America and Americans seem to have an ambivalent relationship with soccer. For most parents of young children, soccer is a safe choice to fill up after-school time. For immigrants, soccer is a link to their own childhood and the country that they left behind. And yet, a sizeable part of the population disdains it as a futile exercise where, after ninety minutes of strenuous activity, the game could end in a scoreless tie. What cannot be argued, though, is that soccer is a worldwide phenomenon, with the “beautiful game” being watched by more people than any other sport. Dave Thompson provides a highly opinionated (Eric Wynalda as one of the all-time best players, and not Lionel Messi and Xavi?), oftentimes tongue-in-cheek narrative of the game for an American audience, describing both the season-long club level competition as well as the game at the international level.
To the uninitiated, Thompson’s book provides a deeply researched book about storied clubs from all over the world and the players who played for them. It looks at competition at the World Cup over the years, chronicling the domination of both Brazil and Germany, as the heartaches suffered by perennial contenders such as Holland and Argentina. It is a rich compendium of the game and its players, albeit narrated with a distinct opinion.