By charlie connelly

spirit high and passion pure

European football is growing to gargantuan proportions. Thanks to the expansion of the Champions’ League, the best club sides appear on television almost every week. The European Championships grow bigger and more lucrative with every tournament. Yet what lies beyond the faux-classical strains of the Champions League theme music? Is modern European football just big business. or is the game a vehicle for passion, spirit and national identity?

In an attempt to find out, Charlie Connelly embarks upon a European journey in search of the soul of the European game. From Spain’s Primera Liga to the Faroe Islands’ Second Division, this book examines the game at all levels in some of Europe’s most diverse nations and puts the game in its political and social context.

In Bosnia, Connelly finds football succeeding where politics has failed in uniting ethnic rivals. In Spain, he visits the top flight club that represents a fiercely independent people, and in Italy, he visits Turin, a city united in grief 50 years to the day after Europe’s greatest club side was killed in a plane crash. In France, he watches the Third Division team that want to take up residence in the Stade de France and become a major force in Europe play in front of 500 diehards. A journey to Northern Ireland reveals a struggling side forced to play every match across an international border. And in Vienna, Connelly goes in search of the legacy of an Austrian football legend who came to a mysterious end after standing up to the Nazis. His journey of over 20,000 miles ends at the northernmost football club in the world.



More than simply a sporting travelogue, this uplifting, stylishly written odyssey views its subjects within a historical, political and cultural context.

Independent Sports Book of the Year 2000


Connelly’s excellent book is full of wondrous little facts and stories that are a million miles away from Luis Figo and his £37.5million transfer…he has written a refreshing book that reminds this reviewer as to why he fell in love with football in the first place.

Total Football, Book of the Month, January 2001


Derry is one of the stop off points on Connelly’s journey to the far-flung outposts of the beautiful game, and his chapter on the decline and fall of the Candystripes shows a fine understanding of the Brandywell club’s plight. From Spain’s Primera Liga to the Faroe Islands’ Second Division, each visit is a novella in itself. Well worth a look.

Irish Independent, Sports Books of the Year 2000


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