The Football Men: Up Close with the Giants of the Modern by Simon Kuper

By Simon Kuper

The good footballers and coaches are infrequently glimpsed from up shut. They safeguard themselves from the tabloids, cover their personalities at the back of professionalism, and within the phrases of the cliche, 'do their speaking at the pitch'. This publication will get up just about them. The soccer Menis now not a sequence of big name profiles, and it does not try and unearth secrets and techniques within the avid gamers' inner most lives. relatively, it portrays those males as 3-dimensional people. It describes their upbringings, the soccer cultures they grew up in, the way in which they play, and the bags that they carry to their relationships at paintings. This multimillion-pound, multinational international is usually inhabited by way of traditional males. The profiles during this booklet are often humorous, yet by no means breathless or sensational. many of the profiles during this ebook are in accordance with interviews; others are the result of time the writer spent with that individual; occasionally the profile is a narrative of a rustic. All are attention-grabbing and make clear their topic to bare belongings you would not count on. From one of many nice activities writers of our time this can be a penetrating and marvelous choice of articles at the figures that experience outlined the trendy wearing global.

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At the end, Grobbelaar selects five players to run short sprints and do press-ups as punishments for unspecified sins. ’ some players protest, but Grobbelaar ignores them. Twenty-five years ago, one recalls, he was a corporal in the Rhodesian army. ‘He’s still got a way to go as a coach,’ one Seven Stars player concedes. Afterwards Grobbelaar chucks me and two of his players in his car, drops them at the supermarket – they have no cars – and drives me into Cape Town for a night out. The city, he says, is one of the six best in the world, with Vancouver, Perth, London and Paris.

I hope this book adds up to something like a group portrait of the profession. Let’s start with the players’ life paths. In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, the Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell popularised the ‘10,000-hour rule’. This is a notion from psychology, which says that to achieve expertise in any field you need at least 10,000 hours of practice. Gladwell quotes the neurologist Daniel Levitin: ‘In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, this number comes up again and again.

Not that Grobbelaar is sentimental about Liverpool. He played in the games at Heysel and Hillsborough, and still has nightmares about them, as well as about the war. ‘Even today. ’ We end the evening in Grobbelaar’s flat, which he has borrowed from a friend, and sit by the pool listening to the crickets and drinking whisky. It is the time of night to philosophise. Twenty years ago, says Grobbelaar, his then girlfriend, a Rhodesian woman, became pregnant and just before he could propose to her he discovered that the father was his best friend.

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