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FIFA Fo Fum, I Smell Books for a Soccer Fan

Can’t wait for kickoff? Get in gear for World Cup 2018 with these must-read titles.
by Rosie Allabarton | May 15 2018

With just one month to go until World Cup mania begins, soccer fans around the world are gearing up to watch their heroes perform on an international stage. In bars and beer gardens everywhere, you’ll hear the roar of the crowd as goals get scored or missed — or if the bar runs out of alcohol.


Whether you’re a hardcore soccer obsessive or just a fairweather fan, this summer you’ll have the chance to really indulge your sporty side, or at least exercise your authority over the TV remote. To get your juices flowing in anticipation of this summer of soccer we’ve put together a list of eight great sporty reads, from the secrets behind team tactics to how to spot superstar talent.

1. Soccermatics

David Sumpter’s Soccermatics takes a look at the link between math and soccer — two subjects you may not necessarily have put together. Sumpter reveals that the secret behind many successful soccer coaches’ team strategies rests heavily on mathematical assumptions, equations, and formations. Physics also plays a major role in predicting goals, with certain speeds and angles guaranteeing a good result.

2. The Captain Class

The Captain Class by Sam Walker hones in on the importance of the captain of a sports team in relation to the team’s overall success. Walker argues it’s the character traits of the captain as supporter, motivator and, crucially, assistant to the other players which will dictate how the team performs. Walker says it’s the captain who by leading by example and giving it his all will get a team working at the very highest level.

3. Beautiful Game Theory

Ignacio Palacios-Huerta looks at how abstract economic theories can be proven through the beautiful game: soccer. He argues that by studying data harvested at soccer matches we can all learn about new economic models of human behavior. Interestingly, he also argues that soccer can be used to clarify economic strategies which had previously been considered too vague to evaluate.

4. Leading

Alex Ferguson, author of Leading and widely considered to be one of the greatest soccer managers of all time, reveals the secrets behind his team’s winning streak. In this must-read for soccer fans, Ferguson discusses setting the right expectations, the value of listening over talking, and why he learned so much from taking a step back and observing his players from a distance. His disciplinarian ethos alone makes for fascinating reading.

5. The Talent Code

Daniel Coyle busts the “talent myth” that many of us secretly believe: that we are born with or without certain talents. Using cutting edge neurological research, Coyle demonstrates how much control we actually have over the development of our talents and that anyone can learn how to do something well with the right mix of practice, coaching, and motivation. He also cites the neurological growth that is enabled through the frequent making and correcting of mistakes and why it’s so important that we practice the things we feel we are not so “naturally” good at.

6. Winners

Alastair Campbell, author of Winners, wants to know what makes some people hugely successful and others not. Is it simply luck of the draw or are certain personality types more likely to succeed than others? Whether you want to be a the next Ronaldo or you simply want the apartment with a view of the park, setting reachable goals with clearly defined objectives is, according to Campbell, something all winners have in common.

7. This Is Your Brain On Sports

There’s a lot to be learned about the human condition from our participation in sports. For example, teams which perform consistently badly tend to have the most loyal fans. Why? Because many people see themselves in the underdog. If you’re curious to know why you find yourself rooting for some teams or players over others, seemingly without reason, this book will have some interesting psychology-backed answers for you.

8. The Mindful Athlete

If you’ve heard of ‘the Zone’ — the mental place an athlete reaches when he or she is performing at their highest level — then you’re probably aware that the purely physical talents of any professional athlete can only get them so far; without significant training of the mind, many athletes would literally fall at the first hurdle. In The Mindful Athlete, George Mumford explores what we are really capable of with our mortal bodies when we are able to harness the power of the mind. By paying attention to the present moment as if our lives depended on it, we are able to achieve truly remarkable feats.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of great sports reads to kick off your World Cup summer. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to take up mindfulness, put in place a strategy to reach a personal goal, or get to grips with why you behave the way you do when your favorite team comes on the tube. Alternatively, perhaps you’ll get another beer from the fridge, put your feet up, and enjoy some really good soccer. However you choose to spend your summer, we’d like to wish you a good one.

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