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For your consideration: five essential football reads

Got any of those book vouchers left from Christmas? Paul Ring has a handful of suggestions.

THIS IS NOT in order of preference, nor is it a list containing autobiographies.

These are a peek at football’s less heralded lands and a couple of its more extraordinary tales.

1. Comrade Jim: The spy who played for Spartak by James Riordan

The barely believable tale of Jim Riordan. Trained as a spy and fluent in Russian, Riordan charts his incredible story as agent posted to Berlin on national service to eavesdrop on the Soviets. He subsequently falls in love with Russian culture.

Secret kick-abouts with Russian servicemen mushroom into a debut with the mighty Spartak in front of some 50,000 people.

A tale of cold-war suspense, treachery, copious amounts of Vodka and ultimately the power of football. It crosses any genre.

2. Dynamo, defending the honour of Kiev by Andy Duggan

The gut-wrenching tale of a football match in 1942 that took place between the German Luftwaffe and the pre-war Dynamo Kiev in Nazi-occupied Ukraine.

Duggan’s book begins with an innocent party to celebrate a wedding with its laughter and food gradually giving way to the churning of German tanks.

A tense, emotional tribute to some extraordinary acts of courage. Having read it, the name Nikolai Trusevich is likely to never leave you.

3. When Friday comes: football in the war zone by James Montague

A football and travel memoir, Montague spent three years travelling throughout the middle east trying to understand its football culture.

There are crazy derbies in Egypt. Money being thrown around in Qatar and a list in Abu Dhabi telling spectators what they cannot bring into the stadium. It includes machine guns, cats, swords and newspapers.

Each chapter deals with a particular country or region and each have some jaw-dropping tales. The book shows how football can be divisive but also redemptive.

4. More than just a game: football v apartheid by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close

A book recommended more for the story than the writing. It explains how prisoners of South Africa’s infamous Robben Island used football as a force to overcome their hardship and as a tool for their freedom.

The chapters dealing with how the prisoners set up committees and rule-books, and dealt with serious bureaucratic issues regarding their game make you forget for an instant where they are.

The seriousness in which they attacked every minute detail of the game, on and off the pitch forged an understanding and deep bond between them and ultimately made an unjust prison term easier to bear.

5. Feet of the Chameleon by Ian Hawkey

The scarcity of books about football in Africa was helped when Ian Hawkey released this in 2009.

He dispels a lot of myths about the African game and helps us discover a continent brimming with magic and fanaticism about the beautiful game.

Some of Africa’s vast history and geography explained with precision through the prism of football.

What’s your favourite football/sport book?

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About the author:

Paul Ring

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