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“All I know most surely about morality and obligation I owe to football”,

Albert Camus

The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Football

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Keir Radnedge, London, Carlton, 2018. ISBN 978-1-78739-186-4

In an age of Internet and unlimited digital information, how does a reference book justify its existence? In 272 pages (more or less A4 size), the Ultimate Encyclopedia of football has six main sections:

• History of the game

• Major international competitions

• Major multi-national club competitions

• Football nations

• Great players

• Famous clubs

I particularly enjoyed the history of the game which had narrative accounts of different periods but also picked out key incidents, year by year. Reading the first known laws of the game – there were just 11 – shows how complicated we have made the modern game!

The section on great clubs, of course, includes Manchester United and Real Madrid etc – information which can be found in a thousand books - but it also includes Al Ahly (Egypt), Esperance (Tunisia), Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa), TP Mazembe (DR Congo) and other African clubs as well as Asian, Central American clubs etc about which most of us know very little. This is a good example of the comprehensive approach of the book.

Every football book need something to disagree with! The author has chosen path his 10 great players plus around 200 other stars of world football. The Ms include Billy Meredith (born 1874) and Kylian Mbappé (born 1998). What, one might ask, would Meredith think of Mbappé’s lifestyle and salary and indeed how the game has changed since he started playing over 100 years ago? This section can entertain you for hours wondering how on earth the author can include A and omit B from this list of legends. Intriguingly the front cover design includes photographs of ten world class players but not the same ten that the author chooses as his featured ten greats.

The book includes a wealth of information but could also be subtitled “the encyclopedia of football trivia”. Anyone who runs quizzes will find 1000s of questions waiting to be asked. As with all Carlton books it is well designed and full of appropriate and contemporary images.

The book works well at three levels -it could be read from cover to cover, used as a source of information or simply opened at random to find interesting facts about players, competitions, clubs past and present. My copy will be well used.

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