Books: “Club Soccer 101” by Luke Dempsey

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 It pulls some of the basics – top goal-scorers, most appearances, how big stadia are – but that stuff can get outdated, quick.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.

 

Club Soccer 101 Book Cover Club Soccer 101
Luke Dempsey
Sports & Recreation
W. W. Norton
September 8, 2014
448

A guide to the most popular one hundred and one soccer teams in the world includes each team's history, statistics, prominent players, and anecdotes from famous games.

Books: “When Nobody Was Watching” by Carli Lloyd

A few weeks ago, I read Carli Lloyd’s “When Nobody Was Watching,” which chronicles the 2015 FIFA Player of the Year’s playing career from some of her earliest days up until her recent accolades and the wage discrimination suit brought by the U.S. Women’s National Team against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF).

For me, it was intriguing to read as someone who hasn’t grown up as a “full-time” athlete. I’ve always played random sports. Little League and Senior League baseball, a random stint at Tae Kwon Do, a ton of beach and indoor volleyball, hockey, and pickup games of basketball, soccer, football, et al, were typically my speed. Until this year, I’d really never regularly played competitive soccer at any level beyond a bit of rec in college, so it was amusing to have those mental delusions of “oh yeah, I know what that’s like” when reading Lloyd’s frustrations with a particular on-field moment. As someone who grew up in New Jersey, it’s had the extra “catch” of reading about the towns she traveled to and trained in, her time playing at Rutgers University, and even the spot she was engaged, as I’m somewhat familiar with all of them.

What I thought was refreshing to read in her book was that she was confident in her abilities as a player (with one notable exception I won’t give away), all the while actually having goals in mind. She worked her way through injuries, challenging travel, and “life stuff” that bogs down almost all of us to get where she is today. You know, two-time Olympic gold medalist, World Cup champion, and well-respected athlete on the world stage.

Also of note were Lloyd’s takes on embattled goalkeeper Hope Solo, who has had her share of run-ins with the law and U.S. Soccer, and all the while she’s described as a “best friend” by the author. She paints a bit of a different picture of some of Solo’s perceived shortcomings, but doesn’t pull any punches or pretend that any of the publicly-known incidents didn’t happen.

Perhaps most important is how Lloyd has taken her self-confidence (and the ever-present words and training of coach James Galanis) to continue to push herself, on and off the field. She continues to be at the forefront of the aforementioned legal action against USSF, but it doesn’t appear to be a distraction to her play on the field.

Whether you like (or love) soccer or not, this is a solid read. It’s not preachy, nor is it self-aggrandizing for Lloyd, and doesn’t appear to have simply been a “let’s cash in on my (and my team’s) recent successes” play, in my opinion. If you’re 15 or 50, give it a whirl.

When Nobody Was Watching Book Cover When Nobody Was Watching
Carli Lloyd
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 26, 2016
Hardcover
256