A student joke became reality when Andy Sloan embarked with his football table on a footballing odyssey which would see him shaking hands with the Iranian national team and sitting down for the World Cup final with footballing legend Pele.
Having drawn a route on a world map and written to the football associations of the 23 countries through which the line of travel passed, Andy set out with the intention of getting the table onto the pitches of the great stadiums of each country and interacting with the local people through the common currency of football.
Bursting with enthusiasm, football histories and fascinating trivia 23 Sweet FAs proves that cultural differences is no barrier when it comes to the beautiful game.
I know I recently wrote a football/travel book review but I felt the need to add another so quickly as it felt like a breath of fresh air, not only for celebrating the game but also because it has a certain zest for life which is infectious and makes the book highly readable and thoroughly enjoyable.
Right from page one, Sloan’s passion for football shines through, his madcap adventure, which he quantifies as the inherent Britishness of doing something adventurous for absolutely no reason reinforces the idea that through the shared love of the global game, it can transcend not only language differences but also cultural barriers. Over and over again through the pages there is a sense of togetherness, of a local language and for a global family. That may sound a little glib but beyond the differences in politics and religion and so forth, all it takes is a simple set of rules and a round ball to encourage togetherness.
The innocence of the idea tp walk into the national HQ’s of football associations and play a game on the table, together with the responses, or lack thereof from the FAs really does underline how distant the sport has become from the fans that support it, especially in Europe, it’s a strange setup, keeping the loyal masses away from a shared love. The table is an attempt to cut through the bureaucracy and seriousness (some may argue that that is professionalism) and bring the sport back to those who just love the entertainment factor in its pure form.
The lighthearted nature of the trip, coupled with plenty of those awkward moments the reader loves the author to suffer, makes for a pacy and varied book, its three hundred pages take in twenty-six countries and shows off a wonderfully rich combination of national cultures both on and off the field. Players and staff from different countries mingle to allow the sport to endlessly evolve, which is a reflection on what happens around us everyday and makes the world an irresistable mixture of ideas and philosophies.
A supporters optimism is often misguided but is on occasion rewarded, the table helps to bring smiles despite language difficulties, it is an appeal to kinship, a shared love, for making friends and reminds us that just by taking that leap the author brings an element of fairytale back to an increasingly distant sport. I really got involved with the travellers and enjoyed all the anecdotes and adventures and sadly the book was over all too quickly but that will happen when the reader is enjoying one’s self.
If I was to find a moral in this tale (and I do try) then it would definitely be, that it shows what believing in yourself and a dream, no matter how madcap can do. It also underlines – and I would wholeheartedly agree with this – that opportunities can and do turn up at the least expected times and in the most random manner. The worst people can say is no to you but If you don’t ask the question because you may never know what you could be missing out on.
Just one more insight before I go, it is fascinating to know that in a French vote of the worst ever German, Hitler came second (by one vote) to Harald Schumacher who committed that criminal foul on Patrice Battiston in the ’82 World Cup. Sport it seems conquers all.