Alex Bellos, a British journalist for the Observer and Guardian, does an excellent job with this tremendously researched book. He takes the reader across the sprawling expanse of continental Brazil, and we are left with a very candid view about "futebol," along with its history, traditions, innovations, humorous characters, corruption, but above all, that it is underlying glue uniting a very diverse nation. One can argue that soccer is the common religion of Brazil. Perhaps more apt would be to say that Brazil is the temple for those who worship world soccer. We have found our Holy Book in this work by Mr. Bellos.
Mr. Bellos paints an interesting portrait, and interviewed hundreds of people for this book. Famous players, priests, soothsayers, a superfan, presidents of local teams, coaches, and everyday Brazilians whose lives are defined by soccer. He even ventured to the obscure Faroe Islands of the frigid North Atlantic to meet with a few of the "Brazilian Foreign Legion" that plys their trade in far off lands. His recounting of the story of Mane' Garrincha, a tragic Brazilian legend, was captivating. As was his interview with Socrates, a famous player and social activist from the great 1982 Brazilian National Team. Of course, no book about Brazilian football could exempt a story about Pele'. His descriptions and historical context about the Amazon region were very intriguing, along with the "Big Zero" marker between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Mr. Bellos is a reporter who is not afraid to get his feet wet. Both figuratively and literally. :-)
This book contains more than the theme of soccer. Mr. Bellos describes the social inequalities of Brazil, its unique culture, governmental apparatus, and many local vignettes that make this a very educational read. If you have a passion for futebol brasileiro, you will enjoy this book. Even if you are not a soccer fan, this book will educate you about a country that is defined by its national sport, but has much more to offer to the world.
Thank you for the opportunity to review this excellent book.