Children's Literature Bookshelf

Review: “The World Cup”

“The World Cup,” by Mark Stewart.
Franklin Watts, New York, 2003, 96 pages, Grades 5-7.

Every four years the nations of the world send national soccer teams to play for the coveted title of world champion of soccer.

Known as football in most countries, soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Capable of creating fans with near maddening passions, the matches in the World Cup can take on near mystical images. Why is this? What about soccer creates such national fervor? Mark Stewart has attempted to answer some of these questions in his book, “The World Cup.” In this well-written, finely-photographed work, readers will discover the famous matches in World Cup history and most of the sport’s greatest players.

The World Cup’s beginnings are quite modest. A governing organization named the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is founded in 1904 and begins to promote the sport of soccer. After World War I, an innovative Frenchman named Jules Rimet starts the movement in FIFA to have an international soccer tournament.

After several rough starts and stops, the first World Cup is held in Uruguay in 1930. Though the sport is being played in many countries, only 13 countries field teams for the inaugural games. Happily for the home country, Uruguay wins the first World Cup with neighboring Argentina finishing second.

It is decided to hold the international event every four years. As the World Cup begins to grow in popularity, international politics start to rear its ugly head. Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator of Italy, successfully plots Italy being able to host the World Cup in 1934. The powerful Italian team sweeps to victory and Mussolini uses the triumph as a propaganda victory. This will not be the first or last time that politics will interfere in the World Cup. The games are again suspended when World War II breaks out and will not be resumed until 1950.

National pride continues to be on the line as the World Cup is played. The English and the Germans square off in the 1966 championship. With World War II still fresh in the minds of each nation, England pulls out its only World Cup title through the great play of the 5’8” superstar, Bobby Charlton. Known for his long and deadly kicks, Charlton will become so popular in Britain that he will later be knighted. As the author continues the history of the World Cup, he introduces readers to great players such as Pele, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona and others.

When the 2018 World Cup is held June 14-July 15 in Russia, it will be one of the most watched sporting events in the world. Entire countries will literally shut down when their national teams are playing a match. The heroes of the 2018 World Cup will become national figures in their respective countries.

The United States is not among the 32 nation field in Russia in 2018. Though soccer is growing in popularity, it still lags behind summer sports such as baseball and fall sports such as American football. It will be interesting to see if the 2018 World Cup will continue to spur interest in the sport in the United States.

There is also a Women’s World Cup held every four years. The eighth Women’s World Cup will be played in 2019 in France.

So if you want to read up on the World Cup, this is the book for you. Stewart tells the impressive history of the World Cup and gives short biographies on all the stars of the past. The pictures are excellent as well. I hope you enjoy the book, it is a fine read.

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Terrence Nollen

 

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