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2006 Almanack of World Football by Guy Oliver

Release date: 12th October, 2005
Publisher: Headline Publishing

List Price: £20.00
Our Price: £12.00
You Save: £8 (40%)
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Internet access has conferred innumerable benefits upon hundreds of millions of regular users; when it comes to booking a flight, hiring a car or ordering almost anything, there is nothing to match it for speed or convenience.

Millions more use the internet for work (or homework) with search engines such as Google priding themselves on the speed with which they can respond to a user's request for information. Type in 'world football' on Google.com for instance and a staggering 135 million word matches are displayed on your computer screen within 0.09 seconds. While content quality may vary, the range and depth of information available online is mind-boggling.

Yet those of us who recall how research was conducted before the internet's arrival will almost certainly feel there is no substitute for browsing through a book. While an online search can develop into an often frustrating scamper through a thick maze of ether, dipping into a voluminous reference book can become a hugely enjoyable meander.

Over the years, football has been particularly well served with a regular supply of statistical information, although nothing has yet surpassed Sky Sports (formerly Rothmans) yearbook for comprehensiveness. For researchers, anoraks or the plain curious, however, there is surprisingly little available in written format which focuses on world football, which is where Guy Oliver's 2006 Almanack comes in.

This is a quite remarkable book, justifiably sub-titled "The definitive and essential guide to the global game."

Its 1042 pages are split into three sections, the first of which deals with every FIFA tournament, from the forthcoming World Cup to the 2005 World Youth Championship. The latter was won by Argentina in Utrecht last July with two goals from Lionel Messi, the young footballing prodigy Barcelona signed as a 13-year-old. As you can see, the book's information soon sticks.

A 700-page A-Z guide encompassing every football association in the world follows. Need to know which side won the Costa Rican league title in 1996? Here's a clue: they won it again last season (1). How about the telephone number of East Bengal FC - or perhaps the club's website address would be more convenient? They're both here. Looking for an assignment to report on the Maldives' FA Cup next May? The MFA's email address, where you can inquire about your press accreditation, appears on page 609.

The final section provides details of every world football confederation and its competitions, thus ensuring that not a page of this weighty tome is wasted. Given its truly global scope, the Almanac is the type of book the football enthusiast can sit down and read for hours with just the occasional furrowing of brow or raising of eyebrow as another remarkable fact or statistic is absorbed.

How Guy Oliver found time to do anything else (such as sleep) as he compiled the book's data is a mystery, yet he has just finished working with FIFA on the official film of the 1930 World Cup.

In a sport not short of on- and off-line information, the Almanack is a welcome addition, one apparently planned to become an annual publication. In years to come, this first one may even become collectable (as early editions of Rothmans have), hopefully encouraging people to leave their computer screens for a while to enjoy wallowing in a particularly absorbing book.

(1) Liga Deportiva Alajuelense


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