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The Story of the World Cup by Brian Glanville

Release date: 17th December, 2005
Publisher: Faber & Faber

List Price: £12.99
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Book review

The Story of the World Cup
By Brian Glanville

Faber & Faber

4sportsbooks.co.uk price: £7.79, saving £5.20 on published price

Most football fans can remember watching (or perhaps that should be absorbing?) their first World Cup for one simple reason. There is something magical about the greatest players on earth assembling for its biggest sporting event in order to produce not just world champions, but golden moments that remain indelibly etched upon one's memory for a lifetime.

As a small boy, I vividly recall preparing for my first World Cup in 1966 after a weekly comic called The Hornet distributed a colour World Cup handbook which listed the teams in each group, match locations and kick-off times.

Assisted by this fabulous publication, I was ready even before a ball was kicked. Like tens of thousands of others, I diligently filled in the boxes with the scores from each game, the scorers' names and the match attendance (I was only seven). Moreover, the memory of watching matches almost every night live (absolutely unheard of forty years ago) with my Dad and brother remain crystal clear.

In the final game in Group III for instance, I can still recall being disappointed at the way in which Pele was mercilessly kicked to pieces by Portuguese defender Morais. When North Korea famously beat Italy 1-0 at Middlesbrough, the result's significance didn't quite hit home, but the scorer's name certainly did: in schoolboy games the following day, everyone wanted to be Pak Doo Ik. And when Eusebio almost single-handedly beat the valiant North Koreans in the quarter final at Goodison Park, you just knew you had witnessed something special.

In a little over four months, Germany will host the eighteenth World Cup, although before then, almost every newspaper, magazine and website will produce its own guide to the 2006 tournament; oh, to be seven again.

The quantity of information contained in this summer's guides, handbooks and wallcharts will, no doubt, be quite astonishing, but in order to go beyond listing statistics and give the world's greatest sporting event depth and colour, it is important for someone to prompt the memory of earlier tournaments, especially for those of us for whom Germany 2006 will not be the first.

You will see plenty of World Cup books on offer over the coming months, most of which will be heavy on statistics and match facts, but nothing will match Brian Glanville's marvellous Story of the World Cup. Thankfully, there are still some sports writers who can convey a sense of time and place with the minimum of effort; Brian Glanville heads this category.

When I read his account of the 1966 tournament, it was as though he had been sat between my Dad, my brother and me watching the games on our black and white television screen. He identified with the same memories, recalled the same anecdotes.

Of course, Glanville is able to recount these tales and more from personal experience; he has attended the final stages of most World Cups. His recollection of footballing greats, of outstanding matches, coupled with justifiable criticism of poor organisation at some finals and of corruption at others add something, well, special to this story.

So before the World Cup colour supplements start dropping through your letterbox, should you need to get a feel of what it's all about, buy this book; you will keep it around for a lot longer than a wallchart - unless, of course, you're seven and it's your first-ever tournament.


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