Washington, D.C. — Next month’s World Cup has spawned plenty of soccer books.
“A Beautiful Game: The World’s Greatest Players And How Soccer Changed Their Lives”, edited by Tom Watt (Harper One, 210 pages, $29.99) is a nice coffee table book to have next to the beverages and the goodies, and to peek at between games. The book is full of great photographs with over 40 players, from Lionel Messi to Landon Donovan, telling their stories on how they came to play soccer. Former D.C. United captain Ryan Nelsen also chronicles his tale.
There’s a fascinating introduction by David Beckham: While be driven along a dusty road in Sierra Leone - one of the world’s poorest countries - on a UNICEF mission, Becks tells the driver to stop against the wishes of his advisors. The English star jumps out the van and joins a group of boys playing soccer. “First, they were amazed to see a white guy coming to join in. Then I think some of them recognized me,” says Beckham.
You probably expected that Diego Maradona would be Argentine star Lionel Messi’s hero, but no.
Messi reflects in the book: “You know, I never really had any players who were heroes for me…there wasn’t anybody who was an idol for me as a boy…I’ve always just done what seemed to come naturally; and I haven’t had to think about it.”
American star Landon Donovan reveals how he turned out a winner.
“I was always wanting to win,” writes Donovan. “Some kids would be out there just messing around, but I was so focused and into it. I wanted to find people who cared as much as I did.”
Filip Bondy, who covers the game for the New York Daily News has written an in-depth book for devoted fans of the U.S. national team. His book “Chasing the Game: America and the Quest for the World Cup.” (Da Capo Press, 312 pages) chronicles the team’s road to qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. He also gives an interesting peek into how U.S. coach Bob Bradley operates. He begins his story detailing the process by which U.S. Soccer’s Sunil Gulati - who originally wanted German star Jurgen Klinsmann to coach the team - finally nabbed Bradley for the job.
Moving away from soccer slightly, a book you might want to take on your trip to the World Cup is “Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage,” by Richard Stengal (Crown, 256 pages, $23). Stengal, a writer for Time magazine, has distilled 15 key core truths of Nelson Mandela’s life.
Mandela, often know as “the grandfather of South Africa” the home of this year’s World Cup, used the tenets that Stengel lists, to guide his life and which helped to shape his journey, a journey that helped end apartheid and bring South Africa back into the world’s sporting arena.
“People will feel I see too much good in people,” Mandela tells Stengel. “So it’s a criticism I have to put up with, and I’ve tried to adjust because whether it is so or not, it is something I think is profitable. It’s a good thing to assume, to act on the basis that others are men of integrity and honor, because you tend to attract integrity and honor if that is how you regard those with whom you work. I believe that.”
A lesson for us all, and good reading too.
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