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In a tiny, decaying aluminium smelting town in southern Tajikistan, a short drive from a raging war zone, Afghanistan take on Palestine in the first Asian qualifier for 2014’s World Cup in Brazil. Every player on both teams is risking something by playing: their careers, their families, even their lives. Yet, along with thousands of other footballers backed by millions of In a tiny, decaying aluminium smelting town in southern Tajikistan, a short drive from a raging war zone, Afghanistan take on Palestine in the first Asian qualifier for 2014’s World Cup in Brazil. Every player on both teams is risking something by playing: their careers, their families, even their lives. Yet, along with thousands of other footballers backed by millions of supporters, they all dream of snatching one of the precious 32 places at the finals; and so begins a three-year epic struggle – long before the usual suspects start their higher-profile qualifying campaigns under the spotlight. Named after the greatest victory (and defeat) that the World Cup qualifiers have ever seen (Australia’s 31-0 victory over American Samoa), Thirty-One Nil is the story of how footballers from all corners of the globe begin their journey chasing a place at the World Cup Finals. It celebrates the part-time priests, princes and hopeless chancers who dream of making it to Brazil, in defiance of the staggering odds stacked against them. It tells the story of teams who have struggled for their very existence through political and social turmoil, from which they will very occasionally emerge into international stardom. From the endlessly humiliated San Marino to lowly Haiti; from war-torn Lebanon to the oppressed and fleet-footed players of Eritrea, in Thirty-One Nil James Montague gets intimately and often dangerously close to some of the world’s most extraordinary teams, and tells their exceptional stories.


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In a tiny, decaying aluminium smelting town in southern Tajikistan, a short drive from a raging war zone, Afghanistan take on Palestine in the first Asian qualifier for 2014’s World Cup in Brazil. Every player on both teams is risking something by playing: their careers, their families, even their lives. Yet, along with thousands of other footballers backed by millions of In a tiny, decaying aluminium smelting town in southern Tajikistan, a short drive from a raging war zone, Afghanistan take on Palestine in the first Asian qualifier for 2014’s World Cup in Brazil. Every player on both teams is risking something by playing: their careers, their families, even their lives. Yet, along with thousands of other footballers backed by millions of supporters, they all dream of snatching one of the precious 32 places at the finals; and so begins a three-year epic struggle – long before the usual suspects start their higher-profile qualifying campaigns under the spotlight. Named after the greatest victory (and defeat) that the World Cup qualifiers have ever seen (Australia’s 31-0 victory over American Samoa), Thirty-One Nil is the story of how footballers from all corners of the globe begin their journey chasing a place at the World Cup Finals. It celebrates the part-time priests, princes and hopeless chancers who dream of making it to Brazil, in defiance of the staggering odds stacked against them. It tells the story of teams who have struggled for their very existence through political and social turmoil, from which they will very occasionally emerge into international stardom. From the endlessly humiliated San Marino to lowly Haiti; from war-torn Lebanon to the oppressed and fleet-footed players of Eritrea, in Thirty-One Nil James Montague gets intimately and often dangerously close to some of the world’s most extraordinary teams, and tells their exceptional stories.

30 review for Thirty-One Nil: On the Road With Football's Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey

  1. 4 out of 5

    Giuliano

    From the Palestinian team in the West Bank to the Serbia vs Croatia rivalry; from American Samoa, a team that once lost a match by 31 goals, to the reclusive and well-guarded Eritrea team, from Afghanistan to Haiti, Rwanda to Egypt, this book explores many questions which all have a common theme: football. What defines an international football team? Is it a flag, international recognition or the feeling of belonging to a specific ethnic group? What social impact does international football have From the Palestinian team in the West Bank to the Serbia vs Croatia rivalry; from American Samoa, a team that once lost a match by 31 goals, to the reclusive and well-guarded Eritrea team, from Afghanistan to Haiti, Rwanda to Egypt, this book explores many questions which all have a common theme: football. What defines an international football team? Is it a flag, international recognition or the feeling of belonging to a specific ethnic group? What social impact does international football have on each nation and on the world as a whole? How can poor, war-ravaged countries dream of a better future, where they stand tall, proud and victorious, even if this dream only lasts 90 minutes? The author travelled far and wide to follow the road to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, narrating the stories of many unsung heroes who sacrificed a lot to represent their country at international level. The book also focuses on the minnows – San Marino, Monserrat, Antigua and Barbuda – these teams may be small and lose games often (watch out for mighty Iceland however!), but they all share the love for the beautiful game. The lack of international superstars who earn shocking wages, the ‘normality’ of those players gives us a refreshing look at football at elite level and moves us and inspires us.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I decided to read this book as the new campaign for the World Cup started in Europe...and was getting close to the hexagonal in CONCACAF. I loved the book. The chapters about the tiny Caribbean states, or Pacific Islands or Lebanon are some of the best ones. I truly enjoyed reading about pure passion for this game...no betting schemes, no doping, just playing for fun - the story of the Antiguan players fishing in a pond in Florida made me laugh. Montague has a true talent for the type of sports I decided to read this book as the new campaign for the World Cup started in Europe...and was getting close to the hexagonal in CONCACAF. I loved the book. The chapters about the tiny Caribbean states, or Pacific Islands or Lebanon are some of the best ones. I truly enjoyed reading about pure passion for this game...no betting schemes, no doping, just playing for fun - the story of the Antiguan players fishing in a pond in Florida made me laugh. Montague has a true talent for the type of sports writing/story-telling that only a few writers around the world have/had - some writers from L'Equipe or someone like Ioan Chirila from Gazeta Sporturilor. I am looking forward to his next book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Pinko Palest

    not so good: a rather rambling travelogue through some of the world's hot spots which happen to be underachivers in football. The author appears to be naive, but I'm not so sure: He doesn't tell you anything to help you understand the conflicts, merely mentions that they have happened and that they still influence football fans and players. Nor does he shy away from chatting, more or lees amicably, with the MPs of Jobik in Hungary not so good: a rather rambling travelogue through some of the world's hot spots which happen to be underachivers in football. The author appears to be naive, but I'm not so sure: He doesn't tell you anything to help you understand the conflicts, merely mentions that they have happened and that they still influence football fans and players. Nor does he shy away from chatting, more or lees amicably, with the MPs of Jobik in Hungary

  4. 5 out of 5

    Blake

    James Montague’s Thirty-One Nil is a sweeping travelogue detailing the fortunes of a number of national teams as they battle through qualifiers in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup. These teams all share ‘outsider’ status in some respect, whether it be for political reasons or because of their lowly status. Author James Montague teases out the difficulties national teams such as—but not restricted to—Haiti, Egypt, Lebanon, American Samoa, and Eritrea faced in putting a team on the park. Travelogu James Montague’s Thirty-One Nil is a sweeping travelogue detailing the fortunes of a number of national teams as they battle through qualifiers in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup. These teams all share ‘outsider’ status in some respect, whether it be for political reasons or because of their lowly status. Author James Montague teases out the difficulties national teams such as—but not restricted to—Haiti, Egypt, Lebanon, American Samoa, and Eritrea faced in putting a team on the park. Travelogue, geopolitical essay, adventure story—Thirty-One Nil can be described as all of these. Montague covers riots in Egypt and Brazil; questions Sepp Blatter about Kosovo; goes fishing with players of the Antigua and Barbuda national team; gets drunk in a seedy Curacao bar; and even gets tear gassed and shocked out of sense by a stun grenade. Montague writes from the edge of his seat, and has duly earned the plaudit of ‘The Indiana Jones of soccer writing’ from Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl. Montague’s writing shines when he narrows his focus on minnows such as American Samoa, the Caribbean nations, and (the then-lowly) Iceland. The stories of Nicky Salapu (the goalkeeper on the losing end of the 31-0 scoreline to Australia in 2001) and Jaiyah Saelua make for great reading, and Iceland’s goalkeeper-cum-filmmaker Hannes Halldórsson is given a platform in Thirty-One Nil long before he made a name for himself in the 2018 World Cup. Nicky Salapu: “I feel like I’ve been let out of prison. I want my son to grow up and don’t want kids chasing him around saying your dad lost 31-0…but if we win this tournament, we will get to Brazil no doubt! Even if we qualify for Brazil, and I don’t make it there, I would die a happy person.” (pg. 100) Antigua and Barbuda’s search for descendent talent in England is also worth mentioning, as well as Bob Bradley’s challenges in guiding Egypt (which features a young Mohamed Salah, and national icon Mohamed Aboutrika) through the qualifiers. Although the state of the national setups in 2014 are not reflective of the setups at the time of reading (2019), Thirty-One Nil nevertheless echoes the problems that face national teams in the present day due to complex political and social issues. Montague has certainly chalked up the air miles in Thirty-One Nil. The book has a ‘written on the fly’ feel to it, and as such the writing often lacks cohesion and the chapters read like despatches from a coldly-observing foreign correspondent. The political exposition has a place in the book, but could have done with some pruning to break up overly-long paragraphs. Some passages come across as insensitive and flippant, such as Montague comparing Haiti’s airport to ground zero of a “zombie apocalypse”, and the use of “bloodbath”, “sacrificial meat”, and “mauling” to describe unflattering score lines alongside chapters covering the Rwandan genocide and the Port Said Stadium riot. Montague is a daring writer and intrepid traveller, and he has a talent for throwing himself into the moment. However, in travelling all over the world to gather his stories, he has perhaps spread himself too thin. As such, he doesn’t do full justice to one singular format, whether it be travelogue, geopolitical essay, or adventure story. There is undoubted quality in the pages of Thirty-One Nil, however a narrower focus that eschews historical and political exposition would have better served the main characters in this book, and their footballing lives as ‘outsiders’. HIGHLIGHTED PASSAGE “When it is time for the ‘extreme underdogs’ of the US Virgin Islands to begin training, they start by running the length of the pitch, back and forth, back and forth. They take shooting practice next. No one manages to hit the target. Balls balloon over the goal, or end up near the corner flag. The maintenance men go about their work, painting and repainting the terrace steps in red, yellow, and blue, only stopping to retrieve any balls that land close to them.” (pg. 50) STARS: 2.5/5 UNDER 20: A gritty footballing travelogue, geopolitical essay, and adventure story rolled into one—yet lacking a unifying flavour. FULL-TIME SCORE: A 2-1 loss away from home. Away attacks were fully-fledged and brave, yet sporadic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    James

    I tend not to like the over-romanticised tales of rubbish football teams, but I saw this recommended somewhere so I looked past my prejudice. This was not another Up Pohnpei as I had feared, as Montague eventually leaves behind islands with the same population as Stroud or Redditch to go to Switzerland, Egypt and Serbia and watch well-organised national teams play each other. But I wasn't really gripped by these matches either, and to my surprise, was more engaged with the minnows. Part of this w I tend not to like the over-romanticised tales of rubbish football teams, but I saw this recommended somewhere so I looked past my prejudice. This was not another Up Pohnpei as I had feared, as Montague eventually leaves behind islands with the same population as Stroud or Redditch to go to Switzerland, Egypt and Serbia and watch well-organised national teams play each other. But I wasn't really gripped by these matches either, and to my surprise, was more engaged with the minnows. Part of this was a natural result of Montague having greater access to the smaller nations, who didn't have much of a press as competition for his time. This allowed him to give the players and coaches a bit of personality, and the matches more of an emotional pull on the reader. In the smaller nations there is naturally a bit more exoticism to attending the match, although in all cases the football is strongly linked to politics given its national importance, which was another facet to the book. The problem for me was that in the latter half, the political situation was almost the entire story. Without access to the higher profile players and coaches, or only given media-trained platitudes when he did get quotes, a lot of the chapters were a fairly similar description of violence outside the ground, heavy police presence, and a couple of paragraphs about the two teams' match that was the catalyst for so much tension. It isn't that the political tension shouldn't be included, but that we get the idea very quickly when it comes to fan groups hating police. (I wonder if I should give his ultras book a miss). The second half also seems to move too fast, matches being played quickly and final placings decided, after a first half that had much more description of a single match, with the extra detail giving a better impression of how important one match can be. Details like his non-bribe in a Russian airport and seemingly the only bar in an Uzbek border town (his story of meeting the police chief was very much like Tony Hawks in Moldova) weren't present in the later chapters, which were less rounded. The last chapter about San Marino also seemed out of place, and I thought more could have been made of it. Due to strict rules on citizenship, only 'pure' Samarinese players can wear the shirt of the national team, whereas most managers' approach is to scour the globe for better eligible players rather than coaching the existing squad. Are naturalised Brazilians much worse than Haitian players who are second generation French and so have very few links to the culture of Port-au-Prince? What is the point of having players represent national FA's if they were brought up in a different country's youth system, coaching and funding? I couldn't root for the teams who cast their net far and wide for any grandson of a nation, which was nearly all of those Montague spoke to. 7 years on from when it was written, a few of the topical scenes (especially Egpyt) feel less relevant now, but it is another reason for me why this sort of writing is better for newspaper or magazine features. Too many in a row and the stories get too similar, and the importance of each one gets diluted into the whole.

  6. 4 out of 5

    MacK

    To begin with, my envy of James Montague knows no bounds. I've often daydreamed about writing this story. Travelling the world, getting to know players, coaches, and fans on every continent, and then telling the story to others seems like the best possible job. I'm not about to leave my family or my job to do it...fortunately, there's Mr. Montague. James Montague takes the reader through the peaks and valleys of World Cup quests by venturing to the literal peaks and valleys of our world. From Kry To begin with, my envy of James Montague knows no bounds. I've often daydreamed about writing this story. Travelling the world, getting to know players, coaches, and fans on every continent, and then telling the story to others seems like the best possible job. I'm not about to leave my family or my job to do it...fortunately, there's Mr. Montague. James Montague takes the reader through the peaks and valleys of World Cup quests by venturing to the literal peaks and valleys of our world. From Krygyzstan's cliffs where displaced nations like Syria and Afghanistan have to face off, to the low lying islands of American Samoa, he helps us see what it was like for nations to embark on the road to Rio for the 2014 FIFA Men's World Cup. Along the way you meet quirky coaches and passionate players. While you understand the people beautifully, the games almost seem like an after thought. To be fair, a play-by-play book might have been impossible, but more vivid game highlights would much appreciated. Still, the actual results are not the focus of the story. Through it all Montague helps readers who may never have known or thought about the game on these far flung fields feel like they are there, because we, like Montague himself, have to adjust our expectations and engagement with others. Montague and the world travelers he interviews code-switch frequently between what they've known and take for granted and what others need or expect. The national trauma of genocide, the role of religion, the biases bred from new immigrants, all of them are processed and adjusted to in order to keep the story swimming along. Anyone who code-switches (which is to say everyone) can understand that, even if they don't get the game, or the nations he covers. I really liked Montague's work, even though I wish I had been the one to write it. I bet, if you're a fan of the beautiful game or the beautiful world we live in, you will too.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Apratim Mukherjee

    Few sports in the world provide a fair chance to each team playing the game.Football is one of those.The book,Thirty one nil(highest margin of victory in an international football match) is one of the best books I have read.This book cannot be categorized in one genre.Its a footballing travelogue where the author goes to all five continents and writes about the significance of the matches.This is a unique book in itself.A world cup qualifier,where say Barbados is playing Grenada,may be just a da Few sports in the world provide a fair chance to each team playing the game.Football is one of those.The book,Thirty one nil(highest margin of victory in an international football match) is one of the best books I have read.This book cannot be categorized in one genre.Its a footballing travelogue where the author goes to all five continents and writes about the significance of the matches.This is a unique book in itself.A world cup qualifier,where say Barbados is playing Grenada,may be just a data in some sports website.But it means a lot to the people of the two nations.Basically,the book tries to answer a few questions: (1) Why sports cannot be separated from politics? After all,its war without swords. (2)What makes one gravitate towards sport? (3)What is a definition of a national football team?Is it the way San Marino or India define it or the way Morocco does it or the way Qatar does it? (4)What goes on behind the 'insignificant'matches? I think a football fan should read this book.A World Cup Qualification match, like Sri Lanka vs Bhutan or India vs Bahrain, may be insignificant as a match for a lot of Europeans or South Americans.But the significance lies in the fair chance given to each nation to win the ultimate footballing prize-The FIFA World Cup.My view point about score of an international football match has been changed for ever. PS:I would have liked a sequel..the 2018 WC edition where teams like Panama and Iceland made their WC debuts.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Thirty-One Nil by James Montague follows a collection of teams around the world in their bid for qualification to the 2014 World Cup. It is good travel writing with a focus on football. It is like going there, learning the local facts, but not actually being there at all. The drama of each match and their importance comes through. The book is good, well written, interesting, and gives you a sense of the world as a place of multitudes. It also chimes with my perception of football as something wh Thirty-One Nil by James Montague follows a collection of teams around the world in their bid for qualification to the 2014 World Cup. It is good travel writing with a focus on football. It is like going there, learning the local facts, but not actually being there at all. The drama of each match and their importance comes through. The book is good, well written, interesting, and gives you a sense of the world as a place of multitudes. It also chimes with my perception of football as something which shows a mirror up to the society that plays it, and is itself a social force that brings disparate people together.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Margery Osborne

    I'd put this easily as one of the best sports books i've read. many of the essays capture the combination of personal passion and history embedded in a cultural/sociological/political narrative that I love. I want to note that I'm writing this review on the 100th birthday of Roger Angell who is the wonderful essayist who got me started on this genre years and years ago. I'd put this collection in the tradition he defined. I'd put this easily as one of the best sports books i've read. many of the essays capture the combination of personal passion and history embedded in a cultural/sociological/political narrative that I love. I want to note that I'm writing this review on the 100th birthday of Roger Angell who is the wonderful essayist who got me started on this genre years and years ago. I'd put this collection in the tradition he defined.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alex Mathew

    This is probably one of the best books I've ever read. "The story of World Cup qualification? Sure, that sounds interesting." I did not expect this book to go where it did. And it is very clear that the author has gone to really extreme lengths for this book. If you're a football fan, or a general sports fan, or just someone interested in looking at geopolitical issues from a different lens - this is absolutely a book you MUST pick up. I cannot recommend it enough. This is probably one of the best books I've ever read. "The story of World Cup qualification? Sure, that sounds interesting." I did not expect this book to go where it did. And it is very clear that the author has gone to really extreme lengths for this book. If you're a football fan, or a general sports fan, or just someone interested in looking at geopolitical issues from a different lens - this is absolutely a book you MUST pick up. I cannot recommend it enough.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rory Dungan

    This would be a 2.5 rating if Good Reads allowed. Loved the idea of this much more than the execution. Had some great moments and a few good insights and definitely gave some perspective on places I knew little about, but I found it a serious struggle to get through to the end. I put it down several times over the course of a couple of years and grudgingly went back just to tick the box and finish it. Having said that, the writing style maybe didn't do it for me and others might love it! This would be a 2.5 rating if Good Reads allowed. Loved the idea of this much more than the execution. Had some great moments and a few good insights and definitely gave some perspective on places I knew little about, but I found it a serious struggle to get through to the end. I put it down several times over the course of a couple of years and grudgingly went back just to tick the box and finish it. Having said that, the writing style maybe didn't do it for me and others might love it!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    One of the best sports books I have ever read. Engaging, personal, fast-moving, and empathetic.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Aurélien Parlouer

    Good geopolitico-footbalistic piece. Too bad that reading it 4 years after the release makes it less powerful.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ipswichblade

    Decent enough book about qualification for the world cup of 2014, with lots of information about the background to some of the smaller nations

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jonny Brick

    Picaresque voyage through the minnows of the football world, from American Samoa to Tonga to the West Indies. The word 'intrepid' was invented for the author. Picaresque voyage through the minnows of the football world, from American Samoa to Tonga to the West Indies. The word 'intrepid' was invented for the author.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Holly Cruise

    Is this book using football to shine a light on a wide range of differing and challenging social situations across the world, or is it using the lens of a very different set of countries to examine football? Whistlestop and episodic, these snapshots into the lives of some of the teams and fans vying, usually massively against the odds, to qualify for Brazil 2014 takes in some truly fascinating situations. Football is played against backdrops of war and revolution - either ongoing situations like Is this book using football to shine a light on a wide range of differing and challenging social situations across the world, or is it using the lens of a very different set of countries to examine football? Whistlestop and episodic, these snapshots into the lives of some of the teams and fans vying, usually massively against the odds, to qualify for Brazil 2014 takes in some truly fascinating situations. Football is played against backdrops of war and revolution - either ongoing situations like countries caught up in the Arab Spring, or longer term scars from the countries and almost-countries that made up Yugoslavia. Football is played against a backdrop of hopelessness - the desperate plight of Eritreans in their dictatorship or how American Samoa and San Marino keep going despite the almost complete futility of their efforts. The book works best when it boils things down to a human level - Egypt's Mohamed Aboutrika and Bob Bradley trying to hold it together as the country collapses and rebuilds itself repeatedly, or Jaiyah Saelua, the American Samoan who also happens to be the world's first openly transgender (as we in the West would understand it) player. I would give this book an extra half star if I could. It's interesting and informative, although it reads more like a long newspaper article than a weighty book. Definitely recommended though for those who recognise that football cannot be divorced from its surroundings and that there's more to life than the super-drilled, media-trained big names of the countries which usually qualify for the World Cup.

  17. 4 out of 5

    C M

    In "Thirty-One Nil" British journalist James Montague travels the globe to cover the qualification process for the 2014 World Cup Soccer in Brazil. From the first to the last game he visits the small and exotic national teams, from Palestine to Iceland and from Haiti to Samoa. It is an amazing tour-de-force, logistically, how he gets from and to all these places and gets access to so many officials and players. It makes for some great anecdotes and stories, but unfortunately he tries to do too m In "Thirty-One Nil" British journalist James Montague travels the globe to cover the qualification process for the 2014 World Cup Soccer in Brazil. From the first to the last game he visits the small and exotic national teams, from Palestine to Iceland and from Haiti to Samoa. It is an amazing tour-de-force, logistically, how he gets from and to all these places and gets access to so many officials and players. It makes for some great anecdotes and stories, but unfortunately he tries to do too much too superficially. Consequently, much of the book reads like a combination of a travel guide and a match report, spiced up with the occasional forced literary construction. He describes rather than analyzes, rarely capturing the unique atmosphere of the event. Hence, much of the book falls flat, saved only by the fact that no one else has ever described it. Don't get me wrong, any lover of culture and soccer will appreciate the book and enjoy several parts of it. Most interesting was his reflection on the meaning of national teams in a globalized world, in the postscript, where he argues that even though more and more teams are selecting players with tenuous connections to the country most people continue to have strong nationalist feelings toward "their" national team. his notwithstanding, I feel that a narrower focus and more in-depth reporting would have created a more gripping read. Which is why I will definitely read his earlier book on the Middle East next.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Richard McGeough

    Ever wondered how it feels to be the manager of San Marino's national team, a team that has never won a competitive game? What's it like to manage or play for a national team like Haiti, Rwanda, Palestine or Bosnia, whose countries have been ripped apart by disaster and war? And how on earth did tiny Iceland get within 90 minutes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil? This book is excellent in those chapters that focus on the true underdogs of international football, the teams tha Ever wondered how it feels to be the manager of San Marino's national team, a team that has never won a competitive game? What's it like to manage or play for a national team like Haiti, Rwanda, Palestine or Bosnia, whose countries have been ripped apart by disaster and war? And how on earth did tiny Iceland get within 90 minutes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil? This book is excellent in those chapters that focus on the true underdogs of international football, the teams that never stood a chance of qualifying for the finals, but whose teams have fascinating stories, including that of American Samoa's transgender star player. Other chapters focus - sometimes at considerable personal risk to the writer - on teams who do stand a chance of qualifying, but who must contend playing against a backdrop of civil strife (Egypt in the early months of the Arab Spring) or ugly nationalism (Croatia, Serbia and Hungary). These were interesting stories in their own right, but at times it made for a rather unfocused read, as if lacking a real underlying theme. But this is a relatively minor quibble. Thoroughly recommended if your interest in football extends beyond the glamour.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

    31-0 tells the story of a number of the lower-seeded national soccer teams as they attempt to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. In it, the author travels to 6 continents, as he watches teams with no chance to make the big dance (such as American Samoa), teams from partially recognized nations such as Palestine (whose team is FIFA-approved) and Kosovo (whose team isn't), teams with a slight chance (Egypt, Bosnia, and Iceland), and even powerful Croatia. In it, soccer is often seen as a main unifying 31-0 tells the story of a number of the lower-seeded national soccer teams as they attempt to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. In it, the author travels to 6 continents, as he watches teams with no chance to make the big dance (such as American Samoa), teams from partially recognized nations such as Palestine (whose team is FIFA-approved) and Kosovo (whose team isn't), teams with a slight chance (Egypt, Bosnia, and Iceland), and even powerful Croatia. In it, soccer is often seen as a main unifying factor in places where there isn't much to unify the population, and it can also be a source of division (see Hungary/Romania and Croatia/Serbia) between nations. My main reason for giving the book a low rating is because it just took me so long to read it. I am not a fast reader at the best of times, but I don't think there seemed to be much continuity between the chapters; it was always: New continent, new players, new teams, and coaches. This made it a struggle to return to at times.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Edward Isaacs

    As much about an array of social, political, and economic problems throughout the world as it is about football, Thirty-One Nil, named for a heartbreaking defeat suffered by American Samoa at the hands of Australia, follows Jame Montague as he takes a very interesting, and often very dangerous, trip around the world to follow a number of the world's lowest-ranked underdogs in their long-shot campaigns to attempt to earn a spot at Brazil in 2014. An extremely riveting tale, Thirty-One Nil kept me As much about an array of social, political, and economic problems throughout the world as it is about football, Thirty-One Nil, named for a heartbreaking defeat suffered by American Samoa at the hands of Australia, follows Jame Montague as he takes a very interesting, and often very dangerous, trip around the world to follow a number of the world's lowest-ranked underdogs in their long-shot campaigns to attempt to earn a spot at Brazil in 2014. An extremely riveting tale, Thirty-One Nil kept me interested from start to finish, even though I already knew the outcome of the 2014 World Cup.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dan Lee

    I read another review of this book and the reviewer said that it reads like a collection of articles for a periodical. That's largely true, but I think it's also just about the only way you could write this kind of book. The author attended World Cup qualifying matches on six continents, telling the stories of players and coaches from underdog national sides like American Samoa and Eritrea. A fun read. I'm happy I took the time to go along for the ride. I read another review of this book and the reviewer said that it reads like a collection of articles for a periodical. That's largely true, but I think it's also just about the only way you could write this kind of book. The author attended World Cup qualifying matches on six continents, telling the stories of players and coaches from underdog national sides like American Samoa and Eritrea. A fun read. I'm happy I took the time to go along for the ride.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Will Bennetts

    Just finished this book. One of the best on the subject I have ever read. Really fascinating to read about countries teams such as Hati, US Virgin Islands and American Samoa interesting interviews with players and coaches plus if you are into history as well there are facts about each countries origins . So if you are a fan of history and/ or football this is well worth a read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    This is a fascinating look at World Cup qualification from the point of view of nations like American Samoa, Jordan, Haiti and many others. The author visited six continents and 20 countries in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup. It's well written and reported and Montague's perspective is clear throughout. This is a fascinating look at World Cup qualification from the point of view of nations like American Samoa, Jordan, Haiti and many others. The author visited six continents and 20 countries in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup. It's well written and reported and Montague's perspective is clear throughout.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex Bloom

    Montague takes the reader all around the world, discussing some of the most politically charged national soccer teams in the world, and the symbolism that their teams' performances have for their countrymen. Even the non-soccer-fanatic would enjoy some of the stories to gain an appreciation for why soccer is the world's sport. Montague takes the reader all around the world, discussing some of the most politically charged national soccer teams in the world, and the symbolism that their teams' performances have for their countrymen. Even the non-soccer-fanatic would enjoy some of the stories to gain an appreciation for why soccer is the world's sport.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mark Leonard

    Fantastic stories Montague traveled the world for soccer stories that were hidden in small places. His stories about American Samoa, Croatia and Serbia, Hungary and Romania, along with the reporting from the Confederations Cup protests in Brazil are worth the entire price.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Guy

    I was about a third of the way through this when I left on vacation so I had to return it to the library. I will take it out again soon and finish it. Very fascinating read so far but maybe that's because I am an avid football (soccer) fan. I was about a third of the way through this when I left on vacation so I had to return it to the library. I will take it out again soon and finish it. Very fascinating read so far but maybe that's because I am an avid football (soccer) fan.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Aside from the times of harsh language, this is a great book about small, struggling teams working to qualify for the World Cup--all the while learning more about the political landscape of various world areas.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steve Skelton

    Very interesting look at International Soccer Great book. Excellent look at a wide range of lesser known international soccer teams and their efforts to qualify for the World Cup. Thoughtful perspective on how important these teams are to their home countries and their people.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I really enjoyed the backstory of the 'other' nations vying for the World Cup. Great read. I really enjoyed the backstory of the 'other' nations vying for the World Cup. Great read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ystyn Francis

    This was a fascinating read which taught me a lot about the world through the lens of football.

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