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Outcasts! The Lands That FIFA Forgot by Steve Menary

Release date: 03rd January, 2008
Publisher: Know The Score Books

List Price: £16.99
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It's a time of year when books dealing with fitness and diet seem to swamp bookseller's shelves as the latest dietary fad has people rolling on huge inflatable balls or pottering about the house as readers endeavour to lose much of their post-Christmas weight. The problem with such books is that there is only one message worth knowing when it comes to losing weight and gaining fitness: eat less, move more.

Were such a statement to act as an introduction for the overwhelming majority of fitness books, however, many thousands of blank pages would ensue. Furthermore, when it comes to making our minds fitter, there is generally little to satiate our collective appetite.

Most of us have given up on television, now resplendent with shabby costume dramas, presenters who make Robert Mugabe look personable and 'reality' shows designed specifically for the dumbest of audiences.

Thankfully, sports fans who appreciate the veracity of the underlying fitness message and who have little time for TV nonsense could instead exercise their minds by reading Steve Menary's excellent Outcasts.

It's a book which from its earliest chapters has the reader thinking about football's international anomalies. If Arsenal's Spanish goalkeeper is soon to be considered as qualified to play for England, then why can't the Channel Isles or Gibraltar, Greenland or Monaco have their own national side? Steve Menary has gleaned the answer after "wading through the minefield of FIFA statutes and UEFA avoidance tactics" which has led him to conclude that football's identity has been consumed by politics, money and consumerism.

That's hardly a shock, but if UEFA or FIFA do not want to officially recognise a 'national' team, then rules are introduced to prevent it - in the Channel Isles' case, both Jersey and Guernsey are affiliated to the English FA. But what, you might ask, of the game's greatest apparent international anomaly - the four British national sides which are permitted to play under their individual country's flags, even though we're part of the same national territory?

Here, Menary directs us to Article 10, paragraph four of FIFA's statutes on admission which categorically states: " Each of the four British associations is recognised as a separate member of FIFA." So there. But if England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales benefit in this fashion, shouldn't we be instrumental in lobbying on behalf of those 'territories' that FIFA and UEFA continue to reject?

Menary spent two years examining football's strange anomalies - such as if Cardiff City, Swansea or Wrexham won the Carling or FA Cup, they would have to represent England in the UEFA Cup - and then set about speaking to people across the globe who regularly encounter similar instances on a national level. In the end, he has produced what he calls "a story of the triumph of humanity over despotism, spirit over administrative constriction and the expression of nationality in the purest sense over politically-drawn boundaries."

If that sounds a bit heavy, it isn't. Menary employs a light touch when writing which provides his narrative with an easy pace. Most of his engaging theory is built around an attack on football's jobsworths, vote-seekers, politicos and hangers-on and as a method of exercising the sports fan's mind, Outcasts is as good as it gets.


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