Documenting an entire history of something is a huge undertaking, particularly so when it’s a topic as broad as Italian football. John Foot’s Calcio sets out to do just that, though, and it’s a great triumph.
Within the need for detail lies an obvious trap. Fandom by its nature tends to be diverse and so, inevitably, some topics will hold far more interest than others. How, then, do you balance the need to be complete with the imperative of remaining interesting?
Do it this way: Calcio is broken up into wide chapters, but within them lie a series of bitesize sub-categories. Foot is highly readable, balancing wit, wisdom and information successfully, but the great triumph is in allowing the reader to dip in and out of his book as interest dictates. One can, for instance, explore the enduring tragedy of Superga and the lasting shame of the Calciopoli scandal in the same setting, and do so with minimal disruption to the book’s flow.
Which isn’t to say that the chronology is dull. Far from it, in fact, because the stories behind the rise of the game in Italy and football’s uneasy co-existence with Calcio are fascinating, as are the accounts of early hooliganism and the historic roots of the clubs which continue to sit at the top of the Italian game.
It’s masterfully complete. Look out in particular for the stories of Pro Vercelli, Il Grande Torino and the tales of those early English evangelists.