There seemingly is a coffee book for everything, the kind of book you display that people can flip through to admire great pictures and learn a bit more about a subject. With the World Cup around the corner, soccer fans finally have a book they can display as a conversation starter about their own favorite tournament.
The Official History of the FIFA World Cup is sanctioned by the FIFA World Football Museum, so the photos and details are what you would expect from a museum book.
Rather than a narrative structure, the book outlines the beginning of organized soccer and then moves into discussions of each World Cup through 2014.
Each World Cup chapter begins with a brief history of why the host city was chosen then moves into facts and figures about the tournament. Then comes the meat of the chapter – the most famous or noteworthy matches have a few paragraph write-ups accompanied by photos from the match and quotes from the participants.
In the later World Cups, when there were more group stage matches, some of the matches were skipped over with the score mentioned but essentially the round of 16 forward has a write-up in every World Cup. Sprinkled throughout are pictures of museum pieces and bios of important participants in that World Cup.
Besides myself and the author, no one will read this book cover to cover, and that is fine.
It is a perfect book to sit out and use as a reference for a discussion or learn more. For example, if during Sweden’s group stage match this year the commentators reference the 1974 Sweden team, you can quickly look up the background of that club and see some facts and pictures about the tournament.
If you are a national team fan, this is also a fun way to relive your nation’s highs and lows; as a U.S. fan, the book certainly spotlighted the 1950 victory over England as well as some recent lowlights.
What this book isn’t is an unbiased analysis of each World Cup.
While it does not shy away from using the political backdrop to set the stage for each World Cup (think Italy under Mussolini or even Brazil’s protests in 2014), the controversies in FIFA are less pronounced. In a more unbiased book you would have more analysis of why FIFA chose some sites in a, shall we say, frank way but this book does not let any whiff of impropriety through.
The more famous refereeing controversies (Maradona’s Hand of God, for example) make an appearance but oddly the Nigel de Jong cleat in 2010 is glossed over as just another questionable call.
This book, like many coffee books, is not inexpensive. But if you are looking for a nice gift for a soccer fan that needs a prestige piece for their bookshelf (Father’s Day is coming up in the States), this would make a good choice.
Please note its availability in the U.S. is much more limited, so be prepared to see pricing in Euros or British Pounds.
The Official History of the FIFA World Cup
Author: FIFA World Football Museum, Gianni Infantino (forward)
Publication Date: April 3, 2018