The late Bill Shankly, manager of Liverpool FC, once made a remark about football being more important than life and death.
On the evidence of this book, it’s view that’s shared by Steve Finan, albeit tongue-in-cheek.
For years Steve and a continually changing group of like-minded colleagues in Dundee have enjoyed a weekly game of five-a-side football.
In the author’s mind the way a man behaves at football can provide insights into his character and behaviour off the pitch.
The book follows the ups and downs of one particular season. Each chapter is a light-hearted match report laced with musings on a particular aspect of what it is to `be a man’.
Teamwork, respect, intimidation, cheating, emotions. In the world of five a side, it seems, there’s nothing that can’t be explained by what goes on between the goalmouths.
Much of the ground covered will be familiar to men, and indeed women, regardless of whether they share an obsession with the game.
The inability of many men to discuss their emotions, particularly with another man. Coming to terms with an ageing process that leaves our bodies unable to do what our minds so clearly remember. The way even the most mature and successful of men can quickly resort to thoughts and behaviour characteristic of the school playground.
I should perhaps confess that I used to work with Steve and that I’m not a football fan. After one slightly awkward conversation which began with `so what team do you support’, football was a subject we never discussed. If only he’d been able to share this book then.
The picture that he paints of a group of friends and acquaintances letting off steam is an appealing one. My lack of coordination as a youngster meant that I quickly realised football and I were never going to be get along. Later I discovered athletics and, as a member of a club, enjoyed much the same camaraderie and banter that Steve associates with football.
Although it’s never quite clear whether the author is trying to make you laugh or educate you in the ways of footballing men, it’s a quirky read.
Not quite `Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance’, but if someone you know is obsessed by their weekly game of football, this could give you something to discuss when they ask what your favourite team is.