What's the score?
I never thought I'd agree with the assertion that there's too much football on television. But when Coronation Street gets shifted to 9.30pm to make room for a match in Turkey, things are getting a little out of hand. And books too? Can there ever be too much written about the beautiful game?
The answer perhaps depends upon whether new offerings add anything to the existing array of books about soccer. These three publications, chiefly targeted at the primary school age range, all attempt this difficult task, with differing degrees of success.
The authors of Junior Soccer accept there is a problem and are at pains to stress that their title - which is aimed specifically at teachers and coaches of the seven to 11-age-range - is different from the rest. Rather than talk in terms of specific skills developed in isolation, Rowe and Jones offer a lesson-by-lesson structure which will develop skills in an integrated way over a four-year period. Small-sided games, critical to soccer at the youngest ages, are used throughout. There is also a range of tips, many of which are aimed at helping teachers in less than perfect situations (poor facilities, mixed ability groups etc.), and extensive help on areas such as safety and warming up.
On the practical level, Junior Soccer is in line with national curriculum demands. Better than that, the tone of the book constantly encourages enjoyment, rewards, praise, teamwork . . . all the best features of football. Also the book uses boys and girls as examples in equal amounts: very laudable, very modern. The pictures are poor quality, but charming.
Soccer, another book for teachers, sets itself aside from other titles on account of its photocopiable worksheets. It also claims to be suitable for non-specialists, a particular virtue for primary schools. The photocopiable pages are very clear and will work well with children. The arrangement of Aims and Resources on each page also makes this a very practical resource. More than this, the book doesn't offer much that's radically new. And worksheets or not, Pounds 9.99 for 48 pages works out relatively expensive.
World of Soccer is, perhaps, the hardest to justify on the "anything new" scale. A standard library book, ideal for primary level, it uses stock photos and a traditional design to provide a general overview of the game at large. The book deals almost exclusively with the top end of the game; World Cup matches feature heavily in the photo-graphs, top stars fill most of the space. The explanation of the skills is completed entirely in narrative, and is largely ineffectual, though not uninteresting.
Overall, it's not a bad read. The explanation of how to understand league tables is something that many books don't contain, but the merely fleeting reference towomen's football is, sadly, far too common.
This last title might make one think. Is there too much written about football? No, that's not really possible, is it?