Book Review (Part 2): World in Motion – The Inside Story of Italia ‘90: The tournament that changed football by Simon Hart
Having finally got my hands on my second review copy (see Part 1) I was able to grasp why the driver or drivers of East Yorkshire Motor Services did not hand it back in. They are probably still reading it, all 373 pages. Having so many pages in a book can be a strength and/or a weakness. The title makes very big claims for both the ‘inside story’ and the World Cup tournament, Italia ’90, but the book itself dives too deeply into the small details, interviews and anecdotes, losing its focus on a regular basis. Many of the anecdotes are illuminating and entertaining, though, and that is where the book’s heart actually lies.
The Contents page is a useful guide not only to the contents (appropriately enough), but also to how the argument is structured. It is a chronological telling of the matches with copious interviews (more than 100 across several continents) and plenty of references to other books on the relevant sections, demonstrating Simon Hart’s journalistic pedigree. It is only on page 340 that he finally returns to the main point which is broached in the Introduction and then left pretty much hanging.
Nearly 30 years after Italia ‘90 the reader is promised a groundbreaking book which demonstrates how football was so significantly changed by that event. But it all slips, well, into the background as the book moves methodically and in great detail through its sections, explaining in Chapter 2, along the way, why the New Order song ‘World in Motion’ has been featured in the title.
On page 2 of the Introduction, however, the author had let slip what he is really writing about for all of the Publisher’s understandable desire to big it up and boost sales in time for this summer’s World Cup. He says, ‘The purpose of this book is to examine the impact of Italia ‘90 across the globe.’ Hart actually does this well and once you stop looking for something even more mighty – and what he attempts is mighty enough – it is full of interesting views and theories. Each chapter is a mini book in itself, so that the reader can weigh up how the tournament affected different nations and cultures. England reached the semi final, after all, and that has been the nation’s greatest success since 1966. However, Hart also deals with how much the Irish gained from that World Cup, and the Cameroonians, et al, plus how much it brassed off the Argentinians, fuelling their ever-simmering sense of persecution.
Roger Milla is interviewed face-to-face in Yaounde the capital of Cameroon. Sergio Goycochea, likewise, is interviewed 25 miles outside Buenos Aires. That’s dedication! And it is in such instances that the best of the book is to be found. Interviewing people by phone is certainly cheaper but is far less likely to gather real insights or such nuggets as when Sir Bobby Robson’s widow, Lady Elsie, and two of his sons are interviewed much nearer home. When Paul Robson reveals to the author that his dad got £10,000 for doing a cigar advert, a surprised Lady Elsie says, ‘Did He? He didn’t tell me!’
World in Motion? Money makes the World around.