When we last touched base, the Hypothetical Book Championship Belt was firmly in the hands of David Quammen's peerless Spillover which is a borderline pantheon book. No other book was going to make a serious challenge on the belt unless it too was Pantheon worthy.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the best football book ever written: David Winner's Brilliant Orange.
What Winner has done is capture the very essence of something completely in definable: why the Dutch play football like they do. He examines every aspect of their culture, history, architecture and personalities to explain what Total Football is and means to the people. The book is a fascinating look at the players and their exquisite agony over repeated collapses on the world stage. Take his heartbreaking rendition of the fateful 1974 World Cup Final against Germany which he argues, was the psychological equivalent of being invaded again. His writing is clear and concise and so engaging it a very simple prospect to become completely engaged in the book for an hour or more with almost no time seeming to pass at all. Do not get me wrong though, this is no page turner but a thoughtful meditation that challenges with its slim complexity. (The book is only 251 pages but is intellectually twice that).
As the World Cup begins this is a perfect book to pick up, and joins my "sub pantheon" of Football books alongside Among the Thugs, Fever Pitch and Richer than God. Read this book and prepare for an indelible experience - few other books can manage to be so engrossing when comparing both an airport and the countryside to football tactics. An absolute must read and our new Hypothetical Book Championship Belt holder.