11 June 2012

Book review: Tor!

Tor! The Story of German Football by Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger, revised 2002 edition

As I may have mentioned, I'm a fan of German football (soccer), so this book is right up my alley. It came recommended by many people, and what I've read of Hesse's writing (for places like ESPN Soccernet) I've enjoyed.

The books opens in Bern, on July 4, 1954, with a man named Fritz Walter. It is a fateful day for German football, the Miracle of Bern. The Germans have somehow made it to the finals of the World Cup and are facing a much stronger team.

He takes the reader from the birth of football in Germany (a slow process, stymied by the Prussian ideals of fitness and a preference for gymnastics) through both World Wars and their aftermaths, to the founding of the Bundesliga in 1963 (100 years after the English football association was founded, and a good 75 years after the first regional leagues were founded in Germany). He takes a brief side trip to the strange world of football in the GDR.

The book closes in Korea, in June 2002. Fritz Walter passed away four days prior. The Germans have somehow made it to the finals of the World Cup, where they will face Brazil (and lose 0:2, the only goals conceded by Olli Kahn in the tournament.) Miroslav Klose expresses his sadness at his friend and mentor's death and returns to training for the next match.

Hesse's writing is never dry, and occasionally self-deprecating. The chapters set during and after the Wars are poignant and highlight the pointlessness of the Great War. He doesn't gloss over the NSDAP years, where some clubs acted admirably; others less so.

If you're a fan of German football, this book belongs on your shelf. If you aren't, you may find it less interesting.

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