This week, I finished up the second of a few soccer-related books I’ve been reading of late (and one of about four I have out from the library!), the long-titled “Club Soccer 101: The Essential Guide to the Stars, Stats and Stories of 101 of the Greatest Teams in the World” by Luke Dempsey. I am a huge fan of this book and will probably pick up a copy, as it’s definitely something I could see myself grabbing when looking to recall something of interest. If you’re a club soccer fan that takes an interest in some of the curiosities of soccer around the world, e.g. which club actually borrowed another’s kit colors, how politics and religion has affected the game, this is the book for you.
First off, this is more about the stars and stories of these clubs, not so much about stats. It pulls some of the basics – top goal-scorers, most appearances, how big stadia are – but that stuff can get outdated, quick. If you’re looking for a compendium of that, you’d be hard pressed to not just dig a bit on the internet. Second, don’t be bummed if your favorite club isn’t included. I was pleased to see the histories and anecdotes about teams from Africa to Asia to Europe and the Americas, and just about anywhere else soccer has made an impact.
Dempsey goes through 101 clubs in relative haste, considering the detail he probably could have gone through for some of them. Of course, the Real Madrids of the world get a bit more page space, but team success isn’t the only reason clubs are mentioned. Some have long histories (see: Notts County), while others have been involved in periods of great success and great sadness (see: Liverpool). It’s a great mix, and I learned quite a bit about South American clubs I knew about, but had no detail on. I also learned that the revolving door of managers in England has been happening for a really, really, really, long time.
All in all, it’s a good introduction for someone interested in learning more about the world’s clubs, and a solid read for someone that’s been following the game for years. The color Dempsey adds to his writing – it’s pretty clear he’s not a fan of most ultras, and he has a point of view I can concur with regarding fascists, for instance – adds to the drama many of us who love soccer feel every day.