Book Review: The Very Best of Pitch Invasion
The Very Best of Pitch Invasion edited by Tom Dunmore
Published by Pitch Invasion Press
December 2011, $5.99
Recent weeks have seemed pivotal ones for the football blogosphere. Three prominent general blogs, Les Rosbifs, European Football Weekends and The Equaliser have all decided to call it a day while pioneering club websites Viva Rovers and Boy from Brazil have also stepped aside; the circumstances behind the latter events having been chronicled in these pages.
Nonetheless, recognition of initially unheralded writers has grown. Bloggers have appeared on BBC Radio (Snap Kaka Pop, Chris Nee of The Stiles Council), have started to make money out of what they do (Surreal Football, Paul Tomkins), have been published by prestigious publications like The Blizzard (Swiss Ramble, Zonal Marking) and been invited to be part of the Guardian Sports Network (The 72 Football, Cahiers du Sport).
Further evidence of this upping in profile has been the emergence of book projects. We reviewed Elliott Turner’s excellent An Illustrated Guide to Soccer and Spanish at the back end of last year and there now follows The Very Best of Pitch Invasion, a collection of some of the best writing from one of the trailblazers.
Both Turner’s Futfanatico and Pitch Invasion are American based concerns, although the head honcho of the latter, Tom Dunmore, hails originally from the UK. His site has been extremely influential in shaping the mood of the soccer blogosphere – carrying on the torch that started with When Saturday Comes and the fanzine movement and providing a distinct take on the sport – one fuelled by social responsibility and open mindedness.
The collection in question provides one with a good chance to take stock after half a decade or so. Very classily produced, the book is organised into sections and this works remarkably well – providing a flow through over-arching themes that football faces – fandom, history, culture, life and activism.
Dunmore has not been afraid of grouping together several articles on one topic where there is an important narrative to enjoy – and sometime TTU contributor Gary Andrews provides us with a masterly quartet of pieces on the Supporters Trust movement. Another sequence sees Mike Innes chart the recent history of J League outfit Omiya Ardija, a club that along with new MLS franchise Portland Timbers looms large in this volume as an example of a community driven, grassroots-based fan base interested in a sustainable future – indeed, Dunmore’s own Brighton and Hove Albion might just be the closest we have in the UK to this model.
There are many highlights including a piece by Dave Boyle on what needs to change about non-league football, a profile of African football’s founding father Ydnekatchew Tessema from Dunmore himself, a lovely survey of football books from Alex Usher and Andrew Guest’s tale of trying to survive as a footballer in Malawi.
In many ways, the book resembles a single issue of the aforementioned Blizzard and the tone is often similar. It’s more off the wall though – the latter is mainly populated with established journalists of course whereas the denizens of Dunmore’s volume largely have day jobs like you or I. Available as an eBook and in print from Pitch Invasion Press, it’s a must read for the thinking football fan.