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La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World Paperback – May 29, 2012
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There is so much people don't know about Spain and Spanish football, and that is not a bad thing for as long as a complete writer like Jimmy Burns has a look at it and bring his unique vision of it. La Roja fills a hole in the knowledge of both Spain and Spanish football, as it goes beyond the football to explain a country, a society and its transformation through, thanks and despite the beautiful game.” John Foot, author, Winning At All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian SoccerSpain is a place where football, politics, history and regional identity are impossible to separate. La Roja is a fascinating and path-breaking study of the role this game has player in Spanish society right from its origins until the present day. Much of this history took place in the shadow of fascism, and Franco is an ever-present figure for a large part of this book. But Burns also studies the role football played in the transition to democracy, and the rise of one of the greatest teams the world has ever seen: Pep Guardiola's Barcelona, as well as Spain's recent triumphs in international football. A must read for all fans of sophisticated football writing.”
Steeped in Spanish soccer and Spanish history all his life, Burns is the perfect person to write this book.”
Washington Post Book World
Barcelona Soccer Institute (blog)
[An] absorbing book .this book is a must read. It will make you appreciate the game even more than you do.”
The Soccer Room (blog)
Combining keen observations, informative research, and groundbreaking interviews with everyone from del Bosque to Kubala, Burns brings the dynamic history of Spanish soccer to life. La Roja is the inspiring journey of the circumstances and individuals who have shaped, nurtured, and created the superpower that the rest of the soccer world envies today.”
Wall Street Journal
La Roja shows in colorful detail how the traditions and loyalties of one country ended up by giving us the finest clubs and national team of the present moment.”
This richly textured book is a potted history of Spanish nationalism through football, and Burns was the perfect person to write it.” The EconomistBurns shows that there is far more to tell about Spanish football than today's success on the field.”
Belfast Telegraph (UK) [A] splendid book .La Roja is indeed much more than a journey through Spanish football. It is a story of pain, humiliation and ferocious regional rivalry.” Shelf AwarenessBurns relates nearly 150 years of Spanish soccer history, capturing its roots, the regionalism, the racism, the politics, the bullfighting connections and even a cultural reminiscence of Don Quixote. He portrays personalities, rivalries, strong emotionsincluding his ownand moments of shining success for a much-beset nation .La Roja is a window into Spain and its component cultures, regions and histories as well as a celebration of soccer and its most recent champions.” Simply Futbol (blog)
La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World by Jimmy Burns is the single, most comprehensive resource on the history of Spanish soccer .[Burns's] passion and enthusiasm shines through the retelling of history, great games and players, important coaches and administrators, the highs and lows of the Spanish game. Burns unearths some great history: players, teams, and matches that would have been forgotten without this book .If you want to truly know Spanish soccer, you have to buy this title. You will come to appreciate the Spanish game so much more after reading this .It is an incredible story told by one of the world's best experts on Spanish soccer. Simply put, La Roja is a must read!” Library Journal Xpress Reviews, starredBurns gives us a book that rivals the best in recent soccer writing .Highly recommended as among the best soccer books of 2012.” The Sunday Indian (India)Jimmy Burns' definitive account of Spanish football both on and off the field...comes as a whiff of fresh air .The level of research undertaken by the author is simply breathtaking.” Can-India (Canada)
The timing of this book is almost as perfect as the lethal pass from Xavi to Jordi Alba that led to the astounding second Spanish goal in the Euro 2012 final against Italy.” Roanoke TimesIf the soccer team La Roja is a successful Don Quixote fighting for the glory of Spain, then it is fortunate to have a Jimmy Burns to tell the story. His narrative style is as much a credit to Spanish culture as is that of Saavedra Cervantes.” Scotsman (Scotland)Ambitious and highly enjoyable .Burns tackles his subject with care and enthusiasm.” Globe and Mail (Canada)Jimmy Burns provides a fascinating look at the growing role of the game in Spain.” Irish Times[La Roja] is a wonderfully enjoyable read .It has indeed been quite a journey, and Burns is a most entertaining guide.” Goal, the New York Times Soccer blog[A] comprehensive, entertaining and informative book about the history of Spanish soccer.” Barcelona Football Blog
Jimmy Burns is amongst one of the best writers out there and in his latest book, La Roja, he leaves no doubt as well as no stone unturned .La Roja is not just a tremendous book to read. Jimmy Burns' latest book is an educational tool for fans of Spanish football and fans of the game in general. The information as well as the passion reflect how they live and breathe the Beautiful Game in that country.”
Carlos Briceno, Barcelona Soccer Institute (blog)[An] absorbing book this book is a must read. It will make you appreciate the game even more than you do . I imagine one of the ambitious tasks Burns set for himself when he started writing this book was to capture the soul of a nation, as seen through the prism of soccer. He has done that in an authoritative and entertaining way in this marvelous book. And for that we owe Burns a loud and enthusiastic Olé!'”
[Burns] pours his heart into the subject matter, providing an academic overview with poetic zeal and we are better for the experience of it .La Roja is an essential and easily readable chronicle of the history of the professional game in Spain.”
Burns takes readers on a journey from the sport's turn-of-the-century introduction by British miners in Spain's southern region to the 2010 World Cup triumph in Johannesburg. This is not, however, a book just about soccer. It's also about culture, politics and religion .Burns's work is as graceful and entertaining as Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, La Roja's modern-day geniuses.” Zeenews.com (India)[La Roja] takes us on a journey through some of the extraordinary characters, games, and moments that have defined Spanish football from the early days.” ESPN SoccernetLa Roja succeeds because it is a history lesson focused on more than names and dates .Without a doubt, La Roja is an essential contribution to the historiography of Spanish football.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review[Burns has] a fine eye for tragedy and irony both political and on the pitch. Spain's dominance is remarkable, especially because of the long odds that the country's history forced its players to overcome, and Burns rises to the challenge of telling this intertwined saga.” The Volunteer[A]n informative and entertaining history of Spanish soccer .Burns knows the Spanish soccer scene like the back of his hand.” 101 Great Goals[A] fantastic read.” International Soccer Network
La Roja shows itself to be well-researched and solidly put together .this is a very good book .This is not a book about Barcelona and it is not a book for the sycophantic looking to hear of their team praised on high. It is history: sometimes dry, often fascinating, and always looking to explain modern misconceptions.” The Independent (UK)[A] masterly exploration of Spanish football .a fascinating account .The richness of Spanish football's myth and history is at least the equal of Britain's, and Burns has done a tremendous job of setting it in the context of the country's wider history. If, on 1 July, Spain become the first team to retain the European Championship, there would be no better tribute to them than this fine book.” The Tablet (UK)
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Jimmy Burns has written an amenable yet substantive story about how Spain went from a bullfighting nation to kings of international football.
He goes way back to the 1880s and an English-owned mine in Huelva where the first games of football were played exclusively by Brits. The journalistic knitting continues as Basque teams assert primacy and then Argentines come to enliven the game with a quick passing style.
"La Roja" is about the places where such trends were born and the people who sowed them on Spanish soil.
Burns's chronicling of Barcelona F.C's role as an expression of Catalan culture and its rivalry with Real Madrid is deftly woven into discussion of the defeated Republic, the Monarchy, the Falange and, poignantly, the names of soccer players killed during the Spanish Civil War.
Noteworthy, too, is Burns's analysis of the Franco dictatorship's aggressive engagement with football as a tool to soothe tensions on the Iberian peninsula, as a propaganda weapon, and as diplomatic entry to worlds otherwise closed to the regime.
Burns suggests Franco made the Spanish national team a projection of homegrown fascism. A group possessing the "racial" qualities of true and pure Spaniards, and which brought to the playing field a particular "Spanish Fury." A sobriquet that stuck.
Like many people in Spain who had little time for the national selection over the years, Burns believes that the "The Spanish Fury" amounted to a whole lot of nothing, and that success in world-class tournaments would be elusive until a more modern and technical conception of Spanish soccer could be born.
Of course it happened. "La Roja" was released on the occasion of a repeat European Cup championship for the team of the same nickname. An unprecedented kind of success for such a national outfit.
Although his lead-up to the latest and most glorious chapter in Spanish soccer is first-rate, this reviewer did not find Burns very clear on why the ultimate transformation occurred.
Was it a special generation of players who learned how to transcend the rivalries carried over from the club level? Ditching Raul? Was it David Beckham's impact as a media and celebrity item on future Spanish stars? The Argentines?
Maybe it's in there, but in any case, "La Roja" remains an always engaging look at a sudden dynasty. Its author understands soccer as culture and an expression of collective identities without forgetting that it is still sport.
This book creates a beautiful narrative from when the English migrants brought the game to the Basque country, all the way to the moment of Iniesta's goal in South Africa.
If you want a detailed, rigid book about all of the facts of Spanish soccer and of all of the teams- this isn't for you. If you want a brief history of the Sport in Spain, trickled with some politics, relinquished memories of certain players in the history of La Liga- this book is perfect.
It was a blast to read.
There's more. It is impossible to explore Spanish Football without examining Francisco Franco and his impact on Spain's domestic and international teams. Franco was always accused as being the hidden "padron" behind the rise of Real Madrid. BURNS paints a mixed portrait of the Generalisimo. When Real dominated Europe Franco could be seen at their matches. When Franco took power he targeted FC Barcelona and the club suffered. But when it came to the Basque club Atletico Bilbao Franco's influence was minimal. It was on the International stage that France did the most damage to Spanish football. The dictator is a major part of LA ROJA, as are the changes that occurred in Spanish Life and Football following his death in 1976.
BURNS came from a mixed background. His father was Scottish, his mother Catalonian (from Barcelona). He spent much of his childhood in Barcelona, returning to London as an esteemed soccer writer. Among his other books are his definitive biography of Diego Maradona (THE HAND OF GOD) and his history of FC Barcelona (BARCA).
Read them all. His books are terrific.
But there is a sparseness of detail and a lack of insight (if you are relying on Ardal O'Hanlon as a source then you are in trouble) and all this really undermines the book. Still I read it and enjoyed parts of it but it didn't really tell me anything I didn't really know before. Fr Dougal Maguire might enjoy it.