Do you like football? Intelligent humor? And you don’t avoid comic books by any means? This is your book.
David Squires might be known to you from his weekly column in the Guardian, where he is commenting on recent events in football. Most of the times it is really funny. Now Squires turned his attention to the history of the beautiful game for his first book. The result is magnificent.
Squires begins at the game’s origins, gives a couple of pages to the Victorian time and spends most pages on the events beginning with the first World Cup. Almost every chapter contains little jokes of some sorts, e.g. a newfangled standing desk for the pundints of the first game between England and Scotland. These little jokes, that sometimes turn into running gags over several chapters, are what makes the book so special. That’s why I won’t spoiler too many of them.
The chapters are made up of an introductory text and the respective comic strip. Texts and words in the comic strips are laughing-out-loud funny. For instance, talking about the invention of shirt sponsorship, FC Barcelona is credited for resisting this trend and „years later Barcelona still only wear the logos of a global sports corporation, Qatar’s state airline and a manufacturer of washing machines“ (p. 147).
And then you also have pop-cultural allusions. In the chapter on Italy vs. Brasil in 1982 we can find uncle Junior from the Sopranos, and Inter’s Giacinto Facchetti stars as Jack Torrance from The Shining due to Hellenio Herrera.
I give much credit to David Squires for paying tribute to Andres Escobar, former captain of Columbia who was murdered after the ’94 World Cup. In general Squires shows a political and critical attitude towards football. Fifa and FA are beeing mocked several times, the doubts concerning World Cup wins of Italy ’34, Germany ’54 and Argentina ’78 are addressed. Wladimir Putin features in the book as well as Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson and Kim Jung-Un.
So, is there nothing to criticize about the book? Well, not really. I as a German did probably not understand every allusion, but if that’s all, we are talking about, I could not be happier. And British readers won’t have this problem anyway.
Hopefully many football fans will get this book as Christmas gifts. *spoiler alert* My friends can look forward to the end of December.
Squires, David: The Illustrated History of Football. Century 2016. 208 pages.
Get the Illustrated History of Football at Amazon. You may forward the link to the person getting you your next present 😉
I requested and received a review copy from the publisher.
# On the title: Pelé, Johan Cruff, Sir Alex Ferguson, Franz Beckenbauer, a generic Victorian player, Lev Yashin (standing, from left to right), a Stone Age man, Ferenc Puskas, Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi.