I was never much of a football fan. Spending 90+ minutes in front of the TV (juck) watching sweaty guys (yuck) chasing a ball in the mud (yuck) is not my idea of having a good time. However, in the year 2000, I did watch Slovenia on its way to stardom as they competed in the european football championship. And let me tell you something…watching football does something to a man.
Nick Hornby is a football fan. A football nut to be more exact. He is a die hard fan of the Arsenal, an english football team which in his times was never any good. He goes to practically ever match, standing in the rain, in the middle of the mob, being too poor to afford a proper seat. His whole life revolves around the Arsenal club and at one point he says “I was a club fan first, a football fan second“.
His love for the club goes further than the love for his girlfriends as at one point while seeing a match with his squeeze, the poor girl passes out and he is faced with an awful dillema. Help the girl or finish watching the game?
The book is divided into three periods, subdivided into individual matches. The story is filled with football analysis and descriptions of the matches, accompanied with the passion of a football fan.
At one point the author realises that “the club and his life were intertwined. Whenever Arsenal was doing good, his life was blooming and when Arsenal was losing, his life went down the toilet with it“. He connects Arsenal with his job, his friends, his co-fans and his girlfriends, none of which understood his passion for Arsenal completely.
The three bigger parts of the book are divided by years, during which “the rules of the game change” significantly. The violent fans, the beginning of a punk era, the violence that causes people to die on stadiums, the first regular appearance of matches on television and so forth.
The language is rich and compared to “That old ace in the hole” the story flows like the blue Danube. Facts mix with the authors observations on the game, the spirit of the game and the people involved. Although it can get a tad boring from time to time (this is coming from a non-football guy) his style of writing pulls you inside a story and does not let go.
Just like a good book should.