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How Soccer Works

by Keltie Thomas

After tackling hockey, baseball, and  basketball, Toronto author Keltie Thomas now turns to the world’s most popular game. As with the other titles in the How Sports Work series, this is not just another sports book.

In eight well-designed chapters, the author covers most aspects of the science behind the game, from how to grow the perfect pitch and make the best boots and balls to why high-tech clothing is more comfortable and why David Beckham’s free kicks bend. There is a lot of information in How Soccer Works and it can be quite technical. Some explanation might be needed for younger kids in the target age range, but generally the facts are clearly set out and conveniently broken up into easily digestible pieces.

Each chapter ends with a Legends of the Game page, which introduces a great player, sometimes in novel ways. For example, Pelé’s feet turned green after his first game for the New York Cosmos because bare patches on the pitch had been painted for the TV cameras. There are also short Quick Kick facts, tips, a couple of simple experiments, and boxes that give brief anecdotes about famous players. 

There is a good glossary, a digest of the rules and regulations, and a wealth of excellent photographs and illustrative cartoons by Stephen MacEachern. Even adult readers will learn something – in my case, that the expression “to score a goal” comes from the old habit of notching, or scoring, goalposts to keep a tally of how the game was going.

Although there are tips on how to bend the ball and on team formations, this is not a how-to book. However, it is essential background for any boy or girl who wants to develop a passion for what Pelé called “the beautiful game.”