Love & Blood Review
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Why is the world so obsessed with the World Cup? And how about all of those fanatical spectators? American journalist and avid soccer fan Jamie Trecker attempts to answer these questions in Love & Blood: At the World Cup with the Footballers, Fans, and Freaks, as he documents his assignment at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Trecker admits that the 2006 World Cup will be remembered as being one huge party, with fans from all over the world engaging in pseudo-nationalism and excessive drinking. (Unfortunately that excluded African fans, to which Germany refused to grant visas.) He also maintains that the World Cup doesn’t represent the best or most skilled soccer played. So why will more people watch the World Cup than celebrate Christmas?

“Soccer…is not a religion—it is something far, far more important,” he explains. When the home team plays, the streets are dead. Trecker maintains that the World Cup has the power to change the “fabric” of the countries where it is held. So how is the host country chosen? He weighs in on what he believes to be the motives and politics of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). This includes the choice of referees. And they aren’t free from criticism either, as he claims that the 2006 World Cup Finals will also be remember for numerous “bad calls.”

However, this event actually brings in money to the host cities, instead of bankrupting them like other sports do. Brothels and other businesses prosper. You’re sure to find souvenirs, such as World Cup sex toys and African fertility dolls representing famous footballers (that means soccer players for us Americans).

So why hasn’t this sport taken off in the United States? Trecker explains this also, along with noting its brief period of popularity in the mid 1970s and the subsequent decline. And by his reasoning, it doesn’t look like it will ever become popular here. And for you soccer moms, AYSO isn’t “real” soccer. According to Trecker, “everyone plays” is the antithesis of soccer’s competitive nature.

Trecker goes into too much detail on the individual World Cup matches. This is tedious, as he points out that the event is bigger than the game itself. However, I found his take on the historical and sociological aspects fascinating. He explains how the madness is a direct reflection of society and how it often serves as a means of venting frustration. I also enjoyed the stories of his experiences and observations off the field.

Still, the book’s title, Love & Blood: At the World Cup with the Footballers, Fans, and Freaks, is an exaggeration. I was hoping to learn more about the “Freaks” and perhaps some juicy details on the “Footballers.” However, American soccer fans will still find it to be an informative and fun read. Others, like me, will enjoy the events on the “sidelines.”

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