Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guest Post: Review of Soccer in Sun and Shadow

The perfect read for your weekend... Another fabulous guest post from one of our favorite fans: mlisi.

Hello everyone. Michael here again. I’ve asked Elaine if I could write a few book reviews to fill some gaps during silly season and she was kind enough to pass me the mic.

About 2 years ago I started amassing a collection of books dealing with the history of football from all corners of the globe. Through these books I’ve been to Italy, Spain and the Netherlands so far. Future journeys will take me to Brazil, England, Scotland, France and a few other places. I’ve been in pursuit of the history behind the game in as many places as I can find and I’ve found some excellent sources. We’re going to begin with what I think is the most accessible and easy to read of those books.


Eduardo Galeano is a Uruguayan writer best known for his historical accounts of Latin America and South America that combine journalism along with some historical perspective and opinion. His books have been translated into more than 20 languages and deal with the history of South and Central America since the arrival of Europeans. Soccer in Sun and Shadow (El Futbol a sol y sombra) is a departure from his usual repertoire. The outcome is an excellent entry level introduction to the history of football and how it was shaped by the peoples and events that helped shape it all over the world.

Soccer in Sun and Shadow begins with a confession by the writer that most of us can relate to. Everyone grew up with childhood hopes and dreams of being able to play a game, football in this case, at the highest level, and at some point 99.9% of us realized that that was never going to happen and had to settle for a much less exciting lifestyle. From there he takes us on a voyage around the globe from continent to continent as the game begins to take hold and take shape in several different places. It became one thing in Scotland, another in Spain, another in Italy and something completely different in South America. He analyzes how different events, mostly political, also shaped the game and determined rivalries that will never die and outcomes that will never be forgotten or forgiven.

It’s not just what Galeano presents but it is HOW it is presented that makes this book much different than your standard history book that reads like stereo instructions. All the tales are presented as very short stories, most less than 100 words, and told in much the same way that family histories are passed down from generation to generation. They are told in a lyrical fashion, almost like poetry, similar to a fairy tale or fable. The years and the names aren’t important as much as the message and the stories themselves. It is very much the story of the love affair and relationship that every fan has with a pitch and a round ball and their favorite club or national team. Everyone can relate to the heartbreak and disappointment, but also to the unbridled joy that can only come from truly living life, or living and dying with your favorite eleven.

Of all the books I have picked up so far, this has been my favorite and also, to me, the best starting point. Soccer in Sun and Shadow covers the game quite literally “from the beginning”. It is easy to read, barely over 200 pages, and is the sort of book that you can pick up and put down at your leisure. You could read it in a single afternoon in the park or meander your way through it every day on your lunch break at work. Either way, anyone, fan of the game or not, will find it a pleasure to read.

By the way, I am always in search of books dealing with the beautiful game in all corners of the globe.  If you have ANY recommendations at all, feel free to comment with some of your favorites.


To book retailers everywhere: when there is a jump in sales of this book this week, feel free to pass a percentage on to Michael. ;) Thanks for the great post!