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Angels With Dirty Faces: The Footballing History of Argentina

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Jonathan Wilson, doyen of the new football writing, has written an impressive history of Argentinian football which I greatly enjoyed.

The result is a nuanced and deeply personal analysis that connects readers emotionally with the lives of people caught up within, and often destroyed by, our criminal justice system. Perhaps the defining theme of this book is that Argentina, invariably perceived as an El Dorado waiting to be discovered and exploited, has never lived up to that Utopian potential, thus engendering disillusionment and cynicism.Wilson has several excellent books which I guess sit on the shelves of those whose interest in the game expands beyond ranting about the latest poor result etc. In particular, he draws attention to ‘La Maquina’ (the machine), the River Plate side of the forties whose forward quintet combined to create one of the all-time great attacking teams, and who have perhaps not received their due as a result of falling between World Cups and pre-dating televised football. And perhaps that’s Argentina in a nutshell, a wonderful mix of chaos, highs and lows, perfectly reflected in its football.

As the title suggests, Argentinian football has often been characterised by the spirit of the ‘Pibe’, which is a picaresque attitude to life (exemplified by a certain player above all). Wilson looks at the different styles of Argentina’s modern professors: César Luis Menotti, Carlos Bilardo and Marcelo Bielsa. This book is a bracing, clear-eyed exploration of one of the most important issues of our time: the growing incarceration rate in the U. I picked this book up a few years ago and it has sat on my shelf unopened and that’s more a reflection on the time I’ve wasted flitting between news snippets on the internet which has compromised my ability to sit and concentrate on something not work-related or presented via a screen rather than anything about the book itself.Wilson describes the Argentine national character, which like many is built upon its own myths and legends and how this is manifested within the development of the national game. Against the constant rat‑tat‑tat of coups, counter-coups and assassinations, through the eras of Eva Perón’s descamisados and General Videla’s desaparecidos, football provided a sense of continuity, but it could not avoid being tainted by the violence and corruption of the society in which it grew. Although Wilson can be sometimes open to criticism that his columns in The Guardian are prone to over-thinking, they are always well-written and worth your time in reading them. But this is what happened in Argentina, and Jonathan Wilson did one heck of a good job in illustrating the ups and downs of the national team in each era alongside the context of the country’s environment.

Books which per force make reference to lots of different players can be heavy going, but here the emphasis on contrasts in style and philosophy get over that, especially the eternal debate - in various forms between -pragmatism and romanticism. It is also a biography of the legends such as Maradona and Messi, and the many great coaches such as Cesar Luis Menotti, Carlos Bilardo, and the ever eccentric and influential Marcello Bielsa. Ebooks fulfilled through Glose cannot be printed, downloaded as PDF, or read in other digital readers (like Kindle or Nook).Fully revised and updated, this new edition looks at the contrasting evolution of Argentinian football over the last ten years; from the chaos and violence of the abandoned 2018 Copa Libertadores final between River Plate and Boca Juniors to the revitalised national side under manager Lionel Scaloni, which triumphed at the 2019 Copa América and the 2022 World Cup.

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