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Bookending a football journey from Amazon to Alps

football Updated: Jul 14, 2016 12:35 IST
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Published by Rattis Books, London, ‘Tiro, A football odyssey from Amazon to Alps’ is a compilation of 33 essays in 260 pages packed with matter in small print.(HT Photo)

Unless you read with the speed of light, this football journey will last a lot longer than 90 minutes, injury-time in both halves included.

Published by Rattis Books, London, ‘Tiro, A football odyssey from Amazon to Alps’ is a compilation of 33 essays in 260 pages packed with matter in small print. One of them, a three-page work titled ‘Once Upon A Time in Mexico’ compares Diego Maradona’s epic goal against England to a Western, more specifically to John Wayne, the inspiration being the John Ford directed ‘The Searchers’ (1956) which was based on a 1954 novel by Alan Le May.

The Akira Kurosawa classic ‘Yojimbo’ (1961) too served as inspiration, said author Trinankur Banerjee at the book launch on Wednesday. The essay also has the book’s only illustration, a sketch that sets side by side Maradona going past Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher, Terry Fenwick, Butcher again before beating Peter Shilton with a Samurai shooting assailants.

“Football found its Antigone in Cryuff and its Banquo in Ferenc Puskas. Here is to the John Wayne of football --- the nobody and somebody --- Diego Armando Maradona,” is how it ends.

This was listed by The Guardian in their ‘favourite things online this week’ in June 2015. And is in sync with the title of the book because ‘Tiro’ also means gunshot in Spanish, as the book explains.

Even the cover of the book has a somewhat esoteric depiction of Maradona’s wonder goal though, frankly, it wasn’t clear till Dhrubajyoti Ghosh, another author, explained it. Ghosh, formerly a season ticket holder at San Siro, has written on the impact of Zico, Michel Platini and Diego Maradona, “the Holy Trinity of football,” when they lit up Serie A and argued why the Zico-Socrates combination that helped Brazil equalise against Italy in that World Cup game in 1982 was ‘a case of foreplay beating the climax.’

There is an article on the bitter rivalry between Argentina and Uruguay and an attempt to capture the passion of the ‘Kitalar Arasi Derbi’ between Galatasaray and Fenerbache in Turkey. Having watched it first hand, Indranath Mukherjee shares how the experience was so much different from watching football anywhere else in Europe. Among the stories associated with the derby is ‘The Moon Landing’ by Graeme Souness, then Galatasaray coach and formerly a star midfielder for Scotland and Liverpool.

There are essays on football in the backdrop of violence in Yugoslavia and Chechnya and the rise, fall and attempts to rise again of Polonia Warsaw, a club that faced the wrath of the Communist regime. The life of Moacyr Barbosa, the sweeper-keeper’s predecessor, before and after he became Brazil’s fall guy finds mention in the book. It was 56 years before Brazil got another regular goalie of colour in Dida, author Subhajit Sengupta has pointed out.

“The important thing for us is the story around football, not where the story is coming from,” said Debopom Roy, author of the ‘The Miracle Workers: Colombia 2001’ which traces the journey of their winning the Copa America.

In that sense, the book lives up to what Arthur Hopcraft has said in ‘The Football Man: People and Passions in Soccer’ with which its preface begins. “What happens on the football field matters, not in the way that food matters, bit as poetry does to some people, and alcohol does to others: it engages the personality,” Hopcraft has been quoted as saying.

Quite a few of the 12 authors in this compilation are based abroad and have day-jobs that have nothing to do with football. But all have roots in Kolkata.

“We have been running a blog (Goalden Times) for the past four years and last year, we won an award in England for it. It was then the idea of bringing out a book germinated,” said Ghosh, referring to the Best Established Football Blog (Fans’ choice) award Goalden Times won at the Football Blogging Awards in Manchester last year.

According to Phil Ball, author of ‘Morbo, the story of Spanish football’, ‘Tiro’ “is an informative and often moving book, and is an excellent collection of thoughtful writing.” David Woods, chief football writer of the Daily Star, has called this collection ‘fascinating and illuminating.’

Priced at Rs 425 in India, the book is now available through the blog but will be on sale through major e-commerce sites soon, said Mukherjee.