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Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football reviews the latest batch of sports books on The Substantive.

In England there’s no sportswriter quite like Dave Zirin. He writes about sport from the Left with such passion and style that readers will never spot the join. An American, the bias is unsurprisingly towards baseball, basketball and their own bastardised version of ‘football’, yet both the issues raised and his range of coverage are unmistakably internationalist. Continue reading…

Spring Book Review

bedsit disco queen

Philosophy Football’s Mark Perryman’s latest batch of Book Reviews includes books on society, politics, sport and music. Continue reading…

Glory Nights: Basel April 2013

Two weeks ago Hull City fans travelled to Huddersfield in a “bubble” imposed by West Yorkshire Police, an act from an authority that demonizes football fans through the restriction of movement, not dissimilar to the aim of the Football Spectators Act proposed by the Thatcher Government, whose reputation is currently being reinvented by rose-tinted recollections in the popular press in the past week; the polar opposite, for those lucky enough to have the opportunity, is to travel independently following your football club in Europe, venturing freely in a new city, before later socializing and joining a wider community in the stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s trip to Basel this week was a trip typical of the exciting European nights told in Glory Nights: Wankdorf to Wembley, with ticketing complications, a less than linear journey, friendly locals, cultural highlights and of course, drama only sport can deliver.

The English Premier League table doesn’t lie but the final tables in both the 2005-06 and last season stretched credibility when Spurs finished below Arsenal twice, despite looking much the better side for most of both terms, technically assured and in control of games in 05/06 and fluent, expansive and at times breathtaking in the last campaign. Points dropped through late goals were punished by a final day illness in 2006 and tactical errors in the final straight in 2012 allowed a West Brom goalkeeping performance so bad it defies belief, to have the final say. Ultimately those league placings twice cost Spurs Champions League Football, but strange how things work out; while the luck hasn’t been apparent on the pitch Tottenham’s European draws since 2006 have included a fixture at Sevilla that coincided with the city’s Semma Santa Festival, a tie against Hearts during the Edinburgh Festival, journeys to Belgium and Germany when the Christmas markets stalls were out and a trip to Udinese at the best time of the year to visit nearby Venice.

Spurs fans have had some great cultural bonuses in the last few years and coinciding with the Europa League Quarter-Final second leg, the city of Basel is currently hosting a Picasso retrospective built exclusively from the city’s public and private collections. Who knew? In the Kunstmusuem (a venue best spelt rather than pronounced when asking for directions), the exhibition shows Picasso the young talent, the storyteller, the freedom fighter and the master through etchings, sketches, portraits and layered paintings that show his versatility in styles through the ages. Continue reading…

Blinkered

At half-time during the Saturday lunch-time kick-off at the Stadium of Light between Sunderland and Manchester United, Sky Sports briefly showed some African dancing in the centre circle, not just a novel alternative from the old days when a brass band came on to play, but taking place, as Sky explained, due to Sunderland’s first ‘Nelson Mandela Day’. Suddenly, a club that had been playing largely dour football for much of the season seemingly based on the organisation and motivation techniques of Martin O’Neill, aroused positive interest in the split second of that news.

Sporting and artistic boycotts of an Apartheid South Africa previously raised the profile of Mandela when he was a political prisoner on Robben Island and were a key instrument in change, arguably more so than economic sanctions; Sunderland’s recent partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to pursue social justice, was a positive reminder of the part sport, and popular culture, plays in shaping a wider society.

So, the announcement last night, the day after SAFC’s very own Mandela Day, that self-confessed fascist Paolo Di Canio was the club’s new Manager, to replace O’Neill, who had been relieved of his duties the previous evening, was particularly bizarre. Continue reading…

The FA’s management of expectations

Tomorrow England play Brazil at Wembley to kick-off the FA’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations. Philosophy Football’s Mark Perryman argues that it is the perfect time to lower our expectations of England’s chances.

England v Brazil, friendly or no friendly, is a tasty international fixture to mark the start of the Football Association’s 150th birthday celebrations. It will be a feast of free-flowing football, and England. Never mind, with the other home opponents lined up so far – the Republic of Ireland (last qualified for a World Cup in 2002, at Euro 2012 failed to win a single game) and Scotland (last qualified for any tournament, 1998) – England fans should be able to look forward to some home victories to savour. Although what exactly the players, manager and coaches will learn by playing such relatively lowly opposition is anyone’s guess. These opponents have been chosen to put bottoms on seats, and stir up memories of old, and more recent rivalries, but never mind the quality of the football. Continue reading…

Django Unchained

Django-Unchained

In the nineties, Quentin Tarantino gave an interview with the Independent on Sunday where he spoke about how he would “run” to the cinema every time a new Martin Scorsese film came out. Tarantino himself continues to have the same effect on millions of film goers worldwide who, ever since his debut Reservoir Dogs in 1992, will take the time, effort and pay the money, to see anything Tarantino does on the big screen. And his latest offering, Django Unchained doesn’t disappoint. Continue reading…

Weapons of Choice

physical resistance book cover

With links to reading from independent sources, Philosophy Football’s Mark Perryman previews books to look out for in the first quarter of 2013.

I have an old lefty badge somewhere ‘Books are Weapons’. Reading, and wearing badges, are never enough alone, but we live in an era of unprecedented austerity, with an urgent challenge that the threat of Climate Change should be posing almost all conventional definitions of growth, and an enduring disarray of oppositional politics, so finding the time for a good read to provoke both thought and action is as good a New Year resolution as I can think of. And despite the mind-numbing dullness of the political mainstream, thankfully there’s still plenty to savour in the margins. Continue reading…

I am The Secret Footballer

I am The Secret Footballer

Of all the many football books that have been released over the years the magic ingredient from someone inside the game is always insight, from Steve Claridge’s training sessions in Tales From The Boot Camp where Harry Redknapp was fixing the stopwatch to win a bet with his player to Martin Peters retelling in his autobiography how he was once asked play at right-back for Norwich as he was the only player intelligent enough to exploit the space available that day.

Every morsel of the previously unknown can become interesting, including the reasoning of Glenn Hoddle’s choice of Kenny G to ease the nerves of his players ahead of them finding out if they made the cut for the 1998 World Cup in his diary to the revelation that Bob Dylan’s Positively 4th Street was Roy Keane’s favourite song in the Appendix of his own autobiography.

From the little observations within the dressing room environment to the tactics on a matchday, via some cracking anecdotes about nights out and trips abroad, I am The Secret Footballer has insight aplenty. And in addition to the detail, the Secret Footballer has a knack of constantly hitting the nail on the head like Lionel Messi does of finding the net. Continue reading…

Ally Clow’s Films of 2012

The discussion of whether or not the year has been ‘good or ‘bad’ for our various art forms is redundant as always; the deeper you look for art, the more you will be rewarded by the continual reinvention of its content and form. In 2012, those who made the year’s biggest cultural events from the Olympics opening ceremony to Skyfall and The Avengers, wanted to please their audiences without cynicism, without patronising them and in so doing, a truly mass appeal was achieved.

Whilst it was a great year for these blockbuster releases (Skyfall became the most financially successful film ever at the UK box office hitting £100M at time of writing) the documentary form enjoyed a great year too.

Films like The Imposter and This Is Not A Film enjoyed great critical success but it was Searching For Sugar Man that I enjoyed the most. The film tells the story of Sixto Rodriguez, a singer-songwriter who played the bars and basements of Detroit and released two albums of beautiful acid folk-rock then disappearing into oblivion. After the albums were imported to South Africa however, they struck a chord with the anti-Apartheid movement and Rodriguez, and especially his Cold Fact album, became as important to the South Africans as Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones. The documentary’s strength lay in its gradual uncovering of the protagonist’s story whilst holding back enough for the viewer to be surprised throughout. When and how did he die? Is he even dead at all? Why did the success of his albums in South Africa not translate into financial reward? The documentary answers its questions and reveals a man so full of warmth and humanity that was truly inspiring. Continue reading…

150 Years of FA

As the FA Cup dominates the weekend football in England, Philosophy Football’s Mark Perryman suggest how the Football Association could improve in their 150th year.

On 26 October 1863 the great and the good of nineteenth century English Football gathered at the Freemasons’ Arms in Covent Garden to codify their sport. The rest is history, as will be frequently pointed out over the next twelve months as the organisation founded in this Central London pub, The Football Association, loudly celebrates its 150th anniversary year. Particularly in the high-profile Wembley friendlies against Brazil, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland. Not that there’s anything resembling friendliness in any footballing encounter with the latter.

Following England’s most recent hapless exit from a World Cup in 201 it was pointed out by Matt Scott here that in Germany at the time there were 34,790 Uefa B, A and Pro qualified coaches, in Spain 23,995 and Italy 29,420. England? In comparison a paltry 2769. The figures tell us all that we should need to know about the FA’s inability to act as a governing body, indeed arguably the FA as it celebrates its longevity will also be revealing itself as the sole FA in the world incapable of governing its own sport. Continue reading…



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