Football by Jean-Philippe Toussaint euro 2016

Football by Jean-Philippe Toussaint

Belgium Non -Fiction

original title – Football

Translator – Shaun Whiteside

Source – Review copy

Jean Philippe Toussaint is a writer I had long wanted to get to his novels are well-known for a minimalist style , so when this collection of prose piece by him on football arrived from Fitzcarraldo editions I got a chance to tick off a writer I had wanted to get to for a while. He has written nine novels which have been translated into many languages and he has won a number of book prizes as well .This also ties in with my current set of Euro 2016 related books as it follows his life in recent years tracking the Belgium team.


In Brussels, in the playgrounds of primary school no. 9 , we used to play football at break time and the criterion used ro seprate the two teams was nopt little versus big or fair versus dark or year four versus year five, it was moral versus religion . At the start of the year, in this secular school on rue Americaine in Ixelles, you effectively had to choose between Moral and religion, according to whether you parents or we ourselves wanted to take catechism classes.

I love this way they choose the teams in my day it was against a wall and I was often near the end .

The book is a collection of short essays about his early life and football , things like playing with friends , getting a bad injury whilst a kid. what jersey he loves.I like the insight into shirts and teams we always think of certain teams and colours his examples are France in Blue, Brazil in Yellow and Germany in White.But what happens when they don’t where that shirt of course here in the England this was the case on our biggest game ever the 66 final where the team wore red shirts! Then he finally watches matches as an adult first in France 98 which strangely serves as a mid-point in the book and a tying to the end of the book as of course both involve the french player Zidane.Toussaints memories are tied to his team Belgium and their course through the cup which in this case was three draws . Then what follows is how he sees the team at the following world cups the next saw them make the 2nd round only to lose to Brazil.then the missing belgium team means a short piece on 2006. Then South Africa also a year without Belgium . The work is rounded off with an earlier piece he wrote on Zidane about the mad night 2006 when Zidane end his career getting sent off for the first time for headbutting an italian player in an act out-of-place for the great player and hero of the first year Toussaint talks about .

Night has fallen over Berlin now, the intensity if the light has faded and Zidane has suddenly felt the sky darkening over his shoulders, leaving nothing in the firmament but the flayed trails of blck and pink clouds. Water mixed with night is an old remorse that will not sleep

No one in the stadium has understood what just happened.

That moment in 2006 from the piece Zidane’s melancholy

Now I find hard not to like this book as Toussaint is a true football fan , the real shame for me is the book ends just as the story of his team and country is about to turn the book ends in 2010 , when in 2014 the belgium team makes it quarter-final and even this time have been maybe the best team or second best team at euro 2016 so far with their team of stars. So lets hope we get a football 2 with these years at some point Toussaints take on Hazzard, Fellani and so on. The Belgium team is packed with talent not seen since the days of Enzo Scifo the great Belgium player with the Italian name that caught the eye in the 80s world cups where they finished 4th in 86 and Scifo was one of the stars of that year.This is one of the best football books I have read. But for further reading on the Benelux football I would point you in the way of Brilliant Orange a book on the mad genius of Dutch football .




I haven’t ever thought about moving the blog forward more just blogged week to week and slowly the blog grew. I tried different things some worked others didn’t over time. But the blog has got to the stage and as a fellow blogger noted the other day about seven year which is the age of this blog I maybe need to start dangling a carrot and maybe neaten a few loose trails on the blog. When I started the blog I had no real idea of how to blog and over the years my knowledge has grown but I have also never gone back and neaten things off on the blog. So I started a page of Winston’s goals to try and reach some totals blog wise like reviewing 100 french books and 50 German books both of which i am fairly near too and could be reachable this year. How do you keep yourself going when you have been blogging for a long time. I not losing interest in the blog I just find it has maybe come an endless cycle of doing the same thing week in week out and maybe by setting goals I can change that some what . I also feel I have lost a little influence on twitter the last year or twonot sure if it is me being less involved or just twitter is different now than when I first joined it.I sometimes miss Translationthurs  and I started it, I need to try and be on there a bit more .


Welcome 2016 reading resolutions and Euro 2016



Well I’m back and for the first time ever I am going to resolve to do a few things over the coming year blog wise. The first is a vow to review every book I read, so in order to do this I may need to read fewer books than previous years. I have been reading about 130 books on average a year but only tend to get to review two-thirds of the books so I am aiming for 100 books and 100 reviews this year and given my effort to try to improve this bloggers review style I am currently dipping into CS Lewis and IA Richards books on reviewing  . I will also do the first man booker international shadow jury which I am looking forward to see how the combing of the two prizes will effect the quality of the long and shortlists this  coming year . I keep vowing to read more english books , but I tried and failed with a different blog. So a small-scale effort , I will be doing a second Henry Green week  later in the year four years after the original Henry Green week . As you see I have a new Kindle well Fire that Amanda got me for christmas and I am looking for those lost gems of translated fiction that I can find via my kindle. As for other targets i have singled out Russia, I am a jumper of countries unlike Tony I tend to want to jump around the world every year although I was a bit Latin american Light blog wise last year so I may need to find a few latin american books to read .The other big project I want to do is around European 2016 football books and football I did a big project early on in the blog around the world cup in 2010 a full four years before anyone else connected blogs and football. For me this combines my two biggest passions football and books, but as we know male readers under thirty are the least likely to read so I really want to get these posts out there for a vague hope of connection using more of the football side to get clicks on the posts well I hope at least.

henry green

I hope to bring more films and music as well this year . My end of year blog round-up post told me I had managed 207 posts last year which was more than I expected given I was poor blogger at various times last year. So much the same as ever just translation given the henry green week so much same as ever. I have read some great books over christmas so when I do my best of 2015 post tomorrow I am like a jack in the  box all wound up for 2016 ready to pop back up.So what are your plans for 2016 reading wise.

Euro 2016

Well I’m in the middle of watching England finish their qualifying for Euro 2016 and thinking about what I could do next year book related, like my world cup of writing post that I did five years ago for the 2010 world cup (I missed last times as the whole three percent thing was running and also there was so many countries that had so little available at hand it would been hard to have done something .So I fancy a swing at either a solo challenge or some sort of football/book related posts like I did in the world cup of writing post relating memories of writers and footballers together. A look through the qualified teams –



Czech republic



Northern Ireland












Then four more from the eight best third place teams which will be decided tonight .The list makes my eyes light up for a number of reasons, Romania,Poland are two countries I have great books on my shelves to read. Memories of football you can’t go pass Northern Ireland at the world cup in 1982 beating Spain the host nation to top the group,  Gerry Armstrong  pictured above  and those Billy Bingham boys or shocking  moments like Austria and Germany playing a deliberate  score a win to Germany that meant both countries qualified for the next round also from 1982.I’m sure I will get something fun and different together mix books and football again.

January 2020
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