Just ahead of the 2018 World Cup, ‘Finn McCool’s’ author Stephen Rea releases a new book called World Cup Fever to get you in the mood.
Book Review: World Cup Fever By Stephen Rea
Some fans on this side of the Atlantic may be finding it hard to get excited about the upcoming World Cup finals due to the absence of the USA from the tournament, not to mention Ireland, Italy and Holland, amongst others. However, a newly released book by Northern Ireland native Stephen Rea may be just the tonic to get you in the mood for the month long footie fest once again.
You may remember Rea from his first book “Finn McCools” that documented the fortunes of his New Orleans pub team before, during and after hurricane Katrina hit. If you haven’t read it, we highly recommend that you get your hands on a copy. The book subsequently led to Rea landing a gig with his beloved Chelsea, writing a weekly blog for the Official web site from the perspective of a US based fan.
Rea introduces the book with a ‘Fever Pitch’ style confession about his obsession with the beautiful game growing up during the ‘troubles’ in Belfast, including an anecdote about how he packed his better half off on a holiday so he could watch the World Cup finals in peace.
The opening chapter offers an amusing crash course in World Cup history, and, though short on detail, it’s bursting with quirky facts that you may not have known, such as the one about the captain of the France team in the first World Cup in 1930 ending up being shot some years later by the French resistance for collaborating with the Nazis.
Or the not so fatal misfortune of the Yugoslavia team having to play a man short against hosts Brazil in 1950 due to a player banging his head on the way to the field from the dressing room. And then there’s the one about the 1966 tournament in England, where organizers had to move a game away from Wembley due to a scheduling clash with the weekly dog racing meetings. If good for nothing else, at least you’ll be able to use these valuable tidbits to slightly impress your peers in the pub this summer.
I’m sure Rea’s intended title for chapter two was ‘The USA’s Road To Russia’, but that was before the unlikely chain of events that unfolded during the qualifying campaign, deeming it necessary to insert the word ‘ruinous’ into the middle of said title. We won’t sugarcoat it, this is a chapter that many readers will find difficult to digest, with the calamitous events of last Fall still fresh in the memory.
Some humor and national pride is restored in chapter three, which covers the USA’s historical adventures in the World Cup Finals. Highlights include the victory over mighty England in 1950 in Brazil, still one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, as well as more recent triumphs in South Korea and South Africa. OK, it’s a short chapter. If you’re looking for a really good read about US glory in the World Cup, we suggest you search in the women’s section.
The second half of the book, with the USA team sadly left in the changing room at half time, focuses on the upcoming tournament with a breakdown of all the teams involved and their respective prospects. Prior to that there are some interesting chapters including a ‘World Cup Babylon’ featuring the most notorious incidents to have disgraced the tournament including Zidane’s head butt, Bobby Moore’s frame up for shoplifting jewelry in Colombia, and, of course, Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal.
There’s also a chapter focusing on some of the best players never to have played in a World Cup, with some surprising entrants that we won’t spoil for you by telling you about them here. Rea also picks his top ten World Cup games through the history of the tournament, culminating in Germany’s 7-1 semi-final thrashing of Brazil on home soil in the last tournament.
Much like the 2018 tournament itself, Rea’s challenge with this book is to appeal to a mix of disillusioned USA fans, curious World Cup newbies, and seasoned ex-pats who are just now turning their attentions to Russia after a long campaign following their domestic club teams. We think he pulls it off splendidly. If this year’s World Cup is as entertaining as ‘World Cup Fever’ we’ll all have something to cheer about.