Author(s): James Montague
In a tiny, decaying aluminium smelting town in southern Tajikistan, a short drive from a raging war zone, Afghanistan take on Palestine in the first Asian qualifier for 2014's World Cup in Brazil. Every player on both teams is risking something by playing: their careers, their families, even their lives. Yet, along with thousands of other footballers backed by millions of supporters, they all dream of snatching one of the precious 32 places at the finals; and so begins a three-year epic struggle - long before the usual suspects start their higher-profile qualifying campaigns under the spotlight. Named after the greatest victory (and defeat) that the World Cup qualifiers have ever seen (Australia's 31-0 victory over American Samoa), Thirty-One Nil is the story of how footballers from all corners of the globe begin their journey chasing a place at the World Cup Finals. It celebrates the part-time priests, princes and hopeless chancers who dream of making it to Brazil, in defiance of the staggering odds stacked against them.
It tells the story of teams who have struggled for their very existence through political and social turmoil, from which they will very occasionally emerge into international stardom. From the endlessly humiliated San Marino to lowly Haiti; from war-torn Lebanon to the oppressed and fleet-footed players of Eritrea, in Thirty-One Nil James Montague gets intimately and often dangerously close to some of the world's most extraordinary teams, and tells their exceptional stories.
The story of the immense struggle to qualify for the 2014 Brazilian World Cup, Thirty-One Nil roams from American Samoa to Zambia in a remarkable and insightful journey that gets under the skin of world football.
Passionate and moving and provides further evidence of the universality of football FourFourTwo (on When Friday Comes) Particularly recommended if you prefer your sporting non-fiction to have a dash of humour and a sprinkling of history Observer (on When Friday Comes) An excellent book, which is so, so much more than a book about sport or football; it is also a travelogue and a treatise on the politics of the Middle East ... one of the most fascinating sports books of 2008 Scotland on Sunday (on When Friday Comes)
James Montague is a journalist and author who writes for the New York Times, CNN, GQ and World Soccer, reporting from the Middle East and beyond. His first book When Friday Comes: Football in the War Zone won him Best New Writer at the 2009 British Sports Book of the Year Awards. He was described in Sports Illustrated as 'The Indiana Jones of soccer writing.' He appears regularly on CNN as well as writing and producing regular radio shows for the BBC World Service's award winning World Football show.