January 27, 2011

Passion and folly in the heart of Italy

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro
by Joe McGinniss

McGinniss is an American writer who, in 1994, suddenly and inexplicably developed an obsession for soccer. When he heard about the miracle of Castel di Sangro in a soccer magazine, he knew he had to write about it. 

Castel di Sangro is a small town in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The miracle was their soccer team's ascension from the lower level C1 to Serie B, the second highest professional football league in the country. Now their biggest challenge was to remain in Serie B. What follows is McGinniss' account of his season spent with the Castel di Sangro team.

John Doyle of the Globe & Mail has said that McGinniss' book is the best soccer book ever. I can't agree or disagree since I haven't read a lot of soccer books, but I really enjoyed it. The hapless players of Castel di Sangro will remind many readers of the Toronto Maple Leafs with their poor defense, shell-shocked goalies, and an intractable owner who is literally able to move mountains. Add an irascible coach, a meddling president, and some questionable wheeling and dealing, and you get a story that is by turns funny, absurd, scandalous, and heartbreaking. It is also passionate and reverential in its love for the game.

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