- Historical Dictionary of Soccer by Tom Dunmore, and: Football/Soccer: History and Tactics by Jaime Orejan
Soccer Reference Books in an Internet World
Do we need paper-and-ink books like Tom Dunmore’s Historical Dictionary of Soccer and Jaime Orejan’s Football/Soccer: History and Tactics anymore? For better and worse, the internet is my continual companion. If I am drafting an essay, I will have a number of browser windows open—a dictionary, the Oxford reference guides, Zotero for notes, and various other research resources. If I am watching a soccer game, I am also tethered to the internet— tracking journalists’ commentaries on Twitter, Googling players to figure out for what clubs they previously played, and training one eye on a YouTube highlight reel of Dennis Bergkamp goals. Dunmore and Orejan have both written reference books of sorts—just the sort of intellectual dinosaurs that may fall prey to internet sources that can be more expansive, detailed, and responsive to change. To compensate for these natural inadequacies would require a high level of authorial credibility and a narrative charisma that a “neutral” site like Wikipedia proscribes. Otherwise, I could not see myself pulling these books off the shelf instead of visiting the rich hunting grounds of the internet—and particularly Wikipedia, which has plenty to say about the topics you will find in these two books (and now bears the seal of approval from historical titan William Cronon).
To be honest, I expected the least from Dunmore’s book. A dictionary seemed more susceptible to the limitations of materiality—hemmed in by space and static once written—and the more challenging project to animate. As it turns out, a dictionary can be pretty compelling when shaped by the right hands. Dunmore is perhaps best known for editing Pitch Invasion, a blog of thoughtful pieces on topics like supporter culture, media coverage, and women’s soccer. It has spawned another site, Stadium Porn, which, as the title suggests, attends to arena fetishists. Until recently, Dunmore chaired a supporters’ association of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire. He is also an erstwhile dissertator in international history. A combination of passion and professional discretion is evident in the Historical Dictionary.
The book begins with a chronology of key dates in soccer history, followed by a sophisticated introductory overview of soccer history that perfectly balances breadth and focus. Dunmore then summarizes the history of soccer worldwide, looking particularly to organization at national and club level, fan cultures, economics, and the women’s game. The bulk of the book is, of course, the dictionary, which alphabetically addresses a range of different topics, including male and female players, leagues and associations, tournaments, iconic clubs, concepts (like “amateurism”), roles (“assistant referee”), equipment, and famous stadiums. This is indeed a global dictionary that pays much attention to the game in Africa and throughout Asia; women’s soccer is fully on his radar as well. The dictionary [End Page 154] proper is followed by a series of appendices listing Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) presidents, men’s and women’s world players of the year, and major tournament winners. A strong, topically organized bibliography closes things out.
A collection like this could easily seem haphazard, but somehow this massive undertaking—squeezing one-hundred-and-fifty years of the world game into two-hundred-and-seventy pages of blurbs—feels quite deliberate and disciplined. I noticed just one error: Dunmore refers to River Plate’s stadium as the “Chocolate Box,” when in fact this is the nickname of the stadium of their arch-rivals, Boca Juniors (which he rightly notes in that club’s entry). Of course, in an online format, that minor error could be corrected in seconds. The “Bombonera” could have its very own entry, along with photographs and even video. In other words, it could look...