Sunday, March 15, 2009

In Italia Hellas, In Europa Hellas!

A Season With Verona is a tremendous book about association football and so much more. Tim Parks, an English writer and academic and resident of the historic Italian city, spends a whole season attending every match Hellas Verona, his local and favoured team, plays in Serie A, travels with the notorious brigate to away fixtures, and takes his seat in the cauldron-like curva for home games. The ‘gialloblu’ (the ‘yellow and blues’) are threatened with relegation and each chapter focuses on an individual match before printing an up-to-date league table. I still have a fifth to read and I’m intrigued as to how the season will finish. Hellas are about to play Milan in the San Siro so I’m writing that match off as an away win. Along the way, Parks meets players, coaches, commentators and a wide variety of supporters. I would suggest that the association code only accounts for half the subject matter; the book is subtitled ‘Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character and Goals’ and the passages recounting the boot-shaped country’s attitude to race, politics, religion and society are as absorbing and as forceful as any description of a last minute goalmouth scramble. I’m learning a lot about a fascinating republic and enjoying some fabulous sporting thrills along the way.

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