Cover Image: Football


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Member Reviews

On the surface, this book is about the author Mark Yakich's experience of playing three-touch games with friends and acquaintances during the pandemic. On another level, it examines the way people's attitudes to football have changed and subjects such as sexism, racism, and mental health.

The book is aimed at the US market with references that non-American readers may find hard to unpick. As an insight into the pandemic, it throws up several questions. It became important to the author to have weekly games with friends, even leading to him making a football over a Zoom call. The author's wife also talks about football's positive effect on her husband's mental health.

All football fans can relate to not being able to attend matches in person during the pandemic and the gradual reintroduction of spectators into grounds. From that perspective, it was interesting to see how the author's experience tallied with my own as a fan of an English club.

Since this book is part of a series, it is not a history of the game so one shouldn't expect to read an in-depth exploration. What the book does well is relate to the author's own experience and his love of the game through a period of his life when access to football became more difficult.

The book was well written and informative, but those wanting more detailed analysis would probably need to read elsewhere. In terms of the culture of the game and how it has changed, there was little I wasn't already aware of but it provided a good context for the wider discussions.

I received an ARC of this book from Bloomsbury Academic in return for an honest appraisal.
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ALTHOUGH THE OSTENSIBLE TASK of Mark Yakich’s new book, Football, is to explain the global phenomenon of soccer, the author’s true goal is to praise “the beautiful game” in general and, specifically, to pen a love letter to the pickup games that got him — and so many of us — through the 2020 pandemic lockdowns.
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If you're looking for a book about football that isn't strictly about the sport itself, then this is a great option. It takes a more conceptual approach to the game, exploring topics like violence, masculinity, and fandom. The writing is engaging and thoughtful, and the book is full of interesting insights about the sport. For fans who are looking for a more in-depth exploration of the sport, Football is definitely worth a read.
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Another interesting volume in the wonderful Object lessons series. I’m not a football fan but I found much to enjoy in this wide-ranging exploration of the place football holds in our culture and in the hearts of so many, including the author’s.
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It's hard to know who this book is aimed at, looking at other rooms would suggest the feeling that it is the US rather than UK. The book is short, and essentially the author's personal engagement with the game from his involvement in playing, links to family, health and other aspects. It is described as exploring the cultural aspects and the book itself refers to the author's engagement with the extensive published history on the game. 

The book is fine at a personal level. Though it has repeated diversions into family, health, other literature, etc. If intended as being at that level, e.g. as an introduction to US readers, this is fine. 

As a broader book about the sport, this is pretty minimal. For all the talk about researching and referring to the history of the game, and/or the depth and variety in writing, what we get here is one quote from a book (often from Galeano) quickly followed by a diversion back into playing pickup games or the experience of watching sport during Covid. For those already knowledgeable about the sport, and in reading about it, this is superficial.
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Another excellent book in the series this book looks at the game of football across the world.Great inside look at the sport the players not being a huge fan I was surprised how engaged I was..#netgalley #bloomsburyacademic
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We are firmly into the Pandemic written Onject lessons now as many will have self-conscious text about how the idea for the book came about before and has by necessity changed. Football is also another US-centric take on a global phenomenon, with all the hand-wringing that initially provokes (and Yakich isn't really a fan of any team per se....). Nevertheless whilst this is probably not the book about Football I expected, he comes from a very different place than - say - the book on Stickers. Here he can happily wave at bookshelf upon bookshelf of books already about the history, geography, politics and philosophy of football. Its impossible to get anywhere but be a little personal and wave generously at those of the footballing pyramid below.

There are two pandemic angles being used here, the journey he takes goes throw making his own ball to full village football tidbits on the side. First, playing football - particularly three-touch pick-up football in the park - kept him sane during the pandemic. Secondly, looking at the benefits of fanless football, and thus football as a game to be played rather than a social phenomenon. The first, that team sports are good for releasing stress and feeling social, is pretty undeniable and he covers much of it here. I am not sure he manages to identify something so special about soccer as opposed to - say - one on one basketball, and occasionally when he drifts around park football as a universal language I am not sure he converts the penalty. The second point, of watching games without fans, is a little more interesting, particularly around the noise of the game, who is shouting at who, how is the game organised. He has a moment where he has a bad panic attack and just watches endless football on TV, as a soothing near hypnotic panacea, and it works. Some of the ideas here probably needed a bigger book, and I am sure there are a number of "mental health and football" books out there. Because there are football books about everything.

Its that last point that both saves this take on football and perhaps renders it more superfluous. There is room for this short personal diversion into how and why football saved Mark Yakith's sanity because there is room for everything else. But that said if you were looking for a primer on the subject, or a history, or even a stocking filler, I'm not sure why you would pick this given you might be able to get a pocket Guide To The Politics Of Leyton Orient on the same shelf, and that might be more to your interest. Add to that another white male American voice, particularly on a subject that perhaps called out for a more global voice, this is one of the less essential Object Lessons.

[Netgalley ARC]
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Very fun read about the beauty and meaning of soccer around the world. As a budding Premier League fan and one who wants to better understand the world’s most famous sport, I greatly enjoyed Yakich’s the thoughts and stories about his lifetime of playing and watching soccer. If you love soccer or want to like it more, this will be a very enjoyable book to read! I look forward to enjoying more books in the Object Lessons series!
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A very enjoyable book about Soccer or Football dependsing no where you are located. Whilst it is not a book about the A to Z of Football, it is a book on the impact of football on the author and his life. Starting when the pandemic starts and due to the lockdowns and rules the impact of Football at bringing people together through pick up games and the ability of football to give people a positive outlet to deal with the stresses and strains of being isolated, as well as being an outlet for chnage with it breaking down boundaries between people of different nationalities, colours, cultures. The universal language of football is simply the ball itself. 

The book goes into other aspects of football such as how it changes over time, diving as well as touching on youth football and of course fans and art. Along with the multi cultural aspect and the social change dynamic with the recent taking a knee that is used to bring attention to racism. It really is an interesting love letter to the game and general theme, with it not being about any specific team or league. Simply enjoying the sport for the sports sake, something that is often lost in the tribal world of football. 

Reading about the pick up games and the three touch it did make me feel nostalgia for my youth when we would do the same every day come rain or shine, a ball and some space, jumpers for goalposts and that was all we needed, something I haven't done in almost 20 years. It makes me feel a little melancholic when I think back at how much time has elapsed. 

I would recommend this book for lovers of football and sport, its not an overview or goes into specifics but you can feel the passion and love the author has for it and I would love one day to join one of those three touch pick up games in New Orleans.
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A meditation of commodification and the pleasures of playing pickup, filtered through the lens of the pandemic.  Really the book is asking what football is - is it a game we watch or is it a game we play and enjoy?  Is it for economic profit or is it for the artistry and connection to our bodies and others?  

The author comes down firmly on the side of pickup, especially as playing pickup during the pandemic saved his mental health and maybe his marriage.  Personally, as someone who used to play, refereed, and passionately watches, I find I enjoy both sides of the game.  

Yes, the professional version of the game can be crass and expletively capitalistic (depressingly just like everything else in society), with advertising on every inch of the sidelines, uniforms, and screens and countries washing their human rights records by owning teams or hosting events (just this week the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia bought England's Newcastle United*; the Guardian reports that more than 6,000 migrant workers have likely died during stadium construction and other preparations for the Qatar-hosted 2022 World Cup**).  

But, in the same way that the Olympics is a beautiful messed up combination of the crass and the sublime, there is something to be said by watching incredibly highly skilled people compete and work together to perform incredible pyshical feats.  The beauty of a team goal like Brazil in 1970***, or a piece of remarkable individual skill like Bergkamp****, Roberto Carlos*****, or Rene Higuita****** means there will always be a place for the professional side of soccer in my heart.  

***Just gorgeous:
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This book was a delight to read.

Football, or soccer as most of us Americans know it, is a game with many different facets. Yakich is able to provide a great overview of the game, playing styles, growth of media exposure, and many other factors. The various subjects are addressed in a way that I felt I got a good overview of each of them without getting lost in minutiae.

Yakich describing how COVID affected him and soccer helped him was by far the highlight of the book. I loved reading about the various ways he made it possible to have weekly games with friends. I also loved how he described the way soccer helped him fend off loneliness and despair, like when he got on a Zoom call and made a homemade ball with his friend Rodolfo. Yakich was able to perfectly straddle the line between being relatable and navel gazing. That's what makes this book special.

I recommend this book to all.
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Football, from Mark Yakich, is another volume in the very interesting Object Lessons series. These books use everyday objects (broadly defined) as focal points for everything from memoirish accounts to sociological and cultural analyses. Most do all of the above to various degrees. This volume is a nice mix of personal experience related to football, some history and trivia about the game, and how the game can and does reflect both the good and bad aspects of society.

Because the book does stay pretty close to the game itself it will be more appealing to those who really just want to read about the sport. Not sure why some people keeps choosing books in a series that invites personal reflection then complains about the personal reflection, but stupid is as stupid does. If the series has been hit or miss for you and part of it is because you want something more like an encyclopedia entry than an intelligent contemplation of the object in its many uses, this book will be closer to what you want.

For those who enjoy looking at how things fit into and affect society as a whole, this volume will offer enough if that to keep you happy. Some of the ugliness in football is also part of the ugliness in society, so looking at it in a smaller more focused manner allows for some new insight. Unless, of course, you hate talk that challenges the status quo that leaves out large numbers of people. But for those with functioning brain cells, these elements of the book are what makes it worth reading, and the series as a whole very interesting.

I would recommend this to readers who like to connect the everyday to the larger picture of life. Football fan or not, this book offers a lot to think about.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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“Football” is a quick book by Mark Yakich, part of the Object Lessons series of short books about “the hidden lives of ordinary things”.

And by football, of course we mean soccer. Mr. Yanich is a passionate fan from the United States, the one place in the world where football isn’t a major event, which makes him somewhat of an outsider and gives him a unique perspective on the game.

The focus is on two aspects of this game – what professional soccer represents to the author and the world, and what playing casual soccer means to the average participant. In the discussions about professional soccer, Mr. Yanich touches on some interesting points, from the role of fans to the racism and corporate sponsorship that seem to be hallmarks of today’s games, to an analysis of a Zinedine Zidane documentary which focuses on what players do when they don’t have the ball.

But most of the book is about the author’s direct relationship to soccer – his pick-up games, his viewing habits, attending games in the US. He is very open and honest about his depression, life during COVID, and what soccer means to him personally as a means to deal with all that is going on.

So, this book is not what I was expecting. I thought it would be more about the game, the history, why soccer is beautiful. Instead, it was a very personal reflection about what soccer means to the author. Which is fine, but not as interesting to a casual fan such as me.

I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from Bloomsbury Academic via NetGalley. Thank you!
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Informative and to the point! As a non-football player, I was charmed and engaged. This made me want to learn football, though I will probably never get around to doing so. At the very least, it gave me a greater appreciation for the sport and its players.
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Prior to starting this book I was worried I - someone who has been obsessed with football all their life and having grown up in a football dominated culture - wasn't the intended audience for it. But I don't think that blunted my enjoyment of Mark Yakich's work at all. I read about football every day without even thinking about it but the author's self-confessed 'casual' perspective, though with a clear passion for actually playing the game, makes for a fresh, engaging and often touching read.
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This is a world with two games in it that are both called football.  One involves friends, mates and passers-by playing with their own intent and their own rules, as ad hoc teams on ad hoc pitches, doing what they want to get a ball into the target.  Then there is the other one, involving multi-millionaires, their every diet and social media presence organised by other people, and playing in stadia and tournaments monetised and number-crunched to high heaven.  You might have thought about rugby football, which to all intents and purposes is rugby and certainly not football, or you might be lambasting me for not mentioning American football, which is purely rugby with, like a lot of things American, too much plastic.  Oh and there's Aussie Rules, but that's a law unto itself, obvs – the clue's in the name.

The fact I summarised this book's subject before anything else means this is one of the successful ones in the series, and that it's not about the author, or "Marxist c--twaffle" as so many of the faux-academic splurges of text can be summarised.  Yes, we get a lot of the author's injuries, and friends, and Zoom meetings, and depression, and what his parents died of, but in a roundabout way this is definitely about football – the terms it has, the data analysis the big game has, and the joy it gives, whether the stadia be full or Covid-struck.  Our guide is smart enough to mention things I had never really considered, such as the first proper shirt sponsorship, even if he like so many others is not exactly correct on the nutmeg (the point of it is not to get the ball through the oppo's legs, but to be first to the ball afterwards as well).

OK, it does have to be about racial division, leftie academia inept in leaving it out of anything these days, and it is about Covid, but it is firmly enough, happily enough, entertainingly enough, about the game, sport, life choice, religion, whatever, we know and love under the name of football.  With that in mind, meanders (dribbles?) are forgiven, and the book gets shelved at the successful end of this franchise, as opposed to so many unfortunate others.
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Wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book, well other than it to be about ‘Football’ 

An interesting and easy read.
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I need to start this review by saying that I need to do two reviews in one. This is because once I started to read the book, I realised I was not the target audience for it. Therefore, it'd be very unfair to judge it just based solely on my entertainment or how much I learned. 

For the personal review, I have to say that this is a nice book to read as a massive football fan, but it wasn't anything groundbreaking. I still think huge football fans can have a good time reading it, I did. But they might also end up feeling like they wanted more from it. 
I still enjoyed some aspects of it very much. Particularly, the talk about discrimination in football and the social commentary made thanks to it. It covered very important topics that I'm passionate about. And, as we have seen from the reaction to the racist abuse that has been highlighted this season, these topics are not seen as "that" important to many fans. I do believe reading those sections of this book can make a lot of people realize they are wrong. It was very nicely explained, not preachy at all and brief. I would have loved to read more about that than any other topic, but I understand this is a short book and the time spent on each topic felt correct.

What was obvious to me the moment I started reading this book was that this is targeted more towards casual football viewers or even people who have no clue about what's so fascinating about football. That's why I'm giving it a higher rating because I do believe it's a great book for those types of people that maybe want to understand more about this sport. Perhaps the fact that it is written from an "American" point of view can make it look like it's mostly US people who can enjoy this book, but I disagree. This is because of the variety of topics covered. I appreciated how the examples presented were not just from one country or one league. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book despite not being the target audience. I do recommend it to any football fans with that small disclaimer that to some it might feel a bit to surface level.
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Football by Mark Yakich is a fun cultural look at the world's most popular sport. There are many stories here from the authors background in the sport, to the greatness of Zinedine Zidane, and the glorious commentary of Ray Hudson. Very enjoyable.
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I wasn't sure initially about Mark Yakich's short overview of Football, in Bloomsbury's always interesting Object Lessons series, but he won me over with his combination of enthusiasm and honesty about how football helped him through mental health problems related to grief and the pandemic.  There's lots here to make you think e.g. his interesting observation that "In the sporting world, the hand is a major advantage", which explains why goals in football are so much larger than basketball nets.  There are discussions at both personal and global level of football's effects and issues, although I had expected (and would have welcomed) more literary or theoretical reference from an English professor, novelist and poet. Good fun though overall.
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