REVIEW: Death or Glory: The Dark History of the World Cup by Jon Spurling
Death or Glory: The Dark History of the World Cup by Jon Spurling
Published by Vision Sports Publishing
The World Cup, the greatest show on Earth or so Fifa would have you believe.
A parade of all that is good in the game, four weeks of sublime skill, derring-do and luck, the culmination of which proclaims the victors as Champions of the World for the coming four years. There is every reason to celebrate the tournament but that is not the tale Jon Spurling tells in this entertaining book.
Traversing the globe, Spurling has lifted the lid on the seamier and less salubrious side of the game, exploring the rivalries and misfortunes that underpin Fifa’s flagship, the tales of suffering and enmity, how despots have misused the event to further or prolong their tyrannical rule.
Kicking off with the story of the 1930 World Cup, telling the tale through Argentine and Uruguayan eyes, the fanaticism of the time explodes across the River Plate into Mwepu Ilunga and the ill-fated Zaire side of 1974, their suffering and humiliation not limited to the events on the pitch in that tournament, Mobutu’s regime exacting revenge for their failure on the pitch.
Tying the 1978 World Cup against a backdrop of the Junta, Nazis on the run and Mothers of the Disappeared, Spurling provides a solid background that puts the various finals into political context of the time. Did Peru throw the match? Squad members sift through the rumours since and conclude that they were scared into submission before they had even left the dressing room, such was the ferocity of the noise from the crowd. Truth or not, it is a substantiated conclusion.
Local and international rivalries are exposed with a dispassionate eye, England v Argentina forgoes the rampant nationalism that many writers cannot avoid. The 1974 clash between West and East Germ any is similarly thorough in its dissection. It is not all historical; Algeria and Egypt’s encounter in this qualifying campaign features.
Football writing has come a long way in the last two decades since All Played Out and this book rests comfortably with the best of them. Click to buy Death or Glory! – The Dark History of the World Cup.