Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2002
Brilliant Orange is more than just a history of Dutch football. It cleverly links the Dutch idea of football to art, architecture, culture, politics and philosophy. The book uses interviews with top Dutch footballers such as Ruud Krol, Johnny Rep and Dennis Bergkamp to provide a fascinating insight into a unique culture in which football plays an integral part. The chapters describing 'Total Football' during the 1970's are particularly interesting however the book can become a little tedious when it wanders from the topic of football.
I enjoyed this book a lot because it is original, unconventional and informative. It is easy to read and provides a useful introduction for anybody wanting to learn about this most intriguing of footballing nations. The book will interest people who are interested in the ideas behind football rather than a simple narrative history of football in Holland.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2004
I would rate this book somewhere between 3 and 4 stars - it's almost one of those oddball classics. Judging by the title, I expected more insight into the strategy of Total Football or the Dutch soccer-playing style in general, an analytical explanation of why it works. Time and space are mentioned in general; perhaps it was foolish of me but I really did hope for a detailed spatial analysis.
Part of the problem is that David Winner at times does too much telling rather than showing. One of the earlier reviewers remarked that access to video footage would be helpful. I agree, especially when Winner just keeps telling the reader how brilliant and beautiful the Dutch playing style is without much description beyond those mere adjectives. On the other hand, there are sections where the description is quite vivid, like that of the Cruyff turn. But it still falls a bit short. This book would work much much better as a documentary. Or at least there could have been greater and better use of pictures and illustrations.
Another problem on the strategy front is when Winner tries to stretch certain ideas to the absolute limit. At one point he concludes that a player's ability to curl the ball on a free kick made the defensive wall useless in such a situation. Winner fails to notice that if the wall wasn't there, someone else would blast the ball straigth through to goal. When you're forced to pick your poison with let's say Real Madrid, surely you'd rather let Beckham curl it rather than give Roberto Carlos a direct shot. A few of Winner's exasperating conclusions almost made me give up on the book.
Luckily, for the most part, I continued reading. Despite my disappointments, the book does provide fascinating observations on Dutch history, culture, people, architecture, etc. and how they all relate to soccer. One of my favorite chapters was the one about Ajax and its Jewish links; I wish I knew about this when I was traveling in Amsterdam. Sometimes, though, the material gets a bit too academic, more in terms of writing style than analytical rigor - I could really do without the commentary from Uri Geller, puh-leez.
Overall, if you're a serious fan of soccer, this book's worth a read, in part because (aside from instructional material) there's very little of quality out there on this sport. I guess I've been spoiled by all the good baseball literature.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2002
Unapologetically obsessive examination of both the Dutch national team, and the club team Ajax Amsterdam, from the origins of totaalvoetbal in the late '60s until Euro 2000. The author is David Winner, a Brit who lives in Amsterdam part-time. Winner attempts to uncover what he sees as a Dutch nation plagued by self-perpetuating pathologies related to WW2 and the Germans, democracy and its problems with committee decisions, space and the Dutch genius for creating it, and an unwillingness toward self-examination.
In a nutshell, the author suggests that Dutch society is reflected in its soccer. There are some ridiculously extraneous ideas here, such as (what I consider) filler material regarding the color orange, the seeming Dutch inability to win penalty kick shootouts, and the Jewish war experience in the Netherlands. However, the book really shines in Winner's many interviews with ex-players and managers. There are lots of great (and some contradictory) anecdotes about Cruyff, Van Basten, Rep, Rensenbrink, Keizer, Van der Gaal, and to a lesser extent Krol, Gullitt, Kluivert, and Bergkamp.
I would recommend this book only to those who are obsessed (at least mildly) with both soccer and Holland. Both worthy topics. The joy of the book is in its anecdotal fun, however; don't expect thesis material here.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2010
First a list of all the things this book is not about

This won't give you all the records and statistics of Dutch football.

Doesn't have a chronological history of the game in the country. Doesn't talk in detail about all their great players, great matches or great clubs. To sum it up, this book isn't the best preparatory material for a quiz on Dutch football. You might even end up in last place.

In that sense, it is quite unlike most of the books written about a country or a club's football history and culture. In fact, the writer often goes on for pages without even talking about football, forget Dutch football. And yet, it is in my humble opinion ( as well as that of most people who write reviews on Amazon.com and [...]) quite easily the best book on Dutch football.

Because David Winner's book deals with something much more profound and goes much deeper in its investigation.

It talks about the mental makeup of the Dutch nation - why they are what they are?

It does a very good job of explaining a lot of other Dutch peculiarities - and I use that word because the Dutch are the antithesis of a conformist regular normal world. And in doing so it answers the questions about Dutch football. Why and how the Dutch came up with Total Football? Why the Dutch lose all the important matches? Why the players always get into fights? Why it is wrong to call the Netherlands the Brazil of Europe? The Dutch concept of nationalism and patriotism? And the Dutch definition of a good footballer?

If Dutch football was a living person then this book makes it very clear that the head is the most important organ; more valuable than the feet. And then it does what Freud would have tried to do - study the person's head.

And that ways, the book is very aptly named. And David Winner has written a book unlike any other.

Two of the fascinating concepts that this book deals with are individualism and space - and explains that both are as much a part of the national fabric as of their approach to football. Individualism is not the freedom to do whatever he feels like but to retain a strong sense of the self while still keeping the collective in mind. And space is to create space where there is none - something the country below sea level does on an ongoing basis.

A special mention must be made of a very fine introduction by Franklin Foer who makes a very interesting analogy that the richness of football is like a cultural Galapagos.

This book is like a fine meal. You need to eat slowly and savour every morsel. It might bore the casual fan as he looks to read about the feats of the all conquering Ajax side of the early seventies. The least he is expecting is a chapter on the three consecutive European triumphs. But all he gets is bits and pieces, here and there.

But if he can soldier on, he will have the pleasure of reading one of finest books written on football. He will see the Dutch in a new light and might just become an Oranje supporter for life (The Dutch have been one of my favourite teams but after this book, I got an Orange jersey to wear during the World Cup)

You will not win the quiz but you will surely win the paper writing competition on Dutch football.

Rating - Five out of Five all the way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2010
I had a few friends recommend this book years back and found it to not only meet their rave reviews, but even exceeded them. The book does a great job weaving depth in understanding Dutch football (soccer) and a broad and deep understanding of many facets of Dutch culture. Many authors try to weave one or two patterns they perceive in to a deeper understanding, but this book pulls many together and can even be read from a design or architecture perspective that is an introduction to Dutch football, or from a social science perspective.

It is now about time for a reread of this book, which is the sign of a favorite book for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2010
This book is a Chronicle. The Orange Chronicles.

But such an interesting read it almost feels like a great work--an entertaining novel, but yes it really did happen.

The field is more than a 2-D surface, which is what it is to most TV viewers, if you never get to soccer games. Even to the most jaded soccer watcher, This book makes the field come alive in such a way that even a non-soccer appreciator could get hooked. It is just an all-around well written sports book, by a writer who really loves sports. I don;t like intellectualized sports books, but prefer a real fan's book or player's book, and WInner writes from the sidelines in an infectious way.

Ajax was usually the team I would love to hate, and I only got to see them once "live" as an opposing side, and yes I had to admit they were amazing (and beat my team : (, but little did I know that they actually started their revolutionary ways long before I was born, utilizing "the pitch" in such a way that the field became a small calculating place, without fatigue or confusion from their player switching. I don;t want to write too much and add any more spoliers than anyone else has written--since the book is like a strategist's dream...Every coach should read this.

I thought the title was strange, until I got halfway through the book and realized--yes the Dutch football developments in the 60s/70s were neurotic but Awesome in their results. Hurray for the little lowland country, home to some of the greatest soccerplayers ever.

I cannot think of a better book to read before or during the World CUp!

EEM
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2004
For its entertainment value, its creativity, its humor, and its depth of insight, this is perhaps the best book ever written on soccer. One should be familiar in general with Dutch football tactics and history to get the most out of it, but even if you aren't, it's still highly engaging.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2009
More than just a book about Dutch football, Brilliant Orange discusses all aspects of Dutch life, culture, and history and how it all relates to the football they play. From the war and the continuing rivalry with the Germans, to the Dutch reclamation of land from the sea and how it inspired the development of Total Football, this is a great read and a fascinating insight into the psyche of a truly unique nation.
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on July 4, 2012
Wow. I went from a book I wanted to read to find out about Dutch culture and football, and it turned into one of the best accounts of why the Dutch are the way they are and why they play football the way they do. My children play for an American select soccer program that is run by Dutch men that have in their pasts played for small and large Dutch teams. They are teaching my kids about the "Dutch way" but don't teach about why or how it was developed. I wanted to find out the history of it. This book helped me understand them AND it!

As I read each chapter (strangley numbered), each made a connection to the premise that something in the Dutch past and present can be a reflection of Dutch football. Some connections were better than others, like Chapter 14 (which comes before Chapter 13!) which talks about the importance of space on the soccer pitch and how it relates to the style of play. Winner does a great job of explaining Dutch architecture and its use of space. Chapter 13 is called "Football is not war" which goes into WW2 and it's role in how Dutch saw and currently see the world and its explanation of why the Dutch HATE the Germans. My first analogy would be how much Cleveland Browns fans HATE the Pittsburgh Steelers, but for the Dutch, Germany "tricked them," as one football commentator said in a match versus the German squad. Their hatred for Germany runs deep.

Chapter 16 "Here's Johnny" was a strange one in terms of style. It's written like a play. Not a bad chapter, in fact quite informative, but just odd.

Winner is great with letting his subjects speak and just for us to listen to their passion, anger, fun, knowledge, or oddity. I do believe that he started thinking about writing a book about football and it morphed into something more. He doesn't give much technical description of the style of Dutch play or of specific statistics on matches and such. But this book is a lot like a Dutch painting: Colorful and beautiful from afar, and as one get's closer, you see beauty and imperfections from paint stroke to paint stroke.

Imagine someone trying to write a book on the history of America and the NFL. Winner has captured this idea for Holland and the Orange Nation in soccer. But, since it's copyright date is 2001, it is dated. The paperback has some updates to it, but it's roughly 11 years in the past. Keep that in mind with the state of Europe today.

Why the strange numbering for the chapters? I believe it has to do with an important part of Dutch soccer history. A number was a position on the pitch. #3 would be a position that is taught from the pro level to youth. Every person would know that #3 has a certain job to perform on the pitch and certain space to cover. A 14 year old Dutch player playing say #8 and Ruud Gullit, one of the wonderful Dutch former players, would both know their job on the field. So, numbers are important, just not the ORDER of them.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon December 26, 2002
Make no mistake, this is a book about Dutch football-however, what makes it of at least passable interest to non-football fans is how Winner ranges into Dutch history, politics, art, architecture, and psychology in his attempt to explain why Dutch football is so different. In that sense, the book is quite a bit more "highbrow" than most. After starting with a brief history of Dutch soccer, Winner plunges full into the Dutch glory days of the late '60s to late '70s, when "total football" was king and Johan Cruyff was its master. The book's central idea is to try and suggest similarities between aspects of Dutch football and aspects of Dutch life, which when looked at together reveal something of the Dutch national character.
For example, one of these linkages is the shared timeframe for the birth of modern Dutch football and the progressive globalist nature of Holland, as exemplified by Amsterdam as we think of it now. Another is the lack of "killer instinct" or "win at all costs" mentalities (as evidenced by the national team's historical failure to win the big games), in favor or a more aesthetic mentality that values style or beauty over results. A third example is his discussion of the tension between society/team as a whole, and the individual/star. Winner splits his time between history and analysis (often very insightful), and interviews with former players, coaches, and non-football academic specialists and art critics. There are great tidbits here and there, such as a chapter about the Ajax club and why many of its supporters wave Israeli flags, which is intertwined with a capsule history of Dutch collaboration with Nazi occupiers and the Dutch collective memory of the war.
Lots of neat stuff here, but it's a little hard to get into without having access to video (or at least memories) of some of the pivotal games under discussion, such as the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals. Winner can explain the "total football" concept as eloquently as possible (which he does), but I think you have to see it to "get" it. And in that sense, the book is a little bit of a failure. Maybe one day it can be reissued with a companion DVD?
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