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The Almanack of World Football 2008 by Guy Oliver

Release date: 11th September, 2007
Publisher: Headline Publishing

List Price: £20.00
Our Price: £12.00
You Save: £8 (40%)
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Internet access has conferred innumerable benefits upon hundreds of millions of regular users; when it comes to booking a flight, hiring a car or ordering almost anything, there is nothing to match it for speed or convenience.

Millions more use the internet for work (or homework) with search engines such as Google priding themselves on the speed with which they can respond to a user's request for information. Type in 'world football' on Google.com for instance and a staggering 135 million word matches are displayed on your computer screen within 0.09 seconds. While content quality may vary, the range and depth of information available online is mind-boggling.

Yet those of us who recall how research was conducted before the internet's arrival will almost certainly feel there is no substitute for browsing through a book. While an online search can develop into an often frustrating scamper through a thick maze of ether, dipping into a voluminous reference book can become a hugely enjoyable meander.

Over the years, football has been particularly well served with a regular supply of statistical information, although nothing has yet surpassed Sky Sports (formerly Rothmans) yearbook for comprehensiveness. For researchers, anoraks or the plain curious, however, there is surprisingly little available in written format which focuses on world football, which is where Guy Oliver's 2008 Almanack comes in.

Now in its third year, this is a quite remarkable book, justifiably sub-titled "The definitive and essential guide to the global game."

Its 1056 pages are split into three sections, the first of which deals with every FIFA tournament, from the Women's World Cup which started this week, to the 2007 Under 20 World Cup which only finished in Canada on 22nd July. The latter was won by Argentina in Toronto after the Czech Republic had taken an unexpected lead on the hour. As you can see, the book's information soon sticks.

A 700-page A-Z guide encompassing every football association in the world follows. Need to know which Costa Rican side owned by a Mexican film producer retained their league title this term? That's right: Deportivo Saprissa. How about the telephone number of East Bengal FC - or perhaps the club's website address would be more convenient? They're both here. Looking for an assignment to report on the Maldives' FA Cup next May? The MFA's email address, where you can inquire about your press accreditation, appears on page 492.

The final section provides details of every world football confederation and its competitions, thus ensuring that not a page of this weighty tome is wasted. Given its truly global scope, the Almanac is the type of book the football enthusiast can sit down and read for hours with just the occasional furrowing of brow or raising of eyebrow as another remarkable fact or statistic is absorbed.

How Guy Oliver found time to do anything else (such as sleep) as he compiled the book's data is a mystery, especially as he's added one unique feature this time: an historic 'medals' table which provides the ultimate record of which side is every nation's most successful. The exercise is fraught with difficulties - The Wanderers come in at 18th place as they've won the FA Cup five times. Nevertheless, there is no surprise as to which club comes out on top.

In a sport not short of on- and off-line information, the Almanack is a welcome addition, an annual publication to which fans should look forward. In years to come, these early editions may even become collectable (as Rothmans have), hopefully encouraging people to leave their computer screens for a while to enjoy wallowing in a particularly absorbing book.


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