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Englischer Fussball by Raphael Honigstein

Release date: 10th November, 2009
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press

List Price: £12.99
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Englischer Fussball
A German's view of our beautiful game
Raphael Honigstein
Yellow Jersey

Sports book of the month.com price: £8.39, saving 30% on rrp

There are pivotal moments in our footballing history that resonate across the years. Black and white pictures of Geoff Hurst collecting the ball en route to scoring his hat-trick in England's 1966 World Cup win still sends a tingle down the spine. It doesn't matter that we've seen it hundreds of times, for the replay sparks a deep sense of satisfaction.

Then there's the brightly lit scoreboard at Munich's Olympic Stadium displaying the hardly believable 2001 scoreline: Deutschland 1 England 5. How immensely satisfying is it to look at illuminated confirmation that England had just battered the Germans? The answer is: still enormously so.

We enjoy beating the Germans at anything, but especially at football. Perhaps because there have been so many instances of the Germans getting one over on us, particularly in the 1970 World Cup and again at Italia '90, that we revel in our successes, but as Raphael Honigstein tells us in Englischer Fussball, the feeling isn't necessarily reciprocated.

Germans generally much prefer to defeat the Dutch or Italians at football because it reinforces an inherent sense of technical prowess, though it undoubtedly has much to do with unsettled military scores dating back 60-odd years. English readers may despair at the news, but according to Honigstein, some Germans look on with envy at the commercial success of the Premier League which enables notionally 'English' football clubs to do so well in European competition. Though the Germans don't like that, according to Sir Alex Ferguson, they had better get used to it as he foresees the continued dominance of Premier League sides in Europe's blue riband competition.

However, while German clubs enjoy nowhere near the same levels of income as their English counterparts, Bundesliga rules mean that at least they're solvent and not saddled with ridiculous levels of corporate debt.

Honigstein also suggests that German clubs have much closer ties with their communities and tend not to be owned by Johnny-come-lately foreigners with dodgy backgrounds, an entourage of heavies and a penchant for blondes. He has a point and, having lived in London from where he has covered English football for the respected Suddeutsche Zeitung since 1994, his 'outsider's view' is worth reading.

Unlike many indigenous commentators, Honigstein would probably not subscribe to the view that the Premier League offers the world's most exciting version of the beautiful game. He doesn't squeal like a teenage girl at the prospect of another foreign 'superstar' (player or manager) heading for England's top flight, a refreshingly detached attitude for those of us who do get caught up in the 'this-is-the-world's-greatest-league' nonsense.

Honigstein's view as a non-Englishman is that the distance between fans and commercially-driven clubs has become much wider, while the gulf between the clubs at the very top of the tree and those below is almost impossible to bridge. Unless, of course, another Johnny-come-lately foreigner who has somehow managed to assemble an unexplained fortune comes along with a plan to take a club wallowing in mid-table to Champions League success. Germans would probably laugh at such characters; we're inclined to embrace them. Question is: who is right?


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