BY MARK GODFREY
Another of TFP’s contributors has recently expanded his literary portfolio by branching out into the world of books. This time it’s Paul Grech (Issue 4 of The Football Pink) who brings us his offering Il Re Calcio – Stories from Italian football.
Grech, a self-confessed enthusiast of the Italian game and a man who spends a lot of time discussing coaching on his blog http://www.blueprintforfootball.com/ marries the two in this publication. Thankfully, it’s not a collection of boring tactical analysis pieces but a whimsical, slightly dewy-eyed longing for the past and the glory days of Calcio – the late 70’s to the late 90’s – when, as Paul repeatedly asserts, Serie A’s was the world’s top league.
In his introduction to the book, the author denies a pattern or common theme to the ten otherwise unconnected tales. I tend to disagree with this and whether intentional or not, I found that Il Re Calcio (Football Is King in Italian) very much flowed with a certain vibe – one of against-the-odds triumph tinged with the sadness of unfulfilled potential or ultimate downfall. It brings a curious sense of melancholy whilst simultaneously being uplifting.
Considering the stories included (thankfully, he finds some real hidden gems and doesn’t tread such obvious well-worn paths as Sacchi’s Milan or Trapp’s Juve), its easy to imagine how this can happen – the ‘other’ Schillaci and his wasted talent, the rise and fall of Verona, Torino’s seemingly everlasting curse and the genius of Vujadin Boskov to name but a few – with success and failure making inseparable bedfellows.
Paul writes with the style of a real enthusiast, not only for Italian football or even those halcyon, long gone days, but of someone who has a real affection for the characters he’s chosen to highlight – both a professional and personal admiration – and in some cases he speaks directly to those involved to find out more about their lives and the situations that brought them success and, in most cases, ultimate heartbreak.
Particular highlights for me were the chapters on an early black pioneer – Brazilian player Germano de Sales – and of colourful coach Emiliano Mondonico.
My one and only real issue is that there were simply not enough of these engrossing portraits. Flicking through Il Re Calcio is certainly a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon or a potentially boring train journey, but my hope would be that Grech had either released a larger volume, or perhaps, in the near future, he will pen more well-written and researched subsequent volumes to augment this offering.
WE HAVE TWO FREE COPIES OF IL RE CALCIO TO GIVEAWAY. FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN, SIMPLY ADD @TheFootballPink ON TWITTER AND TWEET US WITH THE HASTAG #IlReCalcio BEFORE SEPTEMBER 30TH 2014.
YOU CAN FOLLOW PAUL ON TWITTER HERE @paul_grech