Football Book Review: The Death & Life of Australian Soccer

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A very well researched and insightful soccer encyclopedia which captivates its readers by providing an in-depth look at the ebb and flow of the game in our country through the life stories of migrants, refugees, and Indigenous Australians.

The Death & Life of Australian Soccer

By Joe Gorman

The Death & Life of Australian soccer chronicles the rise and fall of soccer in Australia from the beginning of the 1950s to the 20th century. The author, Joe Gorman – an award-winning sports journalist – highlights the social conditions around the game and the cleansing of ethnic ties.

The book traces the origins of the game through the ethnic clubs into the present era. It tells the stories of the golden age of Australian immigration which paved the way for a golden age of soccer.

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Gorman underlines the impact migrants had on the makeup of soccer in Australia and how they formed the likes of Adelaide City, Melbourne Knights, Marconi and Florent Athena. It was these clubs that would go on to be etched into the game’s fabric forever.

He explains the trials and trepidations of the National Soccer League (NSL) throughout its start-up and end. With, of course, the end of the book dedicated to the makeup of ‘new soccer’ and the A-League.

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The Death & Life of Australian Soccer is no ordinary soccer book. It is the riveting story of Australia’s national identity and a biography to the life of Hungarian migrant and soccer journalist Andrew Dettre.

Many would not know about his work if it was not for Gorman, who stated that Dettre should be a hero in the soccer community for his forward-thinking nature.

Over the course of nearly three decades, Dettre had reported on the game during a time of great social, political and demographic upheaval.

When his newspaper stopped posting soccer stories in 1987, he decided it was time for him to depart the game. He was almost broken by the pain of unfulfilled promise.

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The story of Dettre is, in so many ways, the story of Australian soccer. In a nice touch by Gorman, the story is revisited towards the end.

And that is the best thing about this book. Its stories are what sets it apart from other football history books.

From the likes of journalist Mike Cockerill, promoter of the game Johnny Warren, aboriginal activist Charles Perkins and Croatian compatriots Mark Viduka and Mark Rudan. It is their stories that would go on to resonate with so many.

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This book is one of the best books I have ever read. The fact that it is written from a journalist’s perspective, rather than a player’s, is what makes it so insightful for me as a cadet journalist.

It is well researched, well written and provides an incredible account of the history of the game, particularly the NSL – a must-read for anyone who loves the game in this country.

Many who support the local game in this country are oblivious to their club’s history. This book provides an education in the old and new soccer.

Next time I walk through the inner sanctum at Adelaide City Park and turn my head to the left to see the pictures of triumphs, I will be able to resonate a whole lot more having read this book.

My rating: 4.5 stars

You can currently purchase the book right here at 20% off from Booktopia.

Feature image credit: Hannah Brewer 

To view all book reviews on The Football Sack, please click here.

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Lover of all things football. Covering Adelaide United in 2019/20 for TFS!