A Bible for soccer lovers
M.S. Unnikrishnan

Almanack of World Football 2007
by Guy Oliver Headline London. £ 12.

Most visible face of soccer: David Beckham remains in news both for his game as well as his style quotient
Most visible face of soccer: David Beckham remains in news both for his game as well as his style quotient

THE World Cup Football Championship for the Jules Rimet Trophy offers such a wide and panoramic canvas that it provides fodder for many a book, though the Almanac of World Football 2007 beats them all, for the sheer volume of information it carries.

This "definitive guide", being the "official licensed publication of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association)," features not only all the facts and figures from the 2006 FIFA World Cup held in Germany, but also an indepth directory of all the 207 associations within FIFA, including a chapter on Indian football. There is also a review of the events held last year, coming events, details of international matches, national league and cup competitions, women’s and youth tournaments, plus FIFA-Coca-Cola rankings, past champions and cup winners.

In its second year of publication, the Almanac is indeed the definitive guide to the global game, as it details "everything you could conceivably want to know about football", though there is a notable omission in the Indian chapter.

Author Guy Oliver has collated loads of information from around the world so meticulously that the history of the game, a lot of little-known football nuggets and lots of statistics, have been coalesced finely to make it a seamless whole. This 1056-page tome is a precious one for football lovers. Headline Publishing Group of London, which brought out another well-researched book on football—Sky Sports Football Year Book 2006-2007, though the book was mainly Europe and Britain centric—are also the publishers of the Almanac though this time, the job is on a much larger scale, with a definitive touch to it, having the sanction of FIFA.

Almanack of World Football 2007 However, in the chapter on Indian football, on page 461, the author has erroneously noted that Bob Houghton of England, who was appointed the chief coach of the national team by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) last year, "as only the second foreign coach of the Indian national team after Cypriot Stephen Constantine (also of Engalnd)".

In fact, at least half-a-dozen foreign coaches had been engaged by the AIFF and the Government to coach the national team in the past, the prominent among them being Harry Wright of England, Dietmar Pfiefer of erstwhile East Germany (who coached the Indian team for the 1982 Asian Games), Bob Bootland of England, Milovan Ciric of the erstwhile Yugoslavia (the best among the lot), Jery Pesak of the Czech Republic and Rustam Akramov of Russia. (Post-1982 Asiad in New Delhi, the Union Government, as a matter of policy, brought in foreign coaches for all the major sports disciplines at its cost, and football was a major beneficiary of the services of imported coaches). But this is a minor aberration in an almanac otherwise full of rich and varied information.

Perhaps not many football lovers are aware, after reading about the present plight of Indian football, that India were the Asian Games champions in 1951 and 1962, as well as the South Asian Federation Games champions thrice and South Asian Football Federation Federation Cup champions once. At the first-ever FIFA Congress in Africa, held in Marrakech in September 2005, Comoros and Timor-Leste were elected as the 206th and 207th members of FIFA. When the FIFA was founded in 1904, it reserved the right to organise a world championship for its members though the plan was actualised only after a quarter century later at the Barcelona Congress of 1929 when a resolution was passed paving the way for the first tournament to be held the following year in Uruguay.

One also learns that the reason the World Cup was such a long time in coming was due to the huge appeal of the football tournament in the Olympic Games, the winners of which were regarded as the World Champions; that 13 teams entered for the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930 for the Jules Rimet Trophy, named after the then FIFA president. Now over 200 teams compete for the World Cup; that only seven nations and 274 players have won the World Cup till now.