One man’s perspective on more than three decades of international soccer.
New York Times columnist Vecsey (Stan Musial: An American Life, 2011, etc.) was among the earliest major sports journalists in the United States to embrace wholeheartedly the world’s most beloved game. “Maybe because I discovered soccer relatively late in life, I saw it with fresh eyes, a fresh heart,” he writes. “I loved the difficulty of it, the kaleidoscopic surprises, with a growing appreciation for the history and the strategy.” He experienced his first World Cup in Spain in 1982 and has attended the global showcase every four years ever since, as well as witnessing the emergence of the women’s World Cup as a significant sporting event. Here, the author serves as an idiosyncratic tour guide through the recent history of the beautiful game and the politics surrounding it. His periodization, if solipsistic and occasionally self-indulgent, is also apt, as it begins when the United States was a true backwater in the sport and ends as the Americans have established a presence as a solid second-tier power (this is not an insult) on the world’s stage. Vecsey’s tone is conversational, which usually works but may at times prove grating for some readers. His intended audience is the increasingly sophisticated and educated American soccer supporter and may well not resonate outside of the U.S. The author also admirably engages with the rise of the women’s game, though by the end of the book, he seems to have forgotten about the distaff side. Vecsey also confronts some of the seamier aspects of the politics of soccer’s global governing bodies and some of its more corrupt leaders.
Timed to appear before the 2014 tournament in Brazil, the book provides a readable personal story and a history of America’s coming-of-age on the pitch.