Football Atlas: A Journey Across the World and Onto the Pitch; James Buckley, illustrated by Eduard Altarriba
With the European Football Championship about to start (Friday 11th June), Quarto Publishing have timed this release perfectly (available 15th June). Football Atlas is the third title in the ‘Atlas’ series following the releases of Space Atlas and Ocean Atlas and sports-mad kids are in for an absolute treat. Football Atlas is a global tour of all things football and celebrates why millions of people around the world are in love with the beautiful game. It is worth clarifying here that this is football of the round ball type, to avoid any confusion globally the book is released under two titles; The Football Atlas and The Soccer Atlas.
Versions of football have been played for hundreds of years in all corners of the globe. From Aboriginal Australians and South Pacific Islanders kicking coconuts around to Native Americans playing a five-hundred-a-side game. It has even been played on Antarctica, Ernest Shackleton and his expedition team had a kick-about in 1914. The ancient people of the Olmecs, Inca and Maya took it so seriously that they brought a very literal meaning to the phrase ‘football is a game of life and death’ as the losing team usually found themselves condemned to death!
Football is the most popular game in the world, players from all around the world perform in the top leagues and billions watch the biggest games. Football Atlas is a wonderful tour of world football that encompasses everything kids want to know about - the players, the teams, the stadiums and the competitions. Skipping around the world, author James Buckley introduces the various continents and their footballing history, detailing both successes and struggles. Player profiles are given for several superstars - both past and present - that have risen to the top.
A delightful section on the history of balls and their development makes for an interesting read and children will be amazed at how things used to be. Fancy kicking an animal bladder around? And for those interested in the rule makers, there are overviews on FIFA and the various other governing bodies. And of course, no football book would be complete without an explanation of the offside rule!
The ending highlights how football is a totally inclusive sport allowing able-bodied, disabled and visually-impaired athletes to all play the game. There are also nods to beach football, futsal and a Russian sport that was new to me called motoball (ride a motorbike and kick a ball around). And for those kids that want to get outside and get playing there are suggested activities and even a rainy day one should the weather ruin footballing plans.
I love, love, love that so many women feature in this book and that their achievements within the game are celebrated just as much as their male counterparts. As the book often references, there is still much to be done to support and grow the women’s game globally - women’s football is frowned upon in many African countries and several countries in South America do not have pro leagues for women. A book like this that promotes women’s football, champions its stars and highlights lesser-known issues will only help raise the profile of the women’s game.
Football Atlas is very appealing. Pages are fun, bright and attention grabbing with engaging artwork, photos, maps and tables. It is filled with the kind of trivia that is great for sharing with football-mad friends and I would have loved reading this book when I was younger, actually, I loved reading it as an adult.
Recommended for 7+.
With thanks to Quarto Publishing, QED and James Buckley Jr. for the advanced reader copy that was received through NetGalley.