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on July 30, 2015
It's been quite some time since I was moved to write a review. This book, a suggestion by a stranger upon hearing that I wanted to learn more about soccer, and Italian soccer in particular suggested this book. I'm not going to go into the story or background because many reviewers do that well and I want some things to remain a surprise. This is s story about that is about soccer yes and Italy. It is even more about the heart and soul of athletes. It is about human nature, ups and downs, savage disappointments, triumphs unimaginable, twists and turns unforeseen, laughs, and finding a place in the world. It is also about balances and soft voices...

I was so sad to read that Joe McGinnis had passed away in 2014. I so wanted to write him a thank you note for teaching me about joy and perspective and soccer. And affirming my love for the complexities of Italy. And this book above all. I refuse to lend to any one because I ways want it near to look at. Selfish? Maybe. In the end, I can't stop thinking of it.

It's all like a movie, Joe.
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on April 11, 2014
This was fun, if you're a fan of soccer/football or you love Italy. Many good stories and characters. Best to learn the author's Italian as he learns it. Once he mentions a word he will use it again and expect you to remember. That's ok. But the author, to me, seemed rude and intrusive in the world and situation he was experiencing. He came across, at times, as the typical ugly American.
But he was a good writer and he truly immerses himself in his subjects. (I've read a couple of his other books). But is you don't care for soccer this one might be either a puzzle to you, or just plain irritating.
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on April 16, 2017
If you want to read a book about a pompous American in Italy, this book's for you.
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on December 12, 2013
I have not read anything else by Joe McGinnis, and stumbled acrosse this book while researching my maternal grandfather's birthplace of Chieti, Italy. Since I wanted to read something about life in Abruzzo, and I do like soccer, I took a chance. I was pleasently surprised and enjoyed this book very much. The style reminded me of the works of Paul Theroux and William Least Heat Moon - a travel adventure in which the author is a character in the story, leavened with McGinnis's entertaining sense of humor .
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on August 27, 1999
What a deliciously captivating idea! An American moves to Italy to follow and hopefully befriend a soccer team through its full upstart season. Mr. McGinniss enthusiastically begins with all the innocence and excitement one would hope, and the reader is quickly immersed in the author's exhilaration and joy as the book unfolds. Unfortunately as Mr. McGinniss' envelopment in the team and town of Castel di Sangro deepens, so does his acrimony and contention. One can appreciate that what he is trying to convey to the readers is his own gradual emotional transformation here, as he becomes increasingly disillusioned with the apparent dirt behind this magnificent team and its "miracle." What Mr. McGinniss ends up doing however is gradually imposing his own opinions and judgements both on the people in this fine town and in the end on the poor reader himself. As he gradually alienates himself from players, manager and owner, so too does he gradually alienate himself from the readers. In the end Mr. McGinniss can only see Italy and it's complex culture of "football" through the eyes of an ugly, vindictive American, and one is left only with distaste for the author. Nevertheless this bittersweet journey of Mr. McGinniss has many warm, evocative and beautifully insightful moments and at times can be marvelously enjoyable
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on November 29, 2003
Inside there is a great story of uncelebrated heroes, and villians, behind what might be considered the more mundane situation -- that a soccer team from a small village manages promotion to a B league with the season-long goal of surviving. Along the way, there are many great details of the local players, supporters, life within Serie B soccer, and the fabric of society in a small, working-class Italian hillside town. Set on this smaller stage, the story has it all -- life, death, compassion, greed, character, and corruption -- woven together with many amusing and curious subtexts and insights about a "strainero" trying to fit in to a whole other culture and language.
The story is a great success at real-life drama. The only unfortunate part is that the story slowly unravels how much the author completely blew a real opportunity to fit in more and delve deeper beneath the surface of his adopted society -- opting more and more to impose his own self-righteous mindset and judgement on matters (he was as much a "bulldozer" as he accused the soccer team's manager of being) rather than taking a step back to learn more about the inner workings of another culture. This isn't ethnocentrism or even an example of American arrogance -- the author simply self-destructed at his mission to respect, observe, and ask in order to learn and report.
Even so, the book is a great success in spite of the author's mistakes. He gained access to a remote, close-knit community amidst the throes of of several major events -- also capturing moments of great humor. The author's detailed accounting of his conversations and experiences there makes it a fascinating story in its own right.
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on May 20, 2007
During the sixties Joe Mc Ginniss wrote about presidential campaigns and the selling of the president. He made a marvellous and unexpected comeback in 1999 with his The Miracle of Castel di Sangro. You will never regret buying this wonderful book about soccer in an isolated moutain region in Italy. Joe Mc Ginniss spends the season with this astonishing soccer team. In fact he depicts soccer as one of the pillars of communal life in this very peculiar village- like setting. But it is not an innocent setting. Innocence is definitely lost in this part of the continent and Mc Ginniss produces remarkable characters. The owner, Signor Rezza, straight out of the Sopranos, the coach Osvaldo Jaconi, "to argue with him is like throwing pebbles at a bulldozer" and the name of the team's principal sponsor, Soviet Jeans. Multiple plotlines develop in the story. The most exciting one is in the end when Castel di Sangro Calcio ultimately secures its position in the B series. The last needless game there is a smell of corruption when Castel di Sangro Calcio is defeated by 3 to 1 by Bari that thereby gains promotion. This stinking smell of corruption delivers an unhappy ending for Joe Mc Ginniss but the story is wonderful.
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on March 26, 2010
When our book group chose this book, I was totally prepared not to like it. To my surprise, I very much enjoyed the book. The writing style is entertaining while being informative. McGinnis explains the world of European soccer so even a complete novice can understand it. His descriptions of the people are terrific and bring the story alive. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story whether you are a sports fan or not.
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on January 22, 2016
My dad grew up in Castel di Sangro. He immigrated to America when he was 19.
I enjoyed the book immensely.
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on March 23, 2014
I run AO PDX Soccer Book club, and we chose this book because of its inspiring tale of a small town team making it to the upper echelon of Serie B. It is a great read that deals alot with player management, ownership issues, and inspiration.
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