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When Friday Comes by James Montague

Release date: 01st August, 2008
Publisher: Mainstream Publishing

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £10.99
You Save: £8 (42%)
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Those of us lucky enough to have been present (as a supporter, not a reporter) when their home city football team has clinched league championships, won European and UEFA Cups, FA and League Cups are, or should be, forever grateful for their good fortune.

I feel fortunate because such occasions have been capped by the receipt of sparkling silverware, although football supporters across the globe know what it's like to experience their own special success. Who could forget Jimmy Glass at Carlisle or Keith Houchen's diving header in the 1987 FA Cup final?

Such moments engender an incredible esprit de corps, a unique bond known only to the dedicated football fan stood amongst thousands of like-minded souls. Heartily embracing complete strangers in rapturous delight as the ball hits the back of the net or singing oneself hoarse in a desperate vocal attempt to encourage your side are an integral part of being a football fan.

Joy need not be solely associated with silverware (although it helps) and atmosphere is not necessarily limited to vast European stadia, for some of the most atmospheric matches I've attended have been in the Middle East.

Having worked for four years in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, it didn't take too long to appreciate the extent to which the indigenous population loved their football. I once attended a World Cup qualifier between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia when people stood on the terraces with swords, rifles and gigantic drums simply enjoying themselves. There was lusty singing - although it was a tad difficult to pick up the chant - and incredible roars when the home side scored. It could have been Anfield on a European night.

James Montague has completed a similar journey to one I undertook a couple of decades ago which took me to football matches in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the UAE. Unlike your reviewer, Montague had the good sense to write about his experiences and hits the nail on the head when he identifies football as a common language in a region hamstrung by religious division and political strife.

Montague instinctively knows that, in much the same way as you might anywhere else in the world, once you engage the locals in conversation about football, their passion and commitment to the sport can supersede all else. He is enlightened enough to appreciate that football is not a panacea, but he should send a copy of this thought-provoking book to FIFA. Instead of focusing on in-fighting and empire-building, FIFA could do some good in the Middle East were they to absorb several of Montague's ideas.

They might start in the Yemen where the development of national and domestic football is hampered by the wholesale consumption of khat a perfectly legal drug chewed constantly by around 90% of the adult male population. Chewing the khat leaf ensures the male mood frequently swings from euphoria to lethargy, hardly a recipe for footballing success - although given the manner in which some of our overpaid top flight stars play, perhaps the drug has reached here too.

If you want to read about footballing passion from a different perspective and begin to appreciate the extent to which the game can become a force for good, then read this thought-provoking book - but leave the wacky backy aside when doing so.


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