Jonathan Wilson (editor), 2013
The eight issue of The Blizzard discusses a lot of personalities. First there is a detailed analysis of Mourinho’s style of managing and coaching a team which at that time was still exercised in Madrid and whereas Chelsea was still working on a detox of him. We know now they preferred to keep the addicition and dependency from the “Special One” and the article tells you what that means for them, the club and the players. The other personality discussed is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who’s personality is also described and explained in more detail and why he is how he is, so that the picture of the egomaniac center forward is a bit softened and more put into perspective. I would even go so far to read his biography now. Further on there is also an interview with Sepp Blatter which seems to be comical to read two years later but just shows again the double nature of his reign, which I described in “How They Stole The Game”.
The start of sports/soccer journalism in Europe is discussed in an interview between Philipe Auclair and Brian Glanville and is a nice addition when you already read “Goal-Post Vol. 1”, the Victorian soccer journalism anthology.
The Cup of Nation provides again an opportunity to talk about the state of soccer on the African continent, including some history around the national teams of Nigeria and Mali, as well as a review about what happened in South Africa after the World Cup 2010.
Finally Steve Menary writes about how the Champions League revenues destroy the balance in Europe’s smaller leagues, like Cypres or Luxembourg. It just shows the problem to create a fair system. If the small teams get a significant share of the revenues, even when they just participate in the qualification rounds, they dominate their local leagues with the money earned. The alternative would be to make the money gap between the big and small teams in Europe bigger, which then would unbalance the European competitions even more. I personally prefer the first and hope that sometimes other teams in the small leagues have a chance to break through the ceiling, just because of the number one teams might stumble about their own aspirations. Fairness is also the topic of the article about the fall of Glasgow Rangers and why it was absolutely necessary to crush the duopoly of the two Glasgow teams in the Scottish Premier League. From the pure results it seems that it did not help, with Celtic winning all the Scottish Championships in the last years, but let’s see what the future will bring, when the Rangers are back in the SPL.
And at the very last I would not like to miss to point out the article about becoming a Millwall fan from Mike Calvin, which shines a wonderful light on how we become what we are as supporters of certain clubs.
Tactics & Game philosophy: 3/3
The Story of African Football
Ian Hawkey, 2009, Portico Books
Ian Hawkey’s book, which was published just before the first World Cup on the African continent is a kaleidoscopic view on the soccer history of Africa. When you are interested to learn more about African soccer the book is a good starting point to get information about all the different major topics which make you better understand the state and development of the game on the black continent. Topics like the myriads of youth academies, which make money out of the dreams of many kids and families, the constant drain of talent, so that the domestic leagues do not have a high enough quality to be interesting to the fans because they watch the best African players in the Premier League on TV, the distrust against home-grown coaches, so that always before major tournaments European or South American coaches are hired or the strong influence of mystics on the team, which replace the psychologists usually employed by European teams. All this is covered, mostly in a descriptive way woven into the continuous story of the performance of the national teams in the African Cup of Nations and World cup finals. Aside from the pure sport, there are also stories told how soccer was tied to politics, whether it was in the independence movement of Algeria, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa or the rise of dictators like in Zaire.
The book is not going into depths to better understand the structural problems, like it was done in Ich werde rennen wie ein Schwarzer,… or in several issue of the Blizzard (#1,#3,#4,#5), but it allows you to find the topic or team you are interested and to dig deeper at a later time. Therefore “Feet of the Chameleon” is a good read, the stories are told very well and it provides a nice overview about the a parts of soccer history, which are hardly told in the mainstream media.
Tactics & Game philosophy: 0/3
Next book: Modernes Passspiel (German, March 27th)
Jonathan Wilson (editor), 2012
The final issue of the first year edition of The Blizzard has again several interesting topics to present. At first the issue starts with an interview and nice portrait of Xavi Hernandez by Graham Hunter at a time, 2011, when Barcelona was at its height. It is interesting to read it in retrospect now knowing that also this dominance found an end but it is still a mystery to me why it happened. On a rational base I can understand that in the later years their playing has changed. I’m not sure if it already started in the last season with Guardiola but it was definitely the case under Villanova and Martinez, when the pressing was less strong, the movements in the last third were less effective and what was left was only the great passing and possession play but with less efficiency than some years before. If he team would have been spread over the world or the players one by one would have been retired I could understand why they could not keep their 2011 style but the team was more or less the same 2 years later when they were defeated so badly by Bayern Munich.
Philippe Auclair presents this time two unique interviews, one with Alex Ferguson which provides some insights in the thoughts of the best coaches ever in soccer history. The second interview between Jean-Claude Suaudeau and Didier Deschamps lives from the relationship between both coaches. It turns out that they are quite different, the one being an educator, not necessarily interested in the maximum success but in making the players and his team more perfect, even if it takes a long time, the other being more pragmatic seeing the need for quick successes and using whatever players or tactics help him with that.
Again The Blizzard also helps me to broaden my knowledge about English soccer with telling the story of Arthur Rowe and how he modernized the game in England in the fifties and defined a style which made Tottenham Hotspurs successful for nearly a decade. Furthermore it is interesting to read about the small clubs in London, like Crystal Palace, Millwall, Charlton Athletic or Wimbledon. The story of the small clubs which were quite successful in the past to squeeze the maximum out of their limited potential but today cannot compete anymore in the exclusive club of the Premier League, sounds a bit like the stories told for small german clubs in Ist doch ein geiler Verein. It also makes me appreciate more these smaller clubs which were for me usually just the filling material for the lower ranks of the Premier League table.
This issue is also the first one in which photographs can be seen in The Blizzard. They are form the African Cup of Nations as part of the story of Zambia winning the cup. Again it is refreshing to read about African football with more than just results mentioned. I can remember following the results of this Cup of Nations two years ago but I lost interest over time because all the favorites lost in the end and you are surprised but also partly disappointed, when the teams you know do not win, because then you cannot really understand the drama or the stories which are told in such a tournament. For example, today Aubameyang is well known to myself because of him playing for Borussia Dortmund. That he was a star and pushed his Gabon team close to getting into the final in 2012, I was completely unaware of. Therefore it is good The Blizzard tells these stories.
At the end just two votes from my side. First I can just beg the UEFA to take the suggestions of Brian Phillips serious and make the Europe League a fun event to watch. Furthermore, I consider that The Blizzard should start a Greatest Games DVD series. I would get a lifetime membership for that series immediately.
Tactics & Game philosophy: 1/3
Next book: Coaching the 4-4-2 (Nov 17th)