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A Cultured Left Foot by Muta Okwonga

Release date: 04th May, 2008
Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co

List Price: 15.49
Our Price: 11.19
You Save: 4.3 (27%)
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Most people reading this will have watched at least some of the midweek European football action, but did anyone see much evidence of genuine greatness on display?

On Tuesday, the slight figure of Lionel Messi was the best player on the Old Trafford pitch, although it could be argued that Cristiano Ronaldo deliberately subdued his ebullient style to become an integral part of a Manchester United team that was comprehensively outplayed for most of the match. Perhaps this ability to conform when necessary marks Ronaldo out as a potential great.

On Wednesday, all likely suspects were undone by a combination of atrocious playing conditions and unbelievable tension. There was bravery and commitment, great finishing and occasionally wonderful play, but no-one could claim to have seen a truly great player on display at Stamford Bridge.

Having witnessed some of the world's finest footballing talent playing in the latter stages of the planet's most highly-prized club competition, is it surprising that not one player stood head and shoulders above the rest? One suspects that Muta Okwonga wouldn't be perturbed.

Okwonga is a dedicated football fan (and a lawyer to boot) who can claim to have produced a rarity: an intelligent football book. His regular references to a multitude of great footballing moments proves he is also extremely well informed - a guy who would perform well on your pub quiz team, although he is clearly a well-rounded character who can appreciate football's many absurdities.

Essentially, Okwonga has sought to examine the eleven ingredients essential to the DNA of any great footballer, although his analysis is less conventional than one might imagine, for his is a personal thesis which draws upon everything from science to conventional words of footballing wisdom.

As this is a personal journey, albeit a highly enjoyable one, he can meander off and try different theories on readers, recalling some of the finest footballing moments in the process. But this is no pure academic tome: each of Okwonga's chapters is rich in humour as well as analysis as he combines reason and flashback to further his argument. It is that most enjoyable of reads: that which can be dipped into on a regular basis, its thread recalled within a few sentences.

So, what is it that makes a footballer great? Okwonga is far too modest to suggest that his eleven ingredients are the definitive word on the matter, but if you think it's just a cultured left foot, let me say you're mistaken.
Several other authors have included a chapter on madness when writing about greatness and Okwonga's thesis is no exception as he examines anger's crucial role in driving players.
"People are scared of anger," says Thierry Henry. "I'm not scared of using my anger in a positive way. It's really difficult, but without that anger I wouldn't be the same player. I want to have it in me till I stop."

Henry appeared all too briefly at Old Trafford on Tuesday; he looked angry at having been on the bench, but had little time to translate that anger into a positive contribution and show evidence of his greatness. By reading this fine book, you may understand why.

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