The late and undoubtedly great Johnny Warren was a force in playing football and in football media in Australia. A veritable ambassador for the game, he had a tendency to shine whenever football did and sometimes times even when it didn’t. On SBS Him ’n Les Murray were an awesome team-up as far as pundits go.
His autobiography Sheilas, wogs & poofters is a sometimes dry but no less interesting and often amusing unofficial history of Football in Australia.There’s the story of the 1974 World Cup campaign, doomed because the players ripped off a Witch Doctor in Rhodesia during qualification and the story of $13.74 cheque they got for playing something like 11 international games (and people call the Scot’s tight!). In 2004 John Saffran went to Zimbabwe, tracked down and straightened out the Witch Doctor with a tenner and, lo and behold, Australia qualified for the 2006 World Cup - first time since '74.
The controversially titled book -its what Warren was often told of the game in his playing days- is a must read for any discerning football fan in this country.
Less can be said about Jasper Zammit: Soccer Legend the young adult football fiction he hoiked his name to. That’s not to say that it’s badly written, the idea that the all-conquering goodness of football will always win out/save the day/ teach us a lesson is now as well worn as Johnny’s oldest pair of boots.
We could live with the story if the writing dazzled, but it’s a bit too vanilla and certainly not in the same league in terms of spark as the Megs Morrison series (see Here’s one for the kids blog 2 March 2008).
With the exception of Jasper, the cast of cardboard characters move through a paper thin story, while messages, the tips at the beginning of each chapter - ‘Rule #12 Stay relaxed and focused under pressure’ - hammer home Johnny’s sportsmanlike positively-minded, footballing philosophy.
It's all right for me, I've knocked it over in an hour, but if I was a kid I’d be bored of the lessons by the end.
There are a couple of requisite sequels. I haven’t read them, but I’m going to.
It’s still football fiction innit?