Jökulsson and Torfason present 20 men with thighs like oak and feet like mambas.
Like Madonna, these men need only one name, like Maradona. Represented in short, zinging profiles are 20 of soccer’s (or football’s, if you prefer) greatest players. Told with as much flash as the players exhibit, the book is also energetic in its design, with crisp biographies that capture major moments, boxed items that illuminate some particular achievement or disaster, photos, and outline maps of the players’ native countries. Soccer is a game that rivets half the world, from Finland to Cameroon to Argentina, and its global reach is an important aspect of the book’s humanism. It doesn’t shy away from the weaknesses that can attend even the most gifted among us: George Best’s alcoholism, Zinedine Zidane’s temper, Diego Maradona’s drug problems. While all these players had extraordinary physical attributes of strength and endurance, what makes them shine is their elegance and brains. Such words as “cunning,” “dexterity,” and “vision” speak of what is admired in the game: “Beckenbauer was such an ingenious defense player and team leader that he is repeatedly noted as the greatest defender in history—without ever being rough or vicious.” The worldwide scope of the players represented is impressive, and it also gives a sense of world history, as in the entry on Mozambique’s Eusébio, who played for then–imperial overlord Portugal.
Joyful, enthusiastic, well-versed, and uplifting. (Nonfiction. 10-14)