Tag Archives: book review

Messi – More Than A Superstar


More Than A Superstar

Icon Books


I’m struck by reading messi, more than a superstar at how much Luca Caioli wants to portray Lionel Messi as an ordinary person. A person with an amazing talent that has just stumbled across this life of fame and (ahem…) non payment of taxes.
His first coach has “never heard him boast about playing well and scoring goals” and that feeling resonates. How many times have we squirmed as someone talks about how good they are. It is part of the Irish psyche to play yourself down. And if you don’t do it there will be plenty of friends ready to knock you off any perch you might build up. Don’t get comfortable.
Then I wonder is that the right thing? Is it just self confidence that allows one to speak of their own ability? If I see a mirror I get an urge to rush past it without looking up. The inverse is the case for my kids. They are comfortable with it. Is one of us wrong?
By page 35 humility has been mentioned on four separate occasions. It reminds me of Gaelic Football in Dublin where players can play for their county in front of 80.000 people but still come back to their club and be one of the gang. I’ve often seen Brian Fenton in St Anne’s park talking to young Raheny players, offering advice and generally being a good guy. It’s no more than you get from most people in the club the only difference is that Fenton is lauded on tv most weeks when he plays. Should that make a difference? Obviously not but how can you stop it? It must be hard work.
The other night I was out for a meal and I saw a little known food critic on the table opposite. I couldn’t help but stare and think of a conversation gong around in the kitchen of the restaurant, or on tables beside us as these people looked to eat their meal in peace. What if this was Messi looking for a quiet curry or out for a quiet walk in the park. Would he be able to have one? Nope, so how do you stay humble in such circumstances?
Of course for it to be any book of relevance when talking about messi, Diego maradona has to get a mention. How infuriating (or flattering) must it be for any great player that comparisons get made big course it is only natural. It’s a sign of quality. Argentina have had many people described as the next Maradona but none given that title as much as Messi. Of course the fact they both possess so much skill on their respective left foot means there is validity to the comparisons.  For me there is only one, of each
Of course with a talent like messi he is always going to be in demand. Whenever talent rises people wish to claim it and make use of it. For a young messi this meant being dragged around as his club and country wanted to use him for their needs. With him in the team you had a better chance of winning. Cause gives us some examples of that conflict. The one option of doing what is best for the individual never seems to be noted though.
Of course boring such a precious talent means every season brings new records and honours. Every season has a litany of special goals or majestic passes. Some of them get mentioned here and the imagery they conjure up is simply breathtaking. I love watching Messi play football, he makes it seem si simple.
As interesting and all that Messis ability to play football is it starts to grate a bit when picking through the seasons. He is a record breaker, his trophy haul is phenomenal his goal scoring record is second to none and the way he can win things for his teams are magnificent. This book reminds us of that. It gives very little background information.  There are no insights into Messis thoughts, no new breakthroughs are announced. This is where it really falls down for me. I know little more about the “Flea” than I did when starting the book. His humility is reaffirmed, that’s for sure but little else.

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If You Don’t KNow Me, don’t judge me by Dan Shanahan

If you don’t now me, don’t judge me
Dan Shanahan
Transworld Ireland Books
I can’t believe this book was released half a decade ago. It doesn’t make sense to me,it only seems like yesterday since Dan was playing hurling for Waterford and scoring goals for fun. But it wasn’t yesterday, however sporting world keeps revolving.

Non fiction books are my preferred genre, however auto biographies can be difficult. I try not to judge the writer but even though Dan pleads for me not to do so it is difficult. After all he is talking to me for 270 pages.

Throughout it all we get an idea that Dan Shanahan trains hard, plays hard and parties hard. And that’s really it. he is human, like us all, and deep down we all feel our beliefs are correct. For anyone interested in sport we think we have the answers, I’m sure now that Dan is part of a management team his next chapter is more difficult. This is a good read that gives some insight into the sacrifices made for inter county sports people. With the lack of a fairy tale ending it is less alluring but if you want a story of a successful hurler whose county never quite got the success it wanted then this is for you


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La Lucha – The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights In Mexico

la lucha

The Story Of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico Jon Sack Published by Front Line Defenders verso books http://www.versobooks.com Human Rights is such a well worn phrase. Like political correctness (what’s so wrong with being correct?) it is used in countless different ways but really it boils down to humans having basic rights, freedom of association being one of these. “We are in the middle of a war, which is a war but isn’t. We don’t know what the warzones are or who the enemy is…so in general there’s a feeling of insecurity and fear that has changed daily life for men and women in Chihuahua” Mexico is a strange country to write about. It is a democratic state, with respectable ties to Western States. it plays a perceived part in what is easily known as “The War on Drugs”. Much like the war on Terrorism the perception is that this war isn’t an easy one to win (are any?) However there is real fear for people, fear of the state, fear of drug cartels, fear of their world. This is a world where people disappear for no apparent reason, sometimes women vanish – their crime? being women! Being politically active is akin to putting an x on your home. Strike here.

This is a collection of stories, in animation form, of people. Ordinary people living extraordinary lives. It’s a tale of siblings being murdered and/or disappeared and of those left to pick up the pieces, left to crawl through the damaged shreds left behind and try and keep that candle lit. Of course the candle gets blown up but in Chihuahua there is always someone to pick up the pieces, regardless of the personal cost to their lives and family. These people give up their lives in this quest, their home, their families all get pushed to second place. Since 2006 when, then President Calderon (now lecturing in Harvard University) declared war on drugs 100,000 people have been killed, 20,000 people have disappeared and 200,000 people have fled their homes, including over 70% of the population of the Juarez Valley.

These are astonishing figures no matter what side you take. We can only appreciate what they do but it is hard to truly understand what they are experiencing. We can only hope their stories don’t go ignored, their pleas unheeded. Please buy this book and follow this inspirational yet truly tragic tale


la lucha2


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Roy Keane – The Second Half

roy keane
The Second Half
with Roddy Doyle


This is NOT an autobiography, don’t confuse it with one. It’s not a Roddy Doyle book, don’t confuse it with one. It is a series of anecdotes told by Roy Keane to Roddy Doyle about his life that he didn’t really get to put into his first book. It has some tales of life since that was released too.

It has been hailed as a masterpiece of the genre, which it could well be but it is not a masterpiece. It is an interesting collection of stories but deep down it all depends what side you are on with Roy Keane. Bizarrely enough I’m on both sides.

Autoboigraphical books can be a bit of a curse, people can come across as egotistical just because they talk aboout themselves. It’s really an Irish thing, we don’t congratulate sucess that well as a nation. Roy is a hugely acclaimed sportsman, extremely driven and sucessful yet we look for the downfalls. This book is not about his achievements it’s his stories of how he deals with people. Thankfully he does acknowledge mistakes, however it is all about the results and so your own personal viewpoint can’t help but be raised in reacting to his words. He speaks about hiding the fact that he hid crying for two hours after leavinbg Manchester United. His family role seems to be one of the tough guy too. This tough guy image is one he can’t shake off. Especially when he mentions that he ‘might have been grappling’ with a player during an exchange of opinions.

Of course I got fixated on items I could call contradictory – an Irishman from Cork talking about ‘Boxing Day’ for example. Or when he speaks of foriegn lads playing football. As a professional working in a different country to the one he was born in does that make him one of the ‘foreign’ lads. As manager of Sunderland he worked with a consortium of fellow Irish men, are these the foriegn lads he talks of? I’m pretty sure it’s not but why not?

All in all it is enjoyable getting an insight into his opinion on certain players and the odd remark about right backs lack of physicality leads me to think that the Neville household mightn’t be on his Christmas Card list. Keane has admiration for players that stand up for themselves but don’t push things too far against their manager. That is what he may be remembered by many for despite being on of Irelands most sucessful footballers.


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The 2 tone era

Horace Panter
Ska’d for life
Panmacmillan books


Pauline Black
Black By Design
Serpentstail publishing

2 books from 2 people in 2 different bands during the same era, both autobiographies. Horace’s one has been on my shelf for a while now but after picking up Pauline Blacks autobiography I thought I would do them both justice and read them concurrently.

Pauline was up first and we get a lot of her background in here. It must have been a cathartic experience to write as many demons would have been exercised and we hear how hard it was growing up as a black person in not only a predominately white neighbourhood but in a white family (Pauline was adopted). Her experience is one of not really belonging. There is some good background into the recording experience and how the selecter put together their landmark single too much pressure.

Horace doesn’t dwell too much on his upbringing preferring to dive pretty much straight into the music. There’s a different air to his writing. Whilst Pauline black has an edginess to her style Horace is more straightforward, more in the “Enjoy Yourself” specials way. That’s not to say that hard issues aren’t tackled. The most revealing thing from both books is how much unhappiness went into being in a successful band, playing to hundreds, if not thousands of people wherever you travelled (and there was a lot of travelling).

If you’re reading this then you know the story, punk rock came – anyone could for, a band and many did. This was the catalyst for kids trying their own style, one such style was ska and 2 tone records in Coventry featured bit the specials and selecter. These books are stories of the expecting bands.

With Pauline though there is a sense that if it weren’t for the rain it would be sunny all the time. It seemed that it was other people who stood in the way of selecter fame, be that producers, tour managers, record labels or riots on the street… With Horace it was circumstances that fed their success, be it punk rock. Tur managers, record labels or riots (their single Ghost town was almost the title tune for riots throughout Britain in 1971.

Paline has subsequently gone on to other projects with various success but has returned to her first love of music. Horace moved away from the music business to become a teacher but a bass is never far away from him.

Reading both books would not make me want to be in a band, it sold almost scare me off. It emphasises the pressures that musicians feel under to perform at a gig, or recording a song or writing a record. Pressures from many angles. It paints a picture of a music business not too concerned with bands but with the amount of product they were selling. It tells tails of kids exposed to money and drugs. They both give an account of an historic time in music, whether the bands believed it or not.



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100 year old man going strong

The one hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared published by Hesperus Press

It’s been a long time since I was in school. Back in those days it was something that got in the way of playing football or playing cards or hanging around talking about football or cards. There were some some subjects I took a passing interest in and the older and wiser head now wishes I paid a bit more attention to these. The subjects were namely history and English. They were probably the only two classes I stopped daydreaming for, doesn’t mean I did anything more but at least I listened….. Sometimes

Of course with history i thought I knew best and preferred modern stuff to all the talk about Romans and Greeks. I scoffed at the tsar of Russia, laughed at hitler and did spend a few minutes thinking about the mess in Korea and china but then thought about what was happening in ireland instead. It was when I joined the school of punk rock that I got interested in Paris 1968 or the Spanish civil war. That showed another world was possible. I then got interested in modern day politics and how corruption is still very much rife.

This book charts many events of the 20th century and has one person Allan karllson hanging out with Stalin, Mao tae tsung, us president Truman and many others. But it is a story of this Mans life and travels much more than discussing the history of the past.

It also tells the tale of how Allan stepped out of the window of his retirement home when he was 100 and embarked on another journey. The journey leads from
One bizarre event to another and whilst leafing through the pages my imagination was running wild. This is the screenplay for an amazing movie. A lovely tale of life and how to live it whilst taking incidents from the past and explaining the tragedy in 1 or 2 sentences. If only mr ward was Able to explain history and English like this back in the day

niall hope


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