thesimplestgame is always keen to talk to authors of football fiction, especially authors who’re trying to plug the gap between playing football and reading stories about it. Gianni Mininni was a very successful young player in his Italian homeland. He won an U17 national title medal and played in youth teams at Milan and Inter. He has 50 years experience in the soccer industry. Now, in San Francisco, he successfully coaches and tirelessly promotes the beautiful game. You only have to look at his site to see how much this man loves his football. We talked to him about his book The Team, football fiction and heard some interesting views.
thesimplestgame: Why did you choose to write about football?
Coach Gianni: Because I came to live in a country that apparently loves football, but doesn't understand why it’s so deeply rooted in Europe. Football (soccer!) should be the expression of the territory we represent. To wear the jersey is a great honor. In doing so we represent ourselves, our families, our little towns, our teams and our coaches. This concepts is unknown in the US, so I’ve tried to fill the hole. Besides this, for young players, I think football is a kind of time machine that can transport them to a future (but just around the corner) reality in which they have to solve the same problems they will encounter in everyday life.
tsg: There’s a belief that men prefer reading non-fiction over fiction – it’s been put forward as one of the reasons for the lack of football fiction. Do you think this is true and do you think your fiction book will make it easier for your audience to access the game?
CG: Generally speaking, it seems to play sports is a 'macho' thing and, it seems, to read books is a girl’s thing! By reading non-fiction maybe the 'machos' realize this need. When you ask: Do you think this is true and do you think your fiction book will make it easier for your audience to access the game? I say Absolutely! Superficially, calling the book The Team and having a ball on the cover, it looks much more like a football manual than a novel (the word in the smallest writing on the cover) It’s only after, they realize it's a novel. The people who read it as a novel, without realizing, get the many football concepts that are buried inside the narration, so, I got both readers. The non-fiction and the fiction, transferring the information that I wanted to transfer.
tsg: Another theory is that footballers are better at expressing themselves with a ball than a pen, why do you think there is so little fiction about a sport which is so popular?
CG: This theory could be correct. Please don't misunderstand me but, as you notice in this moment, the majority of the top players are from countries deeply not developed. South America and Africa. With all due respect, we can't say that they have had an instruction when they where young. They just played soccer from a tender age and preferred that to what reality offered them: play soccer on the street bare foot instead to go to school (assuming that there was one there!)
This gave them the opportunity to get out of the misery and have a decent life. But they are not readers, so they will not become writers, which is the natural evolution of a 'real' reader!
tsg: That’s certainly one way of looking at it Gianni. What about the country you live in now?
CG: It's really a shame that a country with almost 300 million inhabitants, 16 million people playing soccer, 12 millions of which are kids, is so underdeveloped at a professional level. Ruud Gullit, after having coached here a few months, went away desperate. The standard is so low that it is hard to describe. And until it is understood that to play soccer doesn't mean you’ll be a soccer player, things will continue like this. And I'm also sorry to say, that is not a matter of time. Things will NEVER change because the problem is deeply rooted in American society so, this will never change. It will take a 'revolution' and this country had already had its revolution. A long time ago. Revolution time is really gone.
thesimplestgame would like to thank Gianni for the signed copy, the time he took to answer the questions and for his undying enthusiasm for the game that brings us all together.
You can buy Coach Gianni's book at The Team