Great Football Books

We’re on the hunt for great football books. In alphabetical order, here are some of OW’s favourite books on football history and culture:

A Season With Verona – Tim Parks

Sticking with Italy, for one season only, English resident of Verona, Tim Parks follows Hellas Verona home and away in Serie A. On his way he discovers Italy, its people and its football, and getting into a few scrapes along the way.

A Season with Verona is a fascinating read for anyone interested in Italy, football or – preferably – both.

Brilliant Orange – David Winner

The Dutch became exponents of ‘Total Football’ in the 1970s, but that exciting brand of play which has produced some of the greatest names ever – Cruyff, Neeskens, Van Basten, Gullet et al – has produced just the one solitary European Championship (1988) to show for it.

Three World Cup final defeats – including the shameful 2010 final – add to the mystique of Holland as the greatest bridesmaids in football history. David Winner explores the full story in Brilliant Orange.

Brilliant Orange David Winner

Brilliant Orange is a brilliant read.

Calcio: A History of Italian Football – John Foot

Italy has always been one of football’s powerhouses…although, of course, they call it Calcio. The history of the sport in Italy is wonderfully chronicled by John Foot in Calcio: A History of Italian Football.

Calcio Cover USE

Danish Dynamite – Rob Smyth, Lars Eriksen and Mike Gibbons

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Denmark surprised the world with its incredible free-flowing brand of football. This all culminated in the fairy tale victory at Euro ’92. In Danish Dynamite the story of that great side – the team of the Laudrup brothers, Arneson, Olsen, Lerby, Mølby, Elkjaer et al – is finally told.

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Fear and Loathing in La Liga – Sid Lowe

There is no bigger rivalry in world sport than Real Madrid v FC Barcelona. Not only are the two clubs among the biggest in the world, but there is a deep undercurrent of politics within the sporting rivalry, especially within Spain itself. Journalist Sid Lowe perfectly narrates the story of how Madrid-Barça became such as politically-charged event.

Here we review Fear and Loathing in La Liga in greater depth.

Football Against the Enemy – Simon Kuper

Rivalry is an intrinsic part of football’s socio-political narrative. Some of these rivalries are legendary: Rangers v Celtic, River v Boca, Madrid v Barça, Netherlands v Germany.

Kuper breaks down some of the key rivalries in world football and their origins in Football Against the Enemy. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the wider context of football and politics.

Futebol – Alex Bellos

Brazil is arguably football’s spiritual home. Alex Bellos explores the history of the game in the country would become five-times world champions. He explores the role of race, religion and politics in the Brazilian game.

We reference Futebol in this post on the role of faith in Brazilian football.

Futebol Alex Bellos

‘Futebol’ by Alex Bellos

 Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football – Phil Ball

Few if any countries are as divided politically as Spain. Those historic battles – social, political, linguistic, ideological – are fought out in the stadiums of the Bernabeu, Nou Camp, San Mames and Mestalla. This antipathy – what the Spanish call ‘Morbo’ – goes beyond rivalry.

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In his book Morbo, Phil Ball charts the journey from the Victorian days when Englishmen brought the first balls over right up to the World and European successes of 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Pirates, Punks & Politics – Nick Davidson

Few football clubs can boast the same cult status and following as Hamburg’s FC Sankt Pauli. The club’s Millerntor Stadium is a stone’s throw from the famous Reeperbahn in the heart of Hamburg’s red-light district.

Through Pirates, Punks & Politics, Davidson aims to set the record straight around any lazy stereotypes of FC St. Pauli and uncovers a club with a left-leaning fan base that has historically taken a stand against many phobias within football and society as a whole.

Millerntor FC St Pauli

FC St Pauli’s Millerntor Stadium, Hamburg

Soccernomics – Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

Kuper again co-wrote Soccernomics with economics professor Stefan Szymanski. Together they take a data-led look at football, along similar lines to baseball’s Moneyball.

Find out why Brazil has been so successful in football, why England hasn’t and why countries like Australia should excel in the future.

Stuck On You: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Panini Stickers – Greg Landsdowne

Every football fan has owned a Panini album at some point, surely. Gary Landsdowne’s Stuck On You tells the story of how Panini sprung from the idea of two brothers in Italy to dominate world stickers, the chaos that brought it down and its steady recovery.

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Anyone with an ounce of nostalgia will love this book. We review Stuck On You here.

England Mexico '86

My copy of Mexico ’86. I had to send off for Mark Wright (ENG) and Jorge Burruchaga (ARG) to complete it

 Tor! The Story of German Football – Uli Hesse

Did you know that the Bundesliga has only been operating since 1963? The story of football in the home of the 2014 World Champions has very much reflected the political situation in that country, divided for four decades yet boasting a super-stuffed trophy cabinet.

Tor! The Story of German Football by Dortmund-born author Uli Hesse is a wonderfully constructed journey through the many ages of German football.


Tor! by Uli Hesse tells the often tumultuous story of football in Germany

What great football reads do you recommend?

Care to share?

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