Earlier this week, Major League Soccer followed suit with other sports leagues in America and around the world in announcing it was suspending its 2020 season. So, how do fans of the beautiful game satisfy their fix in the meantime?
Well, they could try playing FIFA or watching old games. But why not try reading one of the many great soccer books out there.
Here are three that I would recommend in my limited sample size of books on the world’s game along with a fourth I have yet to read but as someone who grew up with the NASL, yes I totally dated myself, is one I will crack open soon.
Links to the books on Amazon are added.
THREE TO CHECK OUT
The Keeper (2015)
An autobiography of former US national team, MLS and Premier League goalkeeper Tim Howard gives a great account into his time with the Stars and Stripes as well as abroad.
Howard was a highly likable fellow even before he came to MLS late in his playing career. In fact, I remember him coming to Frisco with Everton for a mid-summer friendly back in 2007, a team that also featured Aussie legend, Tim Cahill.
This book is a pretty easy read but provides a nice glimpse into one of the best keepers ever to play between the posts for the US and a pretty good dude too. Unfortunately, the concept of “Keeper Island” was never discussed because rule number one about Keeper Island is that no one talks about Keeper Island, even those who know about it. But this is still a fine read anyway.
An Epic Swindle (2012)
Liverpool FC fans have probably read this one cover-to-cover or maybe they don’t need to because they lived it, the era when former Dallas Stars, Texas Rangers, and Mesquite Rodeo owner Tom Hicks diversified his ownership portfolio by purchasing Liverpool with near-disastrous results.
Brian Reade’s amazing novel is dubbed “44 Months with a pair of Cowboys” and features ample accounts from Liverpool players and supporters alike about the ill-fated Hicks era. Even if you’re not a Liverpool fan, this one is a must-read from the standpoint of how bad things can truly get when the ownership of a club at any level of play or in any country is truly out of touch with their fans and also out of their depth.
Both Feet on the Ground (2003)
There have been several other books on David Beckham in the years since his autobiography hit the shelves and this one precludes Sir David’s time in MLS with the Los Angeles Galaxy, but it’s a good read because it shows his rise from a young player to the national team and into prominence on both the club and international scenes.
Beckham’s auto also delivers a chilling glance into the price of fame, namely the threats against his wife, Victoria, and children, and how he and those closest to him adapted accordingly. This title provides a solid look at the early career of one of the game’s biggest personalities, another one worth your time.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer (2014)
With a tagline of “The short life and fast times of the North American Soccer League,” this title hooked me instantly with NASL in the title. That’s because growing up in Tulsa, my dad and I, who also coached me in rec soccer, were huge fans of the NASL’s Roughnecks.
We were regulars in the north end zone of Skelly Stadium and at their indoor games played at several different venues in T-Town. I even remember running into the Roughnecks at the Atlanta airport as they were coming back from playing the Atlanta Chiefs. I was wearing my soccer jersey and they recognized I was from Tulsa, a pretty cool moment, but I digress.
Acclaimed soccer writer Ian Plenderleith authors this look at the NASL during its 1970s heyday when the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia, Johan Cruyff and other soccer luminaries ventured across the pond to play stateside.
Of course, the huge crowds and big salaries didn’t last forever and by the mid-80s, NASL eventually went the way of the Marathon Bar, gone forever. But it was a fun ride while it lasted, something this book is sure to capture.
While this started as Steve’s list, I couldn’t help adding a few picks of my own.
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro (2000)
The best soccer book I’ve ever ready. The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy was written by Joe McGinniss and is ostensibly about the rise through the Italian ranks of a misfit team from the remote Italian village of Castel di Sangro. It’s a story of triumph and perseverance… right up until it’s not.
McGinniss is allowed to embed with the team and he develops relationships with the players. It’s a fantastic look behind the scenes in Italian soccer.
The Simplest Game: The Intelligent Fan’s Guide to the World of Soccer (1996)
This dive into the history, lore, and tactics of soccer – as well as the history of the World Cup from 1930 to 1994 – is by legendary Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner.
This is less a story and more of a guide and chronicle to the evolution of tactics in the world of soccer. From where the game started up to the mid-90s. If you want to know how we got to the game we have today, this is the book for you.
Fever Pitch (1998)
This book is quite famous and has even been made into a movie (good) or two (meh).
Unlike the rest of the books on this list, this one is (mostly) fictional. Based on writer Nick Hornby’s own life (yes, the guy who wrote High Fidelity), sort of, it’s about an Arsenal fan’s struggles in life wrapped around and obsessive footbal fandom. Funny, charming, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Great list. I’d like to recommend A Football Odyssey 2: For the Fans by the Fans (2011).
It’s the second in a two-book series of fans telling stories of their clubs. Talking about cult heroes, infamous away trips, and living up to the for the fans by the fans line.
Why the second specifically? I’m mentioned in it!
On a more serious note, my favorite soccer book is Barry Fry’s autobiography, Big Fry.
It talks about his career from a budding player at Manchester United where George Best was his boot boy, through his years as a manager. Stories of an owner being arrested by the FBI, paying someone to let him watch a game from their bedroom window after being banned from the stadium, peeing in the corners of a stadium to lift a curse, and some really fun stuff from one of Britain’s most beloved managers. Sir Alex Ferguson wrote the foreword in the book too.
Inverting the Pyramid is really good if your a historical / tactical wonk
^This is the one I was going to suggest; my first choice for the history of soccer tactics