La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World

Overview

La Roja is bestselling author Jimmy Burns tremendous opus on Spanish soccer. From its early beginnings when the first soccer on the shores of Bilbao and Buenos Aires was played by British sailors and engineers, through to the influx of South American stars, and similarly inspirational Italians, Dutchman and Scandinavians, Burns show how the engagement of foreigners with home-grown Spanish talent overcame political adversity and produced football of sublime skill and passion that...

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La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World

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Overview

La Roja is bestselling author Jimmy Burns tremendous opus on Spanish soccer. From its early beginnings when the first soccer on the shores of Bilbao and Buenos Aires was played by British sailors and engineers, through to the influx of South American stars, and similarly inspirational Italians, Dutchman and Scandinavians, Burns show how the engagement of foreigners with home-grown Spanish talent overcame political adversity and produced football of sublime skill and passion that intoxicates fans around the world.

The book takes us on a journey through some of the extraordinary characters, classic matches, and brutal controversies that have defined Spanish football from the early days when a few enthusiasts developed their talent kicking a ball on a piece of industrial waste ground, to the emergence of rival giants, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid- the most powerful and successful football clubs in the world- to the Franco regime (that propped up the Madrid team) and democracy (where Barca has ruled), to and a national team that, encompassing all, became the world’s champion.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The Spanish economy might be shaky, but Spanish football continues to prosper. Barcelona and Real Madrid remain international powerhouses, having already won a combined 13 European Cups and Champion League titles and been first runner-ups 3 times each. Jimmy Burns' La Roja walks readers through the entire 120-year history of Spanish soccer; from pick-up games in mining towns to the present-day heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. A trade paperback; perfectly timed for the 2012 European Championships.

From the Publisher
Barcelona Soccer Institute (blog)
“[An] absorbing book….this book is a must read. It will make you appreciate the game even more than you do.”

The Soccer Room (blog)
“Combining keen observations, informative research, and groundbreaking interviews with everyone from del Bosque to Kubala, Burns brings the dynamic history of Spanish soccer to life. La Roja is the inspiring journey of the circumstances and individuals who have shaped, nurtured, and created the superpower that the rest of the soccer world envies today.”

Wall Street Journal

La Roja shows in colorful detail how the traditions and loyalties of one country ended up by giving us the finest clubs and national team of the present moment.”

The Independent“Those who like to sneer that the world’s most popular sport is a grossly exaggerated and often meaningless metaphor for the battle of real life should get hold of this splendid book.” Financial Times“[A] vivid survey of Spanish football” Guillem Balague, Sky TV correspondent“There is so much people don’t know about Spain and Spanish football, and that is not a bad thing for as long as a complete writer like Jimmy Burns has a look at it and bring his unique vision of it. La Roja fills a hole in the knowledge of both Spain and Spanish football, as it goes beyond the football to explain a country, a society and its transformation through, thanks and despite the beautiful game.” John Foot, author, Winning At All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian Soccer“Spain is a place where football, politics, history and regional identity are impossible to separate. La Roja is a fascinating and path-breaking study of the role this game has player in Spanish society right from its origins until the present day. Much of this history took place in the shadow of fascism, and Franco is an ever-present figure for a large part of this book. But Burns also studies the role football played in the transition to democracy, and the rise of one of the greatest teams the world has ever seen: Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, as well as Spain’s recent triumphs in international football. A must read for all fans of sophisticated football writing.”
Simon Kuper

“Steeped in Spanish soccer and Spanish history all his life, Burns is the perfect person to write this book.”
Washington Post Book World“Burns takes readers on a journey from the sport’s turn-of-the-century introduction by British miners in Spain’s southern region to the 2010 World Cup triumph in Johannesburg. This is not, however, a book just about soccer. It’s also about culture, politics and religion….Burns’s work is as graceful and entertaining as Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, La Roja’s modern-day geniuses.” Zeenews.com (India)“[La Roja] takes us on a journey through some of the extraordinary characters, games, and moments that have defined Spanish football from the early days.” ESPN SoccernetLa Roja succeeds because it is a history lesson focused on more than names and dates….Without a doubt, La Roja is an essential contribution to the historiography of Spanish football.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review“[Burns has] a fine eye for tragedy and irony both political and on the pitch. Spain’s dominance is remarkable, especially because of the long odds that the country’s history forced its players to overcome, and Burns rises to the challenge of telling this intertwined saga.” The Volunteer“[A]n informative and entertaining history of Spanish soccer….Burns knows the Spanish soccer scene like the back of his hand.” 101 Great Goals“[A] fantastic read.” International Soccer NetworkLa Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World by Jimmy Burns is the single, most comprehensive resource on the history of Spanish soccer….[Burns’s] passion and enthusiasm shines through the retelling of history, great games and players, important coaches and administrators, the highs and lows of the Spanish game. Burns unearths some great history: players, teams, and matches that would have been forgotten without this book….If you want to truly know Spanish soccer, you have to buy this title. You will come to appreciate the Spanish game so much more after reading this….It is an incredible story told by one of the world’s best experts on Spanish soccer. Simply put, La Roja is a must read!” Library Journal Xpress Reviews, starred“Burns gives us a book that rivals the best in recent soccer writing….Highly recommended as among the best soccer books of 2012.” The Sunday Indian (India)“Jimmy Burns’ definitive account of Spanish football both on and off the field...comes as a whiff of fresh air….The level of research undertaken by the author is simply breathtaking.” Can-India (Canada)“The timing of this book is almost as perfect as the lethal pass from Xavi to Jordi Alba that led to the astounding second Spanish goal in the Euro 2012 final against Italy.” Roanoke Times“If the soccer team La Roja is a successful Don Quixote fighting for the glory of Spain, then it is fortunate to have a Jimmy Burns to tell the story. His narrative style is as much a credit to Spanish culture as is that of Saavedra Cervantes.” Scotsman (Scotland)“Ambitious and highly enjoyable….Burns tackles his subject with care and enthusiasm.” Globe and Mail (Canada)“Jimmy Burns…provides a fascinating look at the growing role of the game in Spain.” Irish Times“[La Roja] is a wonderfully enjoyable read….It has indeed been quite a journey, and Burns is a most entertaining guide.” Goal, the New York Times Soccer blog“[A] comprehensive, entertaining and informative book about the history of Spanish soccer.” Barcelona Football BlogLa Roja shows itself to be well-researched and solidly put together….this is a very good book….This is not a book about Barcelona and it is not a book for the sycophantic looking to hear of their team praised on high. It is history: sometimes dry, often fascinating, and always looking to explain modern misconceptions.” The Independent (UK)“[A] masterly exploration of Spanish football….a fascinating account….The richness of Spanish football’s myth and history is at least the equal of Britain’s, and Burns has done a tremendous job of setting it in the context of the country’s wider history. If, on 1 July, Spain become the first team to retain the European Championship, there would be no better tribute to them than this fine book.” The Tablet (UK)“This richly textured book is a potted history of Spanish nationalism through football, and Burns was the perfect person to write it.” The Economist“Burns shows that there is far more to tell about Spanish football than today’s success on the field.”
Belfast Telegraph (UK)
 “[A] splendid book….La Roja is indeed much more than a journey through Spanish football. It is a story of pain, humiliation and ferocious regional rivalry.” Shelf Awareness“Burns relates nearly 150 years of Spanish soccer history, capturing its roots, the regionalism, the racism, the politics, the bullfighting connections and even a cultural reminiscence of Don Quixote. He portrays personalities, rivalries, strong emotions—including his own—and moments of shining success for a much-beset nation….La Roja is a window into Spain and its component cultures, regions and histories as well as a celebration of soccer and its most recent champions.” Simply Futbol (blog)“Jimmy Burns is amongst one of the best writers out there and in his latest book, La Roja, he leaves no doubt as well as no stone unturned….La Roja is not just a tremendous book to read. Jimmy Burns’ latest book is an educational tool for fans of Spanish football and fans of the game in general. The information as well as the passion reflect how they live and breathe the Beautiful Game in that country.”
Carlos Briceno, Barcelona Soccer Institute (blog)
“[An] absorbing book… this book is a must read. It will make you appreciate the game even more than you do…. I imagine one of the ambitious tasks Burns set for himself when he started writing this book was to capture the soul of a nation, as seen through the prism of soccer. He has done that in an authoritative and entertaining way in this marvelous book. And for that we owe Burns a loud and enthusiastic ‘Olé!’”

Total Footblog
“[Burns] pours his heart into the subject matter, providing an academic overview with poetic zeal – and we are better for the experience of it….La Roja is an essential and easily readable chronicle of the history of the professional game in Spain.”

Forbes (online)“Burns’ deep historical understanding of Spanish society and the Spanish game, along with it’s intersections with the English, South American, and Dutch styles of play, leaves a reader with a deeper understanding of not only the Spanish game but of the country’s conflicted twentieth century history as well…. In a wide swath of books about today’s most dominant nation in club and international soccer, Burns’ book comes highly recommended if you desire a more complete understanding of the evolution of the Spanish game within a wider cultural context.” Total Footblog
“[Burns] pours his heart into the subject matter, providing an academic overview with poetic zeal – and we are better for the experience of it….La Roja is an essential and easily readable chronicle of the history of the professional game in Spain.”

Kirkus Reviews
The story of the rise of Spanish soccer against a deeply divided political background. In July 2012, the Spanish national men's soccer team won the European Football Championship, making them the first team in the world to win three consecutive major tournaments. This victory, which occurred after the publication of this book, simply validates Financial Times senior writer Burns' (Land that Lost Its Heroes: How Argentina Lost the Falklands War, 2012, etc.) narrative about Spain's rise from its political maelstrom to become the pre-eminent force in global football. Like the rest of the world, Spain inherited soccer from Great Britain in the late 19th century; within a few decades, the sport supplanted bullfighting as the country's chief passion, the one thing that could bring an often-divided people together. In the early and mid 1900s, Spain was divided ideologically between fascists and communists, between Spanish loyalists and Basque and Catalan nationalists, and between myriad competing views of Spanish identity. Most of these divisions were manifested in the country's soccer culture as well, with teams such as FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia representing not only competing sporting identities, but political passions as well. But during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, the national team's passionate style of play managed to bring Spain's many factions together, if only for 90 minutes at a time. For decades, Spain underachieved on the global stage, until 2008 when they won the European Championship and then the pinnacle moment, 2010, when they claimed the World Cup title. Burns split his time growing up between England and Spain and is thus well positioned to tell this story, and he does so well, with a fine eye for tragedy and irony both political and on the pitch. Spain's dominance is remarkable, especially because of the long odds that the country's history forced its players to overcome, and Burns rises to the challenge of telling this intertwined saga.
The Washington Post
This is not…a book just about soccer. It's also about culture, politics and religion. In meticulous detail, the author, who is half-Spanish, describes how soccer survived during the civil war, how Franco used his power to control the sport and how the national team's lack of identity mirrored the country's lack of identity—one fractured by provincial loyalty in the Catalan and Basque regions…Burns's work is as graceful and entertaining as Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, La Roja's modern-day geniuses.
—Steven Goff
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568587172
  • Publisher: Nation Books
  • Publication date: 5/29/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 672,700
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jimmy Burns was born in Madrid in 1953 of Anglo-Spanish parentage. His mother Mabel is the daughter of the doctor and writer Gregorio Maranon and his father Tom Burns, who died in 1994, was a publisher, journalist and diplomat. A senior writer for The Financial Times, he has also contributed to many other media organizations around the world over the years including the BBC, CNN, National Public Radio, and Fox News. Winner of newspaper awards as an investigative reporter, he has also won the prestigious Somerset Maughan prize for non-fiction with his first book. His previous books are When Beckham Went to Spain: Power, Stardom and Real Madrid (Penguin), The Hand of God: The Life of Diego Maradona (Bloomsbury), Barca: A People’s Passion (Bloomsbury), Spain: A Literary Companion (John Murray) and Papa Spy (Quercus). He lives in Spain and London.

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