACAF leader after accusations of corruption seemed to come from everywhere.
The author doesn’t get bogged down in the dark side of the game. It’s mentioned and discussed thoroughly, but he moves on from it and doesn’t let that topic take over.
Consumers will certainly have a lot to choose from this summer when it comes to titles related to the World Cup, but Eight World Cups: My Journey through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer has to be #1 on everyone’s list. Everyone will get something out of this one.