Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football (Anglais) Relié – 17 février 2006
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It's so enjoyable to learn a nugget like the "Russian" linesman Tofik Bakhramov who confirmed that England's third goal in the 1966 World Cup Final did cross the line has the national stadium named after him in his native Azerbaijan. The book is filled with these and they are not just thrown in as trivia asides but are investigated and explained in entertaining details.
Here's hoping author Jonathan Wilson is working on a followup as this subject has so many more stories I'm sure to tell even as thorough a job as he did on this one.
For those who want to know the history behind Balkan & Russian football this is a must read. Every region in Europe needs a book of this nature, though with the rich history of the likes of Hungary & Ukraine this is a read of another level.
In BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN, WILSON reveals that his English family used to vacation behind the old Iron Curtain (why?). And those holidays opened WILSON"S eyes to the different ways Football was being played. He also made contacts enabling him to travel relatively freely from country to country behind the "curtain." This became the background of BEHIND THE CURTAIN.
WILSON takes the reader on a travelogue of the crumbling Soviet Empire. Where there was once glitter and propaganda, after the fall of the wall there is now decay and dis-illusionment. And the football of the region did not escape the rot. Consider Hungary. Unbeaten from 1950 through the Championship match of the 1954 World Cup, and then another long unbeaten run until the Soviet invasion in 1956. Some of the game's greatest players like Nandor Hidegutki, Josef Boszik, Sandor Kocsis, and the incomparable Ferenc Puskas were Hungarian stars. They were The Aranyscsapat (The Golden Team). But when the players scattered across Europe the gold lost it's luster and Hungarian football decayed even faster than the county's infrastructure.
Or take the case of Russia's Edouard Steltsov. At 17 he appeared on the horizon as the game's next great superstar (like another 17 year old, Pele). But Streltsov's career is derailed by a trumped up rape conviction and he spends 12 years in a Gulag robbing him of a chance to be one of the greats, and potentially robbing the USSR of a World Cup trophy in 1962 or 1966. He was that good. But we would never know.
Today these once proud footballers are myths from the past, if they are remembered at all. Wilson combines vivid descriptions of what life is like today and mixes them with stories of past football greatness that is no more. You don't have to come from Eastern Europe. Just come with an interest in Football and your tour-guide JONATHAN WILSON will entertain you, teach you, and break you heart along the way.
Read this book.