The American journalist McGinnis had only recently be infected by the virus that so many around the world already have. Coming from a country where the sport is called Soccer and that has no history whatsoever in the sport, he learns the ins and outs of the game and finds out that Italy has the best league. His idol becomes Roberto Baggio and he sees some games in the 1994 World Cup, in the U.S.A. In the end of 1996 he decided to follow the club that has reached the serie B. In this book he sometimes has to explain basic essentials, known by all fans, but as he is American he feels the need to explain, knowing that some things can't be assumed common knowledge by everyone.
The year he is there is not just about a football. In Italy football is so important, it is a major part of the society, therefore everything that is typically Italian mingles in as well. The scene isn't as simple. There is signor Gravina, the president of the club, there as he is married to the cousin of the owner Signor Rezza. This last one is a very wealthy man with his own bodyguards (think Godfather), a house that most resembles a castle on top of a hill and a lot of connections with the maffia in Napels, the camorra. There is a drugscandal. There are tragedies, some players die in a carcrash. There is the stadium, not used for football at this level, which needs to be redone, but the money seems to be lacking. There is the arrival of a foreign star, who impresses everybody, but leaves before playing a game, as the coach decided he doesn't need him.
This is much more than a story about a game. This is an epic of a small village. Obviously the football team is in the middle of it all, but there is so much more to it, that this book can be read even by people who don't know anything about football, or even hate it. The whole season the club is doing everything to survive a year at this level. At the end the four worst teams drop down a level, they are red hot favorites to be one of the four.
McGinnis becomes part of the club, he is quoted in leading Italian newspapers, thinks after a month there that the coach would like his advice on the final line up and writes letters condemning certain actions of the board. He is not just a nutty foreign observer, he is part of the fairy tale. That's why this book is such an interesting read. It gives you insight in the amateurism of the professionals, into the Italian society, but also you really get to know him. He wrote the book I have dreamed of writing. I wish I had had the opportunity. I'm jealous.