Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

World Cup: Writing a Good Game

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

World Cup: Writing a Good Game

Article excerpt

The World Cup is the occasion for many contests besides those of a footballing nature. There's the battle of the broadcasters: will the Beeb's Lineker-Hansen-Wright combo defeat ITV's Logan, Venables and McCoist? There's the wives' and girlfriends' contest: can Posh hold off the challenge from Coleen and Cheryl to remain first lady of soccer? There's even the grumpy old man's battle: which former England player or manager can do most to rubbish the current team's chances?

Meanwhile, away from the flashbulbs and studios, a contest of a more ruminative kind is unfolding. This World Cup is proving irresistible to writers. Using weapons such as allusion, digression and metaphor, scribes from all over the world are competing to map the contours of the beautiful game.

The competition's literary flavour was established by the publication last month of The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup, a collection of 32 essays (one for each country taking part) by the likes of Dave Eggers, Nick Hornby and Geoff Dyer. Edited by two Americans, Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey, it seems representative of a new trend in soccer fandom: the realisation by cerebral types that lack of athletic prowess needn't be a barrier to involvement. Such people may not be setting the five-a-side pitches alight or living it up with the barmy army in Hamburg, but they have found a way of taking part. For them, the sofa and the laptop are tools no less valid than the beer can and the flag. …

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