With the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicking off later this week, it's time for World Cup books to make their debut as well. I managed to pick up a good one in James Montague's Thirty One Nil, which sees the journalist visit World Cup qualifiers contested by minnows around the World; the nations with little hope of qualifying for the finals. The title comes from a 31-0 loss by American Samoa to Australia in a 2001 World Cup qualifier, matches these small nations objectively go into knowing they're going to lose but with pride in even getting to that stage.
Montague's two previous efforts were subtitled Football in the War Zone and Football, War and Revolution in the Middle East, so it's clear he knows his way around the sport in developing nations. The narrative starts in Palestine as they play a home and home series with Afghanistan before moving to Haiti moving refugees out of the national stadium to host a post-earthquake qualifier.
These small nations have to find ways to satisfy FIFA's requests for five-star hotels and press access and also ways to field competitive teams. There aren't many nations continuing to rely on amateurs, nations with diasporas like Palestine and Haiti find the children and grandchildren of great population shifts now playing in Europe and the US putting together teams with few common languages.
Makeshift though they may be, the teams get mixed up in the local politics of the countries they represent. There's controversy over Afghan players getting Israel stamps on their passports when Afghanistan doesn't recognize Israel's existence. The embattled Haitian president uses their upcoming World Cup qualifier to inspire nationalism in a country where citizens are still looking for the aid that will see them recover from the devastating earthquake.
Montague travels to six continents and twenty-five countries over a three year qualifying period to give the reader a look into the teams that didn't qualify for the finals. This was a time of political revolution in Egypt and protest in Brazil. He gets shot at, tear gassed, beaten, and even deported from Russia.
For more info you can go here, http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/superpage/thirty-one-nil-by-james-montague/.