Books To Read Before The World Cup

Between the Champions League and the World Cup there is plenty of time to read about football and learn more about the game


Between the Champions League and the World Cup there is plenty of time to read about football and learn more about the game.

Football is more than just a game and the World Cup is more than just a competition. The World Cup is a clash between national psyches and cultures.  Players fully understand that and it affects their game for good or bad. As Andrea Pirlo wrote on taking a penalty against France in the 2006 World Cup Final:

“Caressing the ball was something I had to do. I lifted my eyes to the heavens and asked for help because if God exists, there’s no way he’s French. I took a long, intense breath. That breath was mine, but it could have been the manual worker who struggles to make it to the end of the month, the rich businessmen who is a bit of a shit, the teacher, the student, the Italian expats who never left our side during the tournament, the well-to-do Milanese signora, the hooker on the street corner. In that moment, I was all of them.

You won’t believe me, but it was right in that very moment I understood what a great thing it is to be Italian. It’s a truly priceless privilege.”

Thank you Pirlo for that. Anyhow, for a better understanding of national team football, here is a list of book you might want to read before the World Cup.

“How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization” by Franklin Foer

Foer’s arguments in this book have been dismissed and criticized but I don’t think there’s a better book for beginning to understand the impact of football on nations.

“Soccernomics”  by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymański

An academic and economic look at why football can be explained by statistics. It’s An important book. “The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong” by Chris Anderson, David Sally offers a different look at the numbers.

“Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football” by David Winner.

The book looks at the development of football in the Netherlands from the 1960s onwards, and at how the footballing culture reflected changes in wider Dutch culture. For even a better understanding of Dutch football, you should also check out another David Winner masterpiece, who together with Jaap Visser and Dennis Bergkamp created: ”Stillness and Speed: My Story” – a look into a mind of a genius.

“Those Feet: An Intimate History of English Football” by, you guessed it, David Winner.

It’s a book about the unbreakable connection between masturbation and English football. Winner shows how Victorian sexual anxiety underlies England’s many World Cup failures.

“Inverting The Pyramid: The History Of Football Tactics” by Jonathan Wilson

Fascinating study of tactics and how they are nondetachable from “national psyche”. Simply put, this book changed my world. Read It.

“Calcio: A History of Italian Football” by John Foot

The first history of Italian football to be written in English is comprehensive.  It tells the story of Italian football from its origins in the 1890s.

“Andrea Pirlo: I Think Therefore I Play” by Andrea Pirlo

Funny storytelling mixed with great anecdotes and a great dig into the brains of one of the best players of his generation. He is so Italian, you’ll learn all you need about their mindset from Pirlo.

“Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble” by Graham Hunter

Aberdeen-born writer and TV presenter Graham Hunter gives great insights into the rise and rise of the Spanish national team. For further reading about the history of Spanish football try out Phill Ball’s “Morbo: The story of Spanish football.

“Tor!: The Story of German Football” by Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger

An absolute essential for a German football fan. It’s an Extensive look at the history of  German football. The very basics of understanding of  the culture of German football. Raphael Honigstein’s “Englischer Fussball: A German View of Our Beautiful Game” can also teach us a lot about how “Germans” view the game.

“Feet of the Chameleon: The Story of Football in Africa” by Ian Hawkey.

A book about the development of football and an investigation into what makes African football unique.

Further “must read” football books:

“Futebol – The Brazilian Way of Life” by Alex Bellos

“When Friday Comes: Football in the War Zone” by James Montague

“The Nowhere Men” by Michael Calvin

“A Life too Short: The Tragdey of Robert Enke” by Ronald Reng.

And here are a few websites you need for your World Cup experience:

  • Online magazines:



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