'A blissful book, lovingly and stylishly written' -- Edward Pearce DAILY TELEGRAPH 'This fascinating and perceptive travelogue includes a fine collection of anecdotes too colourful for fiction' SUNDAY TIMES '[a] terrifc book' -- Henry Winter DAILY TELEGRAPH 'Epic... Wilson writes captivatingly with humour...anyone with an interest in eastern European sport will be consulting this book for years to come.' -- David Winner FINANCIAL TIMES 'Football is centred squarely within a fascinating socio-political context... There is plenty of humour too' INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY 'Compelling... he [Wilson] succeeds in going well beyond the lurid headlines, skilfully interweaving his own travel notes with forays into politics, culture and history.' FOUR FOUR TWO 'There's everything you needed to know about football and plenty that you didn't... wittily observed travel writing.' WHEN SATURDAY COMES 'In this part-travelogue, part history Jonathan Wilson captures the contemporary chaos of the region drawing in figures as diverse and noteworthy as Hungary's 1950s star Ferenc Puskas and Arkan, the murderous Serbian paramilitary.' OBSERVER SPORTS MONTHLY 'Wilson knows an immense amount about eastern European football and has crammed a lot into 300 pages. He writes well and has a lot of good stories' -- Josh Lacey GUARDIAN '[an] intriguing, entertaining history-cum-sports travelogue. ****' METRO 'Jonathan Wilson brilliantly plugs the gaps in our knowledge...an observant and witty guide to life in Eastern Europe.' WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY 'His lively prose captures the chaos of a region in the grip of racism, violence and organised crime, whilst retaining a warm affection for the people.' EVENING HERALD (Ireland) 'As absorbing as any post-war spy thriller' SUNDAY LIFE (Northern Ireland) 'Engrossing and funny travelogue-cum-social history.' GLASGOW EVENING TIMES 'Absorbing... Wilson is adept at using football as a microcosm of the post-Communist East as he reveals how totalitarian regimes have given way to Mafia control and curruption.' BRIGHTON EVENING ARGUS 'Pitched somewhere between Bill Bryson and John Le Carre, Wilson's narrative twists from neon-lit boom town of Donetsk to the crumbling splendour of Budapest's Bozsik Stadium... Wilson has a novelist's eye for detail and suspense' WESTERN DAILY MAIL
From the pock-marked streets of Sarajevo, where turning up for training involved dodging snipers' bullets, to the crumbling splendour of Budapest's Bozsik Stadium, where the likes of Puskas and Kocsis masterminded the fall of England, the landscape of Eastern Europe has changed immeasurably since the fall of communism. Jonathan Wilson has travelled extensively behind the old Iron Curtain, viewing life beyond the fall of the Berlin Wall through the lens of football. Where once the state controlled teams of the Eastern bloc passed their way with crisp efficiency -- a sort of communist version of total football -- to considerable success on the European and international stages, today the beautiful game in the East has been opened up to the free market, and throughout the region a sense of chaos pervades. The threat of totalitarian interference no longer remains; but in its place mafia control is generally accompanied with a crippling lack of funds. As a teenager Jonathan Wilson holidayed in the former Yugoslavia; as a young journalist for onefootball.com and the Financial Times his obsession with the region took root.
Here, in Behind the Curtain, he covers a vast amount of ground: he goes in search of the spirit of the Aranycsapat, Hungary's 'Golden Squad' of the early fifties, charts the disintegration of the footballing superpower that was the former Yugoslavia, follows a sorry tale of corruption, mismanagement and Armenian cognac through the Caucasuses, reopens the case of Russia's greatest footballer, Eduard Streltsov, and talks to Jan Tomaszewski about an autumn night at Wembley in 1973. In terms of travel writing and sports writing, Behind the Curtain has a canvas as wide as, and is a worthy successor to, Football Against the Enemy.