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Fear and Loathing in La Liga : Barcelona v Real Madrid By Sid Lowe

Release date: 26th September, 2013
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £12.72
You Save: £6.27 (33%)
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You should never judge a book by its cover.

When a review copy of Fear & Loathing arrived in the office, it was initially dismissed as just another book about Ronaldo and Messi, rivals at two of the world’s biggest clubs, and it slowly became buried under reams of paper, magazines and more incoming books.

But the cover image, of two open-mouthed protagonists (Messi and Ronaldo) appearing to scream at each other, belies the content of an outstanding book, one which successfully describes an intense football rivalry, bordering on the obsessive, by explaining the historic, political and cultural contexts in which Barcelona and Real Madrid operate.

It all began at the Madrid Hippodrome in 1902 when around 2,000 spectators rented chairs from a trader in the nearby Rastro market. FC Barcelona began with a classified ad looking for players; Madrid started with informal 7-a-side games in the Retiro park. There’s been no love lost in the intervening 111 years.

Ever since the Siege of Barcelona ended in September 1714 with victory for Philip V, relations between the Catalans and the Spanish capital have been less than warm. The situation deteriorated following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship of General Franco; as Sid Lowe insists, “Like it or not, sport and politics do mix…The symbolism is inescapable and no match is so infused with politics as the clásico”

But this is not just a fine political history. Lowe acknowledges how dominant Barcelona and Real Madrid have been in a footballing sense too. Between them, the pair boast the last eight winners of the Balon d’Or, while ten of the 11 players in last year’s FIFPro team came from either Madrid or Barca. Remarkably, every single winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award for the last 17 years has played for one of the Spanish giants at some point in their football career.

Yet according to Lowe, their rivalry has created a “footballing fundamentalism”: if you don’t support them, you must be against them.

The irony is that Barcelona were founded by a foreigner who was only passing through the city, while Real Madrid, “the greatest embassy Spain ever had” was founded by two brothers – both born in Catalonia.

Football, politics, history and culture: what more could anyone ask? You certainly will not read a better sports book.


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