Joe McGinniss wrote this nonfiction book about his year, in 1994, spent in Castel Di Sangro with their calcio, or soccer, or football, team. In Italy, almost every town has at least one soccer team, and they play in ten different divisions, each of different skill level. At the end of every season, the best teams from each division move up to the next division up, and the lowest team in each division moves down a level. The example the author gives is that if the New York Yankees finished last in the American League, that they would have to move down a level, to Triple A, and play teams like Pawtucket rather than Boston.

The "miracle" of Castel Di Sangro, is that, in this city of approximately 5,000 people in the poorest area of Italy, has moved all the way up from the Terza Categoria, the lowest league in Italian soccer, all the way to Serie B, the second highest league in all of Italy, which includes teams from cities like Venice, Genoa, Torino, teams that have played in the highest division in Italy. The introduction of the book explains how Castel Di Sangro has made it all the way up to Serie B.

The author has decided to stay with the team for the season in their quest to remain in Serie B, that is, finish better than four of sixteen teams in Serie B. No illusions exist of Castel Di Sangro finishing in the top four and making it to Serie A. The key characters on the team are the coach, Jaconi, who describes himself as a bulldozer, and coaches a very defensive style of play that the author chafes against the entire book. Also, Signor Rezza, the owner, is an extremely rich, eccentric man, who probably has Mafia connections. He is unwilling to pay big money to get Serie B level players, so Castel Di Sangro is left with basically the same team it had last year. Also, in Serie B, teams are required to have a stadium that seats at least 10,000, which Castel Di Sangro's old stadium did not, so he had to construct a new one, but Rezza is not overly interested in having the stadium completed, so construction is proceeding very, very slowly. I won't reveal any more of the plot.

I was enthralled by this book and its multiple twists near the end. I would give up an eight out of ten, on my arbitrary grading scale. Also, a word of warning: In the edition I read, at least, the pictures are compiled into two clumps about one third and two thirds through the book. However, do not look at them until you finish the book, or surprises will be ruined.

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