Boomeritis by Ken Wilber

Sometimes taking a break from reading the typical soccer book about someone’s playing or managerial experience is necessary as there is much to learn from other fields of study that can be applied to the art of coaching and teaching.  The word soccer, football, and coaching does not come up once in Ken Wilber’s novel Boomeritis, but I have read very few books that have had such an impact on the way I view the world, converse with developing minds, and view myself as an individual who is attempting to figure out what my purpose in this world is.  Wilber is an American philosopher, and has written many books about integral theory which describes human emergence through stage development of world views and consciousness.  All of that sounds very complex and complicated, but I promise Wilber breaks down his theories in very simple terms for everyone to digest.  The book may seem oddly structured with Wilber italicizing the main characters daydreams and fantasies between events in the novel, but the book will help explain what “Boomeritis” refers to and how we can help move past this mindset issue that plagues organizations, parents, and leaders in the world.     

Boomeritis refers a pathological belief system that plagues individuals who have seemingly plateaued developmentally and have reverted back to a mindset that is narcissistic, pluralistic, and adverse the existence of any sort of hierarchy.   Wilber describes the effects Boomeritis has had on society, the children who grow up with baby boomer parents plagued with this mindset, and how we can make a monumental leap forward beyond this level of thought as a society.  This book helps explain the mindset of many parents you may encounter as a coach, some of the coaches you may work with, and will help explain integral theory which has been subtly one of the most helpful items I have studied as a coach.  You can find Ken Wilber’s novel Boomeritis here.   

How Simple Can It Be? By Raymond Verheijen and Frank Van Kolfschooten

On my recent travels I stopped by to visit an old assistant coach of mine who is now coaching in Virginia and was given absolute gold in print form for any aspiring soccer coach, player, physio, or athletic trainer.  How Simple Can It Be?  Is a novel written with and about Raymond Verheijen by Frank van Kolfschooten. The book details Verheijen’s experiences in professional football,, the lessons he has learned about the game, and the various studies and scientific conclusions and advances he has helped uncovered.  Verheijen has held a role in almost every major global tournament since 2002.  His resume and success speaks for itself, his periodization training methods and research helped South Korea to the semi final of the World Cup in 2002.  These methods revolutionized fitness training in the game, and has lead to the successful campaigns in major tournaments for the South Koreans in 2002, the Russians in Euro 2008, and the Argentians in the last World Cup in 2014. The book supplies first hand accounts of someone who is outspoken and unafraid to voice his opinion even if it criticizes some of the top celebrities in the global game.  

The first page of the book starts out with a great quote by Albert Einstein “If you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough”.  The beauty of Verheijen is he sees the game in very simple, logical point of view.  He questions every aspect of the old methods of training and mindsets that have lingered around the game for centuries. The book gives details about studies Verheijen did into injury prevention in players, fitness training methods, referee errors, and player recovery, all while teaching very important and simple lessons about the game that many continue to overlook at the highest levels of the game.  He describes the importance of communication and a consistent starting 11, how important a lengthy recovery is for explosive players,  and why over training may be not only setting players up for injury, but also causing them harm in their growth development.  

I was absolutely blown away by the book, I always enjoy hearing lessons and stories from people have actually been there and done that.  Raymond is someone who has seen just about everything. His open mind and his questioning of ancient training methods that are still regularly used today by many coaches, has lead to advances in various aspects of the game, most importantly in my mind player safety.  You can purchase the book on Verheijen’s website and I would highly recomend following Raymond on Twtitter and Facebook as well.  

God is Round | Juan Villoro

If you flip the book over and peruse the back cover, one of the blurb recommendations from a fella named Carlos Fuentes says “If you want to talk about soccer, go talk to Juan Villoro.” It’s sound advice. That being said, no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to articulate your views, thoughts, and ideas as poetically, metaphorically, or abstractly engaging as Villoro can. Every topic is painted on the page, sculpted to give every distinct subject in football a parallel to some sort of deeper meaning. He’s sewn matters in football to every day life. This isn’t a book of stats and numbers. This one is for the right-brained. This is a book for the imaginative, the thinkers.

Unlike other books we’ve chosen to review for TAE, this book doesn’t work along the lines of a singular thesis or subject. It’s a collection of football essays on topics ranging everywhere from ticket vendors to Maradona. As an American reading the work of a Mexican football writer, I enjoyed a lot of anecdotes within God is Round from realms of the game I’ve barely explored, particularly the Mexican domestic league and its cast of colorful characters. I believe the bulk English-speaking American fans that don’t have ties to our neighbors from the south are drawn to football across the Atlantic instead, primarily the Premier League in England due to the language, because Europe houses some of the perceived biggest clubs in the world. And it’s not as if the author doesn’t discuss those arenas of the game, no. In my opinion Villoro gave me that European-based kind of material and something new. I embraced that.

Now, if you’re a Lionel Messi guy, then chances are you might be a Juan Villoro guy too. Though, the most extensive chapter of the book is probably about Diego Armando Maradona, Villoro dedicates 26 pages near the end of his work to Messi. Whereas the chapter immediately preceding, dedicated to rival Cristiano Ronaldo, is only seven pages and change, most of which portrays the Portuguese as the self-consumed, arrogant figurehead many have already made up their minds about. Regardless, to read God is Round without interpreting the text for yourself would be a serious wrong-doing. Even if you agree with nothing, then at least the author’s words can generate discussion ideas to bounce of your pals. Villoro is a real football man. Hear him out. 

The American Way | Jomo Hendrickson

I was given the chance to contribute to our bookshelf while Bobinho is away in Spain on vacation.  Jomo Hendrickson put together a very remarkable novel that details the struggle American soccer players face still to this day and very much so in the 90s and early 2000s in The American Way. The story takes place in a few different settings but a majority of the tail is told in Kokomo, Indiana, a very blue collar town where gang violence and drugs dominated the streets.  The main character Japeth struggles to become the greatest soccer player ever, amidst drug and gang violence, pressures from friends to give up, and the struggle financially to afford the expensive youth sport. The tail sheds light to the struggle many of America's youth face daily to be successful in youth soccer, a sport in the US that is expensive, not extremely accessible to young people in certain areas, and especially back in the 1990s and early 2000s, looked down upon as a sport for the feint of heart.  

The book crafts perfectly the experience of a young man who is trying to make it in soccer who grew up in a very blue collar town with a small underworld of gangs and drugs in the 1990s.  Japeth the main character struggles to make it to practice an hour away from his house, has to work jobs to afford the high cost of travel to the major tournaments in the country, and has to stay motivated to train in a hostile atmosphere that his neighborhood supplied.  Japeth lucked out and was taken to St. Vincent where his family originally hailed from, a place where he was able to train and fully understand what it means to love the game and play the sport with a passion that very few American players have.    

The story was very relatable to anyone who grew up playing the sport in the past twenty years in America.  It details perfectly the intensity and hunger for success that the heavily suburban Americans sometimes lack when playing the sport.  The novel is particularly enjoyable when the social aspect of Japeth's life is discussed and the struggle with old friends and newfound fame and fortune becomes a talking point later in the story.  

The book should be read by every player who has parents who can afford $300 shoes, the club fees, and the hotel rooms and travel expenses that typically come with the club soccer experience in this country as a humble reminder of how grateful they should be for their parents support, and for what they are competing against if they want to be great at this sport.  To some soccer is the only way out of dealing drugs, gang life, or horrible situations.  The sport is the only hope they have, and not succeeding is not an option for many players with backgrounds similar to Japeth.  Jomo does a wonderful job depicting the long and bumpy road to success that many soccer players face when trying to make it in the game and allows for insight into the not so perfect world most professionals come from.  We can all be reminded of how imperfect athletes may be in a lot of instances, with few of us realizing the struggles they may have had getting to the position they are currently in today in the past.  

The American Way is a perfect description of how America makes soccer inaccessible for most young people in many communities across the country like Kokomo.  Without access to fields, transportation to training and games, equipment, or quality instruction America wastes a majority of the natural talent it could have playing the sport at the highest levels.  I witnessed first hand  players who grew up working jobs before school to pay for soccer, players with parents who had no internet to respond to emails or look at schedules online, and other scenarios where the support systems and life conditions made becoming an elite soccer player almost impossible.  Soccer in the US has grown in popularity, and it is now a popular sport to be good at, Japeth may not have been looked down upon as so many of us were growing up for having dreams of being a great soccer player.  It is hard to ignore however the thousands of Japeth’s that exist in this country still today who are not supported by a system who makes soccer an investment for families that is very hard to afford.  

You can find Jomo Hendrickson’s The American Way on here

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro | Joe McGinniss

First and foremost Castel di Sangro is a town, a once bombed-to-rubble mountain town in the heart of Italy’s forgotten Abruzzo region. But it was the team from this village that put Castel di Sangro on the map when against all odds, during the height of il calcio’s powers in the late 90s, climbed the long ladder from the cellars of the Italian football pyramid into Serie B, a league with more talent to boast than many first divisions across Europe at the time. However, the book The Miracle of Castel di Sangro is the story of what happened next, a firsthand account by an extremely lucky American journalist named Joe McGinniss that was privileged enough to cozy up next to the team, its players, fans, and higher-ups for a season long epic across Italy.

In many ways I envy Joe McGinniss. That being said, in many ways I do not. For what he peels back in his yearlong sporting adventure in Italy is both humbling and unnerving. Like any great tale there are exhilarating highs and debilitating lows. But as priceless as McGuinness’s experience is, what he discovers about the darker side of il calico is for him, a relative newcomer to the sport, very difficult to stomach. His greenness nevertheless provides an extra element of surprise as he wades through the brush of Italian football almost blindfolded to what a soccer-obsessed audience may already expect to be coming. Though for the era in which it was written, one of soccer-pioneering in the U.S., his nativity is relatively par for the course and therefor permissible, even as you skim through the explanation of things like promotion/relegation. It adds to the reader’s anxiety when the self-righteous and misplaced bravado McGinniss exudes frequently pushes him to overstep his boundary in the company of a happenstance cast of delightfully diverse characters. Throughout the chapters Joe learns as much about calico as he does about Italian culture. On the flip side, being schooled by the experience of a long and hard season may have been more than what the author was originally bargaining for.

I do not use the word ‘entertaining’ lightly when I begin to describe the contents of this page-turner, but this book very much is entertaining. The tale of events in Joe’s account is, at times, so outrageous it teeters on the wire of unbelievable. The amount of this story to which McGinniss felt he was at liberty to embellish is completely up to each reader’s interpretation, but with absolutely no way of knowing for sure, one can only take the mood-shifting events at face value. For many, the year 1999 doesn’t seem so long ago, but McGinniss’s tale is dated by names you haven’t heard in a long time, and technology like a skippy team bus VCR  induces a welcome dosage of nostalgia to the read. This is one of the most twisting, true-life records of any first person story about football that we’ve come across. That's why it's on our bookshelf.

Ajax, The Dutch, The War | Simon Kuper

What many have been led to believe about the Netherlands during World War II is in most cases a fallacy. The connotation that Holland was a contemporary band of resistance agents, protecting and hiding its Jewish population in spite of the German occupation is a dated product of Dutch propaganda. But as Simon Kuper, co-author of Soccernomics, puts it, because the Dutch language is rarely spoken outside the boarders of the country itself, portraying that idea to those abroad came easy. In his revealingly researched book, Ajax, The Dutch, The War, Kuper tells the true Dutch story of WWII, the Holocaust, and Nazi Germany through football, to which the war has incredible ties. The author offers a must-be-heard, alternative point of view by investigating soccer clubs from that infamous era.

The cornerstone of this work resides in and around Ajax Amsterdam, the world famous club of Johan Cruyff and Total Football. However, few know of the club’s role in the war and tie to Amsterdam’s once healthy Jewish community. In fact, most people are steered away from knowing these truths by the club itself that curiously denies, or rather actively hides, such involvement in traumas past. Simon Kuper removes the tarp to uncover what many have been so oblivious to – club suits locked in collaboration with the enemy, betrayal of Jews, former players, staff, and members sent to die in concentration camps, and the odd hero who may never be recognized. Just exactly why this is the case is compiled in the complexities of this page-turner.

Don’t be fooled by the words “Ajax” slapped in large white and red letters across the front cover, either. Kuper goes much deeper into wartime soccer than the Netherlands. Perhaps what is most intriguing about the book’s blueprint is the ability to cover such broad subject matter from the Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, England, and more with the specifics of colorful and engaging anecdotes, not all of which have happy endings. I’m afraid that’s the reality of non-fiction war stories.

One must be careful when reading not to develop a distaste for certain clubs or national teams based on what Kuper has unearthed about their past. As tragic as many of the stories within are, the sins of those who have once been should not pollute the image of the present.  That being said, many traces of the war’s aftermath have shaped the customs and practices of clubs today, not all of them good. The Dutch are not a people oblivious to most of Kuper’s deductions. They know their actual history. But Kuper sums up their recollection of the war in the shape of monuments and museums as a “Disney” version of events, disinformation that intentionally leaves out the wrong (fout) and highlights the good (goed). In the words of Kuper: “… half of Amsterdam is a mendacious monument distorting the fate of the city’s Jews.” All of this made me ponder one thing. Which is the lesser of two evils - Amsterdam whitewashing its war history or Ajax covering theirs up? 

Fever Pitch | Nick Hornby

When author Nick Hornby admits to his audience that before a North London derby on March 4, 1987 that he’d seen a psychiatrist, at that point you’re in no way surprised, particularly if you’re a committed football club supporter, yourself. But after drawing so many parallels with Hornby throughout his life as an Arsenal fan, you, yourself, begin to wonder how far off the shrink is in your own life. By many accounts Fever Pitch is just a collection of the writer’s memoirs about his experiences at the football. At times you can put yourself in his shoes and feel for the Gunners’ misfortunes regardless of your own allegiance. In others, you feel inclined to laugh whether it’s at the coming of age events Hornby endures at Highbury and beyond or his overall mood and sentiment toward peripheral aspects of his life and how they interact with his primary existence, being an Arsenal fan. Either way, you get the feeling he’s laughing along with you.

Nevertheless, Fever Pitch is much more than the ramblings of a mad man. Hornby, conditioned by a life where he constantly struggles to find his place (all inclusively traced from boyhood to his thirties), engagingly illustrates an accurate account of Arsenal’s history from the sixties to early nineties as well as a telling reflection of the encapsulated socioeconomic eras. The rise and fall of England’s World Cup triumph, Arsenal’s double in ’71, the coming and going of hooliganism’s height in the eighties, the Hillsborough tragedy, and the last minute league championship heroics at Anfield in ‘89 are all topics he covers, but then so are the divorce of his parents, Technicolor, waves of musical influence, the blight of finding fulfilling work, girlfriends and ex-girlfriends, the National Front, terrace racism, the results of the Taylor Report and more. That being said, he warns the reader at the beginning that they will be required to entertain the conclusions he draws relating to literature, theatre, art, and so on. As the pages turn, you grow up with Nick Hornby.

Hornby frequently apologizes throughout, as if to say: I know you don’t really understand, but you’re not the first and I accept that. The trouble is, if you’re as football-crazed as we are at The Away End, you do understand, almost effortlessly. For an American, depending on your age, a life like Hornby’s in almost all instances isn’t one you had the enjoyment and simultaneous torture of living out. However, as a suburban boy Hornby is tasked with convincing others and himself more so that he belongs to Arsenal, a club from the city. This is much in the way many Americans view the clubs to which they devout their transplanted hearts to in London, Manchester, Barcelona, or Milan. Read Fever Pitch for the humor, for the culture, and for the unanticipated emotional relation you can make you with your own journey as a football fan. It would make a great history lesson of eras past unbeknownst to new and/or young fans of the beautiful game. 

Fever Pitch
By Nick Hornby

Das Reboot | Raphael Honigstein

Humans as a collective whole, cynical and rarely as prying as life’s few romantics would urge them to be, might see Das Reboot, Raphael Honigstein’s un-quilting narrative of how German football reinvented itself to become 2014 World Cup champions, as a story without that mind-melting twist you’d sniff out in a fictional novel. After all, who wants to read story to which they already know the ending? Furthermore, it’s a true story, a story to which the majority of planet Earth’s population already watched unfold on their televisions from every corner of the globe 18 months ago. This is the book that came after the movie, is it not?

So why? Why in God’s good name would anyone need an author to paint them a picture they’ve already seen?

Here’s why. Because Honigstein dives much deeper than the tournament itself. His knowledge and proximity to the German game is borderline jarring. Had I not seen the brief author bio with Honigstein’s portrait included in the final pages, I might have truly believed he’s been a ubiquitous fly on the wall in German football’s dressing rooms, training camps, and even dugouts over the last 25 years. The proximity he boasts to key characters in Die Mannschaft and its supporting cast forges an intimacy on personal level to the reader, who, unknowingly, adopts a peculiar affection for its protagonists.

The tale reflects the world champion German national team’s in-house dynamic throughout their journey. Individually, Honigstein portrays each of the key performers (those who played significant roles in lifting the trophy, players and staff alike) in light that peels back the glitzy celebrity persona the public has clad them in, and boils these icons down to the human beings we forget they really are. Then he simmers together all these unique flavors hidden under their shells to present an all-conquering compound - the team that conquered football at the Maracanã.

Inside its pages, laced with history and explanations of epochs past, never before heard anecdotes are staccato bursts of color in a twisting journey. From the German game’s dark ages to Mario Götze’s euphoric winner in Rio, trace the steps, each as necessary as its predecessor, to learn the true story of Germany’s fourth star over the crest. In time, this book will become a household name on any true football fan’s bookshelf. My only regret is that it took me so long to get to crack it open.  

Fear and Loathing in La Liga | Sid Lowe

For us, Fear and Loathing in La Liga is the most comprehensive guideline to the Barcelona/Real Madrid rivalry printed in the English language. And if there’s another source that remotely covers such a twisted, layered epic between two football clubs so all-inclusively out there somewhere, we’ll be astonished that we haven’t come across it yet. Sid Low, through surely unfathomable hours spent on research and interviews, unravels one of the most complex strifes to ever be settled, and then resettled, season after season on a football pitch.  

You’d be hard pressed to find another writer so educated in the complete history of El Clásico that isn’t conditioned by the birthright of one of Spain’s many geographically estranging sub-cultures. Because Lowe is English, his objectivity toward one of the world’s best-known rivalries is a refreshingly honest take on false stereotypes, myths, and downright tall tales. The feud between Barcelona and Real Madrid is one polluted by disinformation and heavily seasoned by politics, war, and ethnocentric pretensions. Nevertheless, Lowe has carefully sifted through the discrepancies to bring the audience as much as what’s left of the truth without pointing fingers or condemning any one party. This book is stocked full of stories you haven’t heard before about Spain's big two, complete with accounts of controversial events from both sides of the fence.

Along with Phil Ball’s Morbo, this title is our number one recommended read to friends and colleagues that are interested in the Spanish game. Complete with anecdotes, statistics, and the occasional waft of humor, Lowe’s account, catalogued in over 400 pages, evaporates quickly. Fear and Loathing in La Liga is not only a masters course on El Clásico itself, but a spectrum through sport in which the reader can learn more than their fair share about Spanish sociology and history.