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Forza Futbol

A Better Lens at Spanish Football

As mentioned during our podcast with the great man, Phil Ball has re-released Morbo, the History of Spanish Football in English. This is  a must read and must have Spanish encyclopedia for aficionados of Spanish Football or fans of the beautiful game who want some insight into what makes Spanish Football so special.

The book was originally published in 2001, updated in 2003 and now revised and updated in 2010.  Phil takes us on a socio-political journey from club to club and region to region.  Spain is a collection of provinces, very much a patch work quilt of cultures and languages.  Football mirrors this as each club is very different and unique as it relates to history, culture and even playing style. Particular emphasis is given by Phil Ball to the intense rivalries or the ‘morbo’ between clubs. He also highlights the conflict between the regional interests vs the national interests from the Spanish player perspective.  This conflict or juxtaposition is indicative in the new front and back covers of the book.  On the front, Carles Puyol raises the World Cup trophy for Spain, with the Catalan flag (Senyera) in the background.  On the back cover, Athletic Club’s Iker Muniain and David Lopez embrace after a goal, while the flag of the Basque country (Ikurriña), blows in the wind.

From the humble beginnings of the first La Liga club, Recreativo Huelva that was founded by British merchants and local railmen to the historical underpinnings of the greatest football rivalry ever, El Clásico, Phil Ball spins an insightful, in depth knowledge, awareness and sensitivity to each part of Spain, but best of all a neutral perspective.  Though a ‘guiri’ or foreign born, Phil Ball has been living in Spain for nearly 20 years. His love and passion for the game is evident and his storytelling is sublime.  He is a true insider to the Spanish football world.

Here is a small cut from the Phil Ball Interview pod  where he talks about the new edition of Morbo and what is new in it.

Here are a few excerpts from Morbo to give you a taste of this fantastic book:

‘One indisputable problem with Athletic is that they have traditionally been the richest team in the Basque Country and are therefore still blinded by the pretension that all the best players in the region should come unto them.’ (Chapter: The Quarrymen pg 79)

El Dream Team, as the Spanish press decided to call it, after the US basketball team which cruised through the Olympics tournament, was a rather worrying conceit for several reasons, chief among them the fact that its appearance in capital letters seemed to be suggesting that not only was it the best Barça team of all time, it was the best team ever to have emerged on planet Earth, full stop.’ (Chapter: Sunshine and Shadow pg 109)

‘But out on the pitch, Real Madrid and defeat make uneasy bedfellows.  There is a chant which began in the 1960′s and survives to this day, which alludes to this phenomenon:  Así, así, así gana el Madrid (That’s how Madrid always wins). It refers to the alleged tendency for Spanish referees to award Real rather too many penalties, especially at the Bernabéu.’  (Chapter: White Noise pg 121)

New to this edition is the success of the Spanish National team, with a chapter entitled ‘Dark Horses No More’, along with updates to each area to more current events.  Phil foretold of the emergence of Deportivo La Coruña and Valencia in his previous edition.  Depor is now plying their trade in the second division, while Valencia need to sell each year to reduce in-exorbitant debt and poor management decisions in their hey day of the early noughties.   More reason for an updated edition. Spanish football always keeps evolving.

For more on the wonderful Phil Ball, check out our recent podcast with the guru.


Elisa On October - 11 - 2011
  • Lynsey

    It’s a shame Phil didn’t wait until this summer to start writing the updated version. I suspect the clasico overkill would’ve made excellent material for the book!

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