La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World

Jimmy Burns has an emotional relationship to the soccer teams and the legacy of his native Spain. He's written several books on the sport, culminating in La Roja, which sets out to tell the story of Spanish soccer, from the moment when the British introduced the nation to the sport in the 1880s to the present day, when the sport has become ubiquitous. Soccer acted as a major propaganda tool in the Spanish Civil War; Franco used it to maintain control of local populations, installing loyal political figures as club presidents and managers. During his rule, Spanish club teams fought fiercely amongst themselves, with regional politics playing a heavy role; in international play, Franco's politics were at the forefront of every interaction. These were underachieving, frustrating years for Spanish soccer. Only in the late 20th century did Spain begin to come into its own, winning Olympic gold in 1992 and, finally, the pinnacle of a World Cup championship in 2010.

Burns relates nearly 150 years of Spanish soccer history, capturing its roots, the regionalism, the racism, the politics, the bullfighting connections and even a cultural reminiscence of Don Quixote. He portrays personalities, rivalries, strong emotions--including his own--and moments of shining success for a much-beset nation. Often heavier on history than on sport, La Roja is a window into Spain and its component cultures, regions and histories as well as a celebration of soccer and its most recent champions. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pages of julia

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