In the summer of 1996, in a tiny, impoverished town deep in the remote heart of southern Italy, a sporting miracle took place. The footballers of Castel di Sangro (population: 5000) won promotion to Serie B, the division directly below the most glamorous league in world football. In little more than a decade, the team had risen from the lowest depths of regional amateur football to within touching distance of Baggio and Batistuta.
Feeling something of a football curio himself – an American who understood and loved the game – Joe Mcginniss followed their fortunes throughout their first remarkable season in the big time. Populated by characters only the passionate, frenetic, absurd world of sport can produce, The Miracle of Castel di Sangro dramatically reveals football’s limitless potential for magic, wonder and improbable romance.
For those of you not into football don’t leave just yet, for this book is an opportunity to not only learn the basic rules of the game but also to experience the magical side of the game, those rare, special moments when teams move beyond what is expected of them and provide the jaded public with some romance and an underdog to cheer for.
To misuse the sporting cliché, this was a book of two halves, on the one hand the reader will get to follow a small team as they fight to survive in a notoriously competitive league and on the other you have the author’s voice which didn’t take very long to annoy me.
when picking the book up, I was slightly bothered by the line in the blurb that seemingly assured us that although the author was American, he understood the game. I know this book was written in the year of Major League Soccer’s inaugural season but it seems a little worrying that the publisher has to go to lengths to assure us the author knows what he’s on about, surely the quality of the writing should speak for itself?
Football fans are a passionate breed and McGinniss certainly seems passionate, although his short list of games watched before embarking on the project isn’t impressive, it is pleasant to hear the story about how somebody fell in love with the sport. Unfortunately as the book progresses he seems to think he has an innate understanding of the game and of the team, even having the temerity to ask the manager why he doesn’t play with a second striker or a certain formation. Read the rest of this entry »