A new issue had just been unloaded from the printer's van. We opened one of the bundles, each of which had been covered with a sheet of paper. On the front cover, where a picture of Graham Taylor is supposed to be, is a close up of a studded black leather boot with an enormous heel. It is Skin Two, an S&M magazine. A phone call to the printers confirms that the wrong bundles had been loaded on to the van. A few miles away, Skin Two staff unwrap their new issue, stare at Graham Taylor and wonder if they have gone too far this time.
A reader in Stockport once told us what he thought football was essentially about. On a grim Friday night at Edgeley Park with the home team losing 4-0, he had seen an irate spectator walk down to the perimeter wall and yell: “For God’s sake, fizz it around a bit.” Most fans, it has always seemed to us, experience each season as a succession of disappointments, enlivened by momentary fizz.
In our new book Soccer in a Football World, David Wangerin charts the troubled history of the game in the United States. In this extract he chronicles the short-lived euphoria that surrounded the NASL, the league that brought Pelé, Beckenbauer and Muhammad Ali to New Jersey, but still ultimately failed to ignite nationwide interest in ‘soccer’
Having convinced Pelé to come out of retirement for an unprecedented amount of money, Warner Brothers saw no reason why a similar offer wouldn’t entice Franz Beckenbauer. Initially, Beckenbauer insisted the earliest he would come was after the 1978 World Cup, but an offer of about $2.8 million over four years helped change his mind. He arrived in New York in May 1977. Few could see it, but the Cosmos and the league had begun to take leave of their senses. If Pelé’s arrival had boosted the NASL, Beckenbauer’s signalled one club’s intention to overwhelm it. Some were sceptical of his appeal. “He’s a great player, don’t get me wrong,” Giorgio Chinaglia brooded. “But is he going to help us with the crowds? No. He won’t draw in this country.”
It was time for a new kind of reference work on the game. One that celebrated the culture of British football and did not just record the facts and figures. And, to celebrate the launch of our Half Decent Football Book, what better to serve as a taster than a look at food? And meet John Gregory, art critic
Food has always been a controversial subject in football. The pre-match meal was once the only occasion during the season that a footballer’s dietary habits would come under any great scrutiny. Steak and chips, egg and chips and roast beef have all been favoured at various stages in the game’s development. Bill Shankly is reported to have abandoned his players’ strict pre-match steak diet in the early 1960s, after which meat was absolutely prohibited at lunchtime on a match day; this even extended into Shankly sending “spies” along on train journeys to away games to monitor whether players were loading up on ham rolls from the buffet trolley.
In the new edition of his book Morbo, Phil Ball meets the ever-polite people of Vigo and La Coruña, the north-western cities that have unexpectedly become Spain’s new football powerhouses, challenging Madrid and Barcelona from a weather-beaten land
In August 2002, most of Spain was covered by a wet blanket of stubborn grey cloud instead of enjoying the usual weeks of sunshine. Curiously, Galicia, the north-western region of Spain that normally suffers from an average of 320 days of rain a year, was enjoying its best summer for 50 years, baking under cloudless skies while the rest of the country shivered in the rain. Approaching a young couple on the beach at La Coruña, a reporter for Spain’s national television channel, TVE1, held out a microphone to the bikini-clad girl and asked her how she felt for the rest of Spain. With an indignant flick of her sun-bleached blonde hair, she tersely replied: “Que se jodan.” (“Fuck ’em.”) The rest of Spain was outraged, yet at the same time amused by the confirmation that the Galicians thought of Spain as a land-mass hardly worth considering.
In an extract from the new edition of Tor!, his book on the history of German football, Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger explains the ethnic make-up of the national side
On a cloudy Saturday, the first day of September 2001, England came to Munich for a crucial World Cup qualifier. On paper, things looked promising for Germany, who probably only needed a draw to go through to the finals. The country approached the match with optimism, even anticipation, content with the job Rudi Völler had done so far. During his 13 months at the helm, the new national coach had put into action many of the ideas his two predecessors regarded as suicidal. Germany no longer played with a sweeper, although you could still have listed the formation as 3-5-2. However, it was the system Argentina had popularised during the 1998 World Cup, with a flat back three and a crowded midfield that did most of the defending before the opposition even reached the last third of the pitch.