Behind the Curtain : Travels in Eastern European Football

Behind the Curtain : Travels in Eastern European Football (2006) by Jonathon Wilson catalogues much of Eastern European football from the years after WWII to the fall of Communism and beyond. It reads as part travel book, part sports book and part history book.

Wilson wrote the really excellent Inverting the Pyramid about football tactics and is a fine writer as well as a keen observer of football. He also has a love of Eastern European Football that comes through in the book.

The book covers Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, The Caucasus and Russia in long chapters that go through the history of national teams, major clubs, great players and great coaches.

The political arrangements are followed by the deal and corruption of the modern era. Despite being a football book it prompts the question of why organise football well at all if society is collapsing. In places where football is used as a political tool it makes sense but in corrupt broken countries it’s hard to justify running a club well. It does make you realise that well run clubs that are not corrupt are in many ways stranger than a club run by a local rich man.

The book wouldn’t be fun for anyone who isn’t interested in football. It probably requires both an interest in football and an interest in Eastern Europe, but if you are interested in both then it’s a well written, rewarding read.

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