Photo by deVos used under a Creative Commons license.
David Winner, Brilliant Orange (The Overlook Press, 2008).
This either a book about soccer with a Dutch focus, or it is a book about The Netherlands viewed through the prism of football. As a book about soccer, I can’t think of one I’ve enjoyed more, and it sent me back to YouTube to find old clips of players like Johann Cruyff and Dennis Bergkamp. But there is an awful lot here connecting Dutch soccer — including Total Football — to other aspects of life in Holland, including steep staircases, Schiphol Airport, immigration from Suriname, land use, relations with Germany, modern architecture, and Dutch democracy. I first heard about Brilliant Orange in 2001, and have been looking for a copy ever since. The Overlook Press has just put it back in print.
Ajax fan Jim McGough says you have to read this book. Zack Roth says the book is about how Dutch football is a reflection of Dutch culture and society and everything. Timothy Dugdale calls it a fantastic book for fans of soccer. Shriram Krishnamurthi says Winner can be too much of a booster for the Dutch and for Ajax. David Goldblatt (The Independent) calls it a kaleidoscopic examination of “the idea of Dutch football” (and that’s a recommendation). Matt Steinglass (Salon) says Brilliant Orange is terribly clever. Paul Hayward (Daily Mail) says English football fans will be envious of Dutch neurosis. Juliet Fletcher (Philadelphia City Paper) says Winner’s book (or his Holland?) is riddled with idiosyncrasy (scroll down). Plinius picks up on Winner’s discussion of Dutch landscape photographer Hans Van Deer Meer. Here is Johann Cruyff, and this was surely the highlight of Dennis Bergkamp’s career.