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
Jonathan Wilson (editor), 2011
If you would like to read more about the stories in Behind the Curtain, just read this issue of The Blizzard. Directly the first article talks about the raise and fall of Oleg Romantsev and Spartak Moscow, a story which would also fit perfectly into the set of heroic past and present decline scheme of the book but with a new story not told yet. The interviews of Zagallo and Tostao provide great insights into the live and play of Pele with a little bit less legendary tales than usual and the one with Egil Olson, one of the most extreme supporters of vertical soccer is also very entertaining, although his views are a bit too simplistic for my taste.
The report about the Kenyan Premier League, where clubs made themselves independent from the national soccer association show nicely the difficulties of soccer in Africa, which were also described in Ich werde rennen, wie ein Schwarzer and how they might get solved. That might also be a lesson to learn for the countries in Eastern Europe which have similar problems.
I also hardly remembered that Florence had to go to the fourth league some years ago, because they came back so quickly. That a player of the national team, Angelo Di Livio, stayed with the team and brought them back to the top is one of the rare occasions of player’s showing loyalty to a club. Knowing similar examples, of clubs relegated because of bankruptcy from Germany, I can just say that ususally such a club just falls apart and even drops one or two leagues deeper in the next years. The task to fill a complete team roster with player’s quickly in one or two months and then create a team spirit again is usually impossible to achieve. However, as seen in the case of Di Livio, if such a player shows some commitment, than that can create a positive momentum in the whole club, which obviously helped Fiorentina to go back to the first league in just four years. These type of stories also help supporters to bind much more to a club than any single win or promotion can do. That are the type of stories which become part of the lore of the club creating or carrying on tradition.
Another interesting combination of articles in this issue are the articles about racism of Gabriele Marcotti and the article about the right wing nationalist supporters of Beitar Jerusalem. Marcotti makes the point that the smack talk between two groups of supporters or between players on the field should not be taken too seriously. It is usually a coolness game, which is normally played between teenagers. Two people insult each other with everything available, just to see who has the best tagline or who looses the temper first. If someone seriously runs to the teacher to solve the issue, it just shows that he is not able to stand his man. The same happens between players and supporter groups. Therefore not every insult based on skin color or origin is racist and very often making a big fuss in the media around this trash talk just helps to hide the real problems with racism, whether in soccer or society.
The article about Beitar Jerusalem, describes the clubs decline after the supporters become more and more nationalistic and racist. It might sound strange but it is in way encouraging that clubs hardly survive when a takeover of supporter groups by real nationalists happens it becomes impossible to find good players and sponsors who are willing to join such a club. I can also not imagine how one can create a team spirit and a connection to a club when hate and to-be-against is the dominating mindset.
Tactics & Game philosophy: 2/3
Must read for: No One >> Fans of soccer history >> Soccer fans >> All readers
Next book: Zonal Defending the Italian Way (Oct 7th)
Travels in Eastern European Football
Jonathan Wilson, 2006, Orion Publishing
When I started to follow soccer as a kid and experienced my first world cups Eastern European teams were at the top. In 1986 in Mexico, Poland and Hungary were present, although their national teams were on the downgrade. Bulgaria was also present, as well as a soviet team which was never better and a serious candidate for the title. Four years later Yugoslavia was on the rise, Romania had a brilliant team and Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union participated in the finals, too. In both World Cups only one of the teams did not make it into the next round (but also none of the teams reached the semi finals). Eastern European football was at its height. In 2014 only Russia and two Yugoslavian team (Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina) participated, all failing in the first round with largely poor performances. They seem to have similar problems as the African teams. On one hand their players are stars in their clubs, many times the game is build around them, but they do not all fit together in one team. On the other hand their national leagues have such a low level that they cannot fill the gaps between the stars with sufficient quality. All in all it is a great shame that such a huge region developing so many talents every year is not able to play a bigger roll on the world stage.
In his book Jonathan Wilson describes the decay he observed in the Eastern European countries, and as in any good soccer book at the same time his stories are also a mirror image of the societies and their problems 15 years after the iron curtain opened. That corruption, nationalism and the brain drain to the west never made it possible to build up new structures and catch up with the western countries is universally true, as well as that money is distributed so unequally that monarchistic structures are immediately formed around rich people, when they decide to settle down in the area.
Nevertheless in his travel reports you will also find the love for the people and their countries in Eastern Europe and an adoration for the soccer heroes of the past and the wish that the teams with their colorful history are, at some time in the future, restored to old glory. As usual, Wilson digs up stories of players and their fates, which are long forgotten today. By doing so he makes soccer history more meaningful and therefore the reader much more appreciates the story of this sport which reaches people all over the world.
Tactics & Game philosophy: 0/3
Must read for: No One >> Fans of soccer history >> Soccer fans >> All readers
Next book: The Blizzard: Issue Three (Sep 27th)