Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Books: On Soccer

Red Bull Arena.

As the World Cup marches on, it's time to look at a couple of soccer books out now on the beautiful game. The Life and Career of David Beckham: Football Legend, Cultural Icon by Tracey Savell Reavis explores the English soccer star who has become a major celebrity in the United States. A History Of The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team by Clemente A. Lisi looks at the history of our team, including how they earned a spot in the 1990 World Cup to their historic run at the event in 2002.

The Life and Career of David Beckham: Football Legend, Cultural Icon 
By  Tracey Savell Reavis 
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 256 pages, $24.00

In this up-to-date and refreshing look at one of soccer's most recognizable athletes, Tracey Savell Reavis brings an outside perspective to David Beckham's life in order to reveal his impact on soccer in the United States and the world.

"The David Beckham story is about love," writes Reavis. "Love for football, love for family, love for country. It is a story about passion and perfection. About focus, discipline, and devotion. And relevance and reach. It's also about pie and mash and snooker and underwear and tattoos. But mostly it is a story about simple things. Pride and patriotism, dedication and sacrifice, respect and professionalism. For all of those values are at the core of what make up the man, the footballer, the father, the style maven, the global superstar, the working-class lad from East London, David Beckham."

From his birth in Leytonstone, London and his celebrated playing career at such teams as Manchester United and the LA Galaxy, to his role in bringing the 2012 Olympics to London, Reavis examines the influences that shaped Beckham into the legend he is today.

Reavis writes about the end of Beckham's career in 2013, "Up. Up. and up again. It was something the players did to mark such occasions and David Beckham's teammates were honoring it. They tossed the footballer up into the air, over and over, a spirited gesture that showed their appreciation and was the guys' way of giving him a proper sendoff. It was Beckham's last professional football match.

"Dav-eed Beckham! Dav-eed Beckham!

"The fans at Parc des Princes Stadium were giving Beckham a standing ovation and no. 32 applauded back, acknowledging the cheers. his team, Paris Saint-Germain won the game that night, playing the last home match in a season in which it had captured the French Ligue 1 championship title for the first time since 1994. That made Beckham the first English player to win league championships in four countries. Beckham draped himself in England's flag and, along with his three sons, felt the shower of love and confetti as he joined his teammates on the center of the pitch for the trophy presentation. In the stands his wife, as well as his mother and father, looked on. It was an emotional night for everyone. Along with the celebration there was a twinge of sadness, as Beckham had announced his retirement from football only days earlier, hanging up his cleats after an illustrious twenty-one-year career.

"When Beckham closed the chapter on his trailblazing endeavor in the United States as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy, capped with a second MLS Cup, there was enormous speculation as to his next move. Interested parties came from teams as far away as Asia and Australia. The man and the brand were in high demand. On January 31, Beckham signed a five-month contract to play for Paris Saint-Germain, a club in the top-tier French league. At the press conference, Beckham, impeccably dressed, charmed the media as he answered a barrage of questions. He also revealed that he would be donating his entire salary, a reported $ 5 million, to a children's charity in Paris...

"Beckham went on to play in fourteen matches for the French club. Then came the sad but true news that the megastar athlete was retiring. At the farewell match, on May 18, Beckham was handed the honorary team captaincy by manager Carlo Ancelotti. After starting the match and showing the 44,983 in attendance the skills he built his career on, with passes that set up two of the team's goals late in the second period, the former Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, and L.A. Galaxy midfielder got the call. The game came to a complete standstill as one by one his teammates hugged and congratulated him."

This book is a definitive biography of Beckham, who continues to astonish and make people wonder what his next move will be.

A History Of The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team
By Clemente A. Lisi
Rowman & Littlefield, 182 pages, $35.00

In this book, Clemente A. Lisi recounts the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team's significant achievements and history-making moments, including when it earned a spot in the World Cup for the first time in 40 years in 1989, its decisive 1991 Gold Cup victory, quarterfinal appearance at the 2002 World Cup, and memorable performance at the 2009 Confederations Cup.

Beginning with the formation of the national team in the early twentieth century and continuing up through the 2016 Copa America Centenario, each chapter includes game desciptions, fascinating background stories, and profiles of notable players from the era.

There are plenty of vintage photographs and extensive player interviews that bring the struggles and triumphs of the national team to life, including little-known stories from the team's early years, including a big link to Brooklyn, and details from its recent past.

"The story of the U.S. men's national soccer team started in 1916, on a field in Stockholm," Lisi writes. "It was there that the Americans played their first official game against Sweden - a match the Americans won, 3-2, after accepting an invitation to play in the Scandinavian nation. The team's creation came three years after the United States Football Association (USAF) had been formed on April 5, 1913, after the official charter was signed at the Astor House Hotel in New York City. Until then, the game had been played largely on an amateur basis - and had even featured teams that had represented the United States - but the creation of a national governing body was meant to professionalize the game, as had been done in England.

"At the same time, the National Challenge Cup, a national soccer tournament for all clubs now known as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, was played in the 1913-1914 season. Brooklyn Field Club won the first title, a trophy donated by Thomas Dewar, for the purpose of trying to promote the sport. Dewar, a famous Scottish whisky distiller, was a big fan of the game and had donated various trophies for sports tournaments in the United States and Great Britain. The competition was the first truly national soccer competition at a time when most leagues and tournaments were regional. It remains the oldest cup competition in the United States."

Lisi is also the author of The U.S. Women's Soccer Team: An American Success Story and A History of the World Cup: 1930-2014.

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