THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES by Geoffrey Douglas


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 A timely and authoritative account of the Americans who pulled off one of the sporting world's most stunning upsets by defeating the powerhouse English soccer team in the 1950 World Cup. Contested every four years, the World Cup tournament breeds a worldwide fanaticism that has no equal. Until recently, however, when the US hosted the tournament, the World Cup barely registered a blip on Americans' sports radar. Douglas (Class, 1992, etc) ably demonstrates that this was even more the case in 1950, when the US sent, absent of fanfare or press coverage, a hastily assembled band of amateur and semipro players composed chiefly of working-class immigrants. Listed as a 500-to-1 shot by one London bookmaker, the Americans were prohibitive underdogs to an English squad considered by all as the team to beat. From the opening kickoff, the Americans frustrated their foe's attack and late in the first half scored the match's only marker--a shot that caromed into the English net off the head of forward Joe Gaetjens. This goal would prove to be the margin of victory, as the Americans held their opponents in check over the balance of the contest. In his profiles of individual team members (among them an undertaker, a gym teacher, two mail carriers, a dishwasher, and a bricklayer), Douglas recreates a more innocent era in international sports competition. Without beating us over the head with it, the author makes clear that these were men who played for fun and cherish every moment of their soccer careers. Refreshingly, the players profiled--who have mostly moved on to fulfilling lives--begrudge today's wealthy athletes nothing. Worthy of comparison to such classics of sports reporting as David Halberstam's Summer of '49, this book should be a real kick for soccer rooters and nonfans alike.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8050-3875-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996


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