Drawing the line under World Cup books

An essential part of any World Cup build-up is a flood of related book launches. PETER WILSON reviews two of the latest offerings

There has been an avalanche of books published to coincide with this summer’s World Cup finals. Most are pretty much standard “how they got there and who are the key players” affairs. If I had to recommend one, then it would be the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Official Book (Carlton £10.99) by Keir Radnedge.

Radnedge might be the SJA’s Bulletin editor, but more importantly, in this context anyway, he is without doubt one of the foremost experts on world football. His latest book, mercifully for us scribes who have to carry the damn things around with us, is a paperback that charts how the teams qualified, the history of the competition, this year’s fixtures, a look at the stadiums, as well as highlighting the players to watch.

Obviously Radnedge will already have had those head-in-hand moments since sending the book off to the printers, such as Germany’s Michael Ballack being ruled out. Not only was the Chelsea midfielder included in the team section as their “star man”, but also he gets a whole page in the great players section with the blurb, “Eight years after suffering FIFA World Cup agony, Michael Ballack may find in South Africa a final opportunity to atone”. If Radnedge is found with his hands around the throat of Portsmouth’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, please show some understanding.

The book is laid out in an attractive and colourful way and does what is says on the tin, although if I see another mention of the competition printed as “World Cup–, I might find an alternative use on the barbeque.

From the obvious to the novelty, although that might be an uncomplimentary way of describing German Aczel’s World Cup 1930-2010 (SportsBooks, £14.99). This is an illustrated history of the competition done in caricatures and comic strip form.

Aczel is an Argentine who has worked in Brazil and now lives in Germany, so he is obviously not hoping for an England victory come July’s final. Despite that, this is one of the best World Cup books you could hope for. Indeed, long after this summer’s competition is over this would still make a valid present. It is a book to treasure.

He takes us through every one of the tournaments since 1930 and does so with a wonderful touch – the older the competition, the more sepia are the drawings. Each final gets its own comic strip, and some of his drawings of crucial goals, with arrows depicting the movement of players or the ball, are so good they could put newspaper graphics departments out of business.

He chooses iconic moments for his best drawings, such as Pelé and Bobby Moore exchanging shirts in 1970, Maradona’s handball in 1986, Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt on Marco Materazzi in 2006. Oh, yes, among this year’s stars is another full page for Ballack. He does get around, well everywhere except South Africa that is. The Wayne Rooney caricature is superb.

There is one factual observation. Perhaps it is his Argentine and German background, but England’s third goal was more over the line than he has drawn it in his otherwise excellent comic strip of the 1966 final. Get over it man. The goal counted and England won.

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