By Larry Randall
Hollywood Library library assistant
Let’s face it, this is a soccer town.
In 1975, the North American Soccer League debutant Timbers earned Portland the name “Soccer City USA.”
The intervening decades have seen soccer grow and establish deep roots in this city, with burgeoning youth soccer, thriving adult leagues, multiple indoor and futsal venues, and the rise of strong collegiate programs at the University of Portland, Concordia and Warner Pacific.
Other cities have made claims on the “Soccer City” name, but the Thorns’ championship in 2013 and last year’s Timbers’ Major League Soccer title have surely clinched it for Portland.
Not convinced? Remember how World Cup matches televised here in outdoor venues drew thousands of people? And consider that the Thorns lead National Women’s Soccer League attendance by far – more than double their closest competition. And the Timbers sell out every match. And – ok, I think we can say, “case closed.”
Along with Portland’s passion for soccer (and beer, I might add, though that’s another article entirely), we’re also a literate city with a passion for good books.
Enter Multnomah County Library, where we’ve been flooded with soccer-related titles in the last few years: biographies of Sir Alex Ferguson, Tim Howard, Hope Solo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to name a few—plus a slew of other books on tactics, World Cup history, and the economics/politics/sociology/psychology of the sport.
Listed below are a number of titles to explore; most are print, some are ebooks and some are available as both print and ebook.
First, for the local fan:
Cup Bound & Crowned by the writers at Prost Amerika [Forthcoming, may be in our catalog by the time this article is published.] This collection of writings about the Timbers’ championship season promises to be hugely popular.
The 1975 Portland Timbers: the Birth of Soccer City USA by Michael Orr. If you weren’t here in Portland 40 years ago to see it yourself, you’ll come away from this book knowing how the seeds for soccer were planted in Portland.
Green & Golden: Portland Timbers’ Historic March to the MLS Cup by Jamie Goldberg et. al. Has the warm glow from the victory in Columbus faded? Get it back by revisiting the 2015 season.
Cascadia Clash: Sounders vs Timbers by Geoffrey Arnold. An in-depth look at the intense rivalry between Portland and that other city, what’s it called? … up north of us … Anyway, it needs an update after … ahem! … Portland claimed the first championship for Cascadia (in the MLS era, that is. the Vancouver Whitecaps won an NASL title in 1979).
The Boys from Little Mexico: A Season Chasing the American Dream by Steve Wilson. A compelling book about the Woodburn, Oregon, boys high school team.
Next, widening our scope, these writers use soccer as a lens through which to view people, places and events. They illustrate not only the global reach of soccer but the ways in which it is entwined with the lives of individuals, cultures and nations.
Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano. The Uruguayan writer Galeano, who died last year, left us with this widely acclaimed lyrical history that brings soccer to life from the sublime to the sordid.
Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss. The author followed the team from this small Italian town for a season and the result is what the Los Angeles Times called a “sad, funny, desolating, and inspiring story – everything, in fact, a story should be.”
Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty-five Countries, and the Quest for Pick-up Soccer by Gwendolyn Oxenham. Oxenham, with her boyfriend, two friends and video cameras, traveled the world playing pickup soccer. The result was the great film Pelada (available on DVD through the library) and now this chronicle of their journey.
Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. When first published in 1992, this classic fan memoir may have gone over the heads of a large number of readers in this country. But the book’s appeal to American fans has grown alongside the sport’s popularity here. Even if you hate Arsenal, you’ll see yourself in Hornby’s attachment to his team and the game.
Ajax, the Dutch, the War: The Strange Tale of Soccer During Europe’s Darkest Hour by Simon Kuper. Soccer plays a central role in this story of wartime Holland – or maybe it’s the other way around. A fascinating book from one of the authors of Soccernomics.
Rock ‘n’ roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League by Ian Plenderleith. I have to admit, in the late 70s and early 80s I was more into watching soccer made in Germany than the NASL. But this thoroughly enjoyable history makes the case for the league’s positive contributions to soccer, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Finally, these are on my “to read” list:
Why American Soccer Isn’t There Yet by Shane Stay (ebook only), A Beautiful Game: International Perspectives on Women’s Football by Jean Williams, Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World by Raphael Honigstein (ebook only), Money and Soccer: A Soccernomics Guide by Stefan Szymanski, More Than Just a Game: Soccer vs. Apartheid by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close.
If you read any of these, stop in to Hollywood Library sometime and let me know what you think!