For unpicking what it is about Argentine football that appeals and appals in almost equal measure read Angels with Dirty Faces by Jonathan Wilson, one of those writers who writes about the familiar in the most unfamiliar of ways
'Ambitious . . . [Wilson] has a fine eye for detail and a solid grasp of the big picture. He writes confidently about the sport, including tactics and strategies, but also about social and political questions . . . A sprawling, vibrant book about soccer in Argentina, a country where the sport is every bit as important and reflective of the society as it is anywhere in the world'
'Wilson is a cerebral and knowledgeable sports journalist . . . and what he gives us in ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES is not just a history of the game in Argentina, but also an exhaustive account of all the cultural, social and political context in which moments such as the country's World Cup victories in 1978 and 1986 took place ... the extraordinary attention to detail will reward the dedicated reader as he serves up reams of entertaining titbits, involving one-handed strikers, buried chickens and plenty more, alongside serious consideration of the junta's reign of terror and other instances of Argentine discord'
This is a huge, magisterial study of Argentinian football and the culture and violence that informs it ... The country has lurched from one coup to the next, Juan Peron looms large in Wilson's story. He writes movingly about the dirty war that went on in the background to the country's World Cup triumph, and shares laugh-out-loud yarns from its 1986 World Cup victory
'Jonathan Wilson's INVERTING THE PYRAMID is easily the best game about soccer I've ever read, a treatise on tactics that's worth a hundred dismal 'autobiographies'. Now Wilson has turned his considerable powers to one country and its obsession with the game: ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES. It's a history of Argentina as reflected in the sport, and how life in Argentina has been reflected in the sport . . . This is the kind of book you don't see too often, an attempt to use a broad canvas and to include detail far beyond team sheets and scorelines . . . Conceiving of and writing a book like this is an achievement in and of itself'
The definitive history of Argentinian football
Immensely readable and wonderfully-researched history of a nation and its long-term love for the beautiful game
'From Alfredo Di Stefano to Lionel Messi, Argentine football get the Jonathan Wilson treatment in this exhaustive, illuminating history. HBO could make this into a series'
Immensely readable and wonderfully researched history of a nation and its long-term love for the beautiful game . . . after reading this excellent history, you'll be convinced that it won't be long before they add to their two World Cup titles
'Jonathan Wilson's enthralling and often disturbing history of Argentinian football . . . Wilson, one of the best of a new generation of football writers eager to to emphasise the bigger picture, untangles the social, economic and political narratives . . . He offers a nuanced examination of the extraordinary talents of Maradona and Lionel Messi, "the all-time great who never played at home". He deconstructs the Anglocentric interpretations of both 1966 and 1986 . . . Wilson's vignettes of former legends are well observed . . . The author is at his best when he is dissecting Argentinian football's idealised, aesthetically pleasing past, the psychodrama of its modern game, and its chequered football history'
'Wilson is one of soccer's most respected historians and anoraks and here he delivers the definitive history of the beautiful game in Argentina'
'In its expression of ruined promise, domestic football in Argentina has mirrored the country's social, financial and political life. Three of the greatest of all footballers (Alfredo Di Stefano, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi) inherited the fire, passion and trickery of their native game in Argentina and all went on to spend their best years in Europe. An inescapable sense of regret and decay pervades this thorough and evocative chronicle'
'Wilson, as you would expect from the author of several important books on football history and tactics, goes far deeper than the stereotype ... fine-grained and often original research . . . as a writer who knows and appreciates Argentina, he is prepared to take on the more demanding task of telling the story in parallel with that of the country's turbulent political and social evolution . . . densely detailed but absorbing book'
This enthralling socio-political account of a football-obsessed nation illuminates on many levels
'Epic in sweep ... a history of Argentinian football that is also a truly magnificent history of that country ... an unfailingly fascinating read'