As the English football leagues get underway in earnest, many football fans up and down the country will be looking forward to catching a game, with a few hardy souls trekking here, there and everywhere to watch every minute of their team’s success (or failure). Football is a passionate pastime and football supporting even more so – especially for those committed fans who do indeed travel home and away, and on occasion have journeys over many hundreds of miles. But Matt Walker has taken this passion to the extreme, as documented in his book Europe United, by watching a live match in every one of the fifty-five UEFA nations – and all in the space of a single season.
From Andorra to Slovenia, the Faroe Islands to Wales and fifty-one other nations in Europe, Walker offers a snapshot of football around the continent, catching the good, the bad and the ugly of the game. Along the way, he introduces readers to every corner of Europe and many wonderful and unexpected places, as well as to a various cornucopia of football teams, players, stadia and fans. Some of the locations and teams may be familiar, but by and large, to the average football fan, Walker explores the lesser known face of European football and as such offers a hugely informative read and an insight into the game that looks beyond the big names often associated with the major European leagues and club competitions. It is really an eye-opening read that serves as an introduction to the game nation by nation across the continent, taking in everything from corruption and match-fixing to fan culture. And, without doubt, football fans can pick up lots of information and advice should they wish to replicate any part (or all!) of the journey.
As is the way with most sports books, the imagery is fairly limited, but those photographs that are included give a great sense of the variety of footballing experiences to be had across the continent. There are also some quirky chapters in between the main chapters that break up the narrative and cover everything from planning the journey to football kits. This really is a comprehensive miscellany of European football and a must-read for football fans keen to see the various sides of the game around the continent, even if only from their armchairs!
Jade Craddock 4*
Europe United by Matt Walker
riverrun 9781787476127 hbk Aug 2019