There are four primary colours. Red, green, blue and football. And Doyle colours the whole world football. The paintbrush his heart. I cannot remember a book that made me so happy of late. A joyous, funny, warm and informative caravanserai through two World Cups and two Euros; deliciously larded with biting satire and sometimes spiked with heartbreak.
A travelogue and commentary interspersed with rich reportage and some behind the scenes nuggets and mostly beautiful people – some on the tops of lampposts and others holding forth over the drinks counter in railway cars; all amidst the din made by a woman on a balcony hammering away on pots and pans in celebration. Christine, the street-sleepers. Trevor and Jack (and Julie) on the train. Then back home in Toronto on Niagara Street where boys play football with sweater pile goals as snowflakes freeze. The evocative tiny paragraph of an entirely unforeseen memorial for the Hillsborough Disaster which took me entirely unawares. Short flash backs on Toronto street cars. Sedate Portuguese men watching football in Toronto bars. The common touch. Most of all for me Doyle’s accounting of Zidane’s moments of fury in Berlin; a personal catharsis and a straight line from me and my TV screen under smoke-stack towers in the Berlin Olympiastadion to a kind of justice in an unjust world. Yup. I remember where I was. I could go on.
I have not had such fun reading a travelogue since perhaps reading From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet by Vikram Seth in another place and another time. But this was more personal because of football and it is from Toronto and also from somewhere else like many of us here given Doyle’s close ties to Ireland. That constant need to bridge the gulf between the here and the there. The book for some hours filled up that chasm us outsiders carry around as we trudge around this City dragging around fragile roots.
If you have even a passing fancy for football and a generous heart; an absolute must read. Doyle opens up a whole world that we never see on TV. I await the sequel for 2010 and 2014 World Cups and the Euros in between. If ever I run into the author on the streetcar guess that will be my first question. Where is the clock that Maria gave you in Porto? And that is kinda how I feel; a bit like Maria with her plastic bag and present. Thank you.
And to Brazil 2014 – Tenho saudades de você.
Renuka Mendis – From July 25, 2014.
Photo by Renuka Mendis. World Cup 2010 and daisies on Yarmouth Road, Toronto.