Book Review: Asia’s World Cup Story by Aidan Williams
As it currently stands, this should be called Asia’s World Cup Factbook as it is, in truth, a work still in progress. In order for it to become a ‘story’, it has to have a narrative with plot, setting and character. Aidan Williams has done a great deal of research and he gives a list of his main sources but it is not enough just to copy and paste all the information because the whole thing lacks an overriding argument that gives it a heart. Consequently, the reader (or reviewer) stumbles from one huge swathe of statistics to another. The nearest we come to being invited to engage with the humans involved is in his account of the North Koreans’ surprisingly successful progress in 1966. Therefore one presumes much credit must go for this to Tom Dunmore for his 2009 book North Korea’s Fairytale in the 1966 World Cup.
This all highlights the problem with self-publishing an e-book and Smashwords.com are seemingly happy to collaborate with him but there is not the quality control that a publishing house and editorial process should offer. The writer should not be totally disheartened, however, as there is undoubtedly something interesting about the fitful rise of Asian countries on the world stage. It is what FIFA would like to see, particularly as there has been such a surge of interest throughout Asia in the leading European club sides. It is also what he tantalisingly alludes to in his Preface, which it is worth quoting at some length for what he claims he is going to tell about but never does –
“Asia’s World Cup story is a tale of withdrawals, under-representation and political arguments. A tale of recurrent lows and unforgettable, if infrequent, highs. A continent that was for years mocked for its footballing incompetence on the rare occasions an Asian nation was allowed to take part in the World Cup. A continent that was effectively excluded from the World Cup for several years by an insular world governing body, and the superiority of the established world footballing order.
This is the never dull, often controversial tale of the geographically flexible Asian zone nations’ travails in the FIFA World Cup.”
The rest of the Preface continues in a similar manner and then the reader turns to the ‘story’, only the writer has become overwhelmed by the sheer number of facts he is trying to fit in and the promise is never fulfilled. A final puzzlement is the timing of the book, e-published in 2014 but missing Asia’s contribution to the most recent World Cup in Brazil so automatically out-of-date. The sense of anti-climax is added to by the fact that there has been little of real note from an Asian perspective since 2002 when Korea and Japan were co-hosts.
Already time for a through revision? Having done the spadework, now the real craft of an author should begin.