Those Feet: A Sensual History of English Soccer

David Winner, Author
David Winner. Overlook, $15.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-4683-0350-6
Reviewed on: 07/15/2013
Release date: 07/30/2013
Hardcover - 274 pages - 978-0-7475-4738-9
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-7475-7914-4
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In this wide-ranging cultural history, journalist Winner explores the link between the English character and a game that the British Empire carried from Brazil to Bhutan. Originating as a kind of organized village brawl, football, as it is called outside of the U.S., rose to become the most popular sport in the world. In that time, the English fell from football’s supreme masters to its court jesters, schooled by one nation of upstarts after another—Hungarians, Germans, Brazilians, Italians, et al. Winner looks at the English climate, and English notions of nostalgia and manhood, for reasons why his homeland has struggled to adapt to the modern version of the “joga bonito.” Winner’s account wanders, a typical two pages taking the reader from a 1905 history of football to England’s 1996 World Cup victory, from a Stephen Fry radio program to former Labour Prime Minster Harold Wilson. While his easy erudition is impressive, the digressions can be unrewarding. Winner is best when he anchors and extends his analyses, such as in a late chapter where he examines the type of play dictated by the stiff soccer boots and heavy balls of the 1950s. For football fans, this book has all the pleasures of watching a game in a bar next to a loquacious old coach with three Ph.D.s. (Aug.)
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