Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rough Diamonds

When thesimplestgame interviewed Coach Gianni Mininni a couple of weeks ago (interview), he had plenty to say. Like plenty. We’re a curious bunch, so we asked about his book. And he sent a copy. He even signed it for us.

So who is he? He’s a motivated Italian living in San Francisco. He’s almost 60 and, even though he thinks it’ll never happen in the US, he continues his battle to popularise the beautiful game. His first (and only) self-published book, The Team: a soccer novel, is just one of the many steps he’s taken to walk his formidable, enthusiastic, football talk.

It’s a fictional account of a mature (I nearly said old) Italian migrant to the US and his trials and tribulations in organising a football team. It focuses on what a team needs, what a coach needs and, touchingly, what it takes to bring it all together. To people who know Coach Gianni it’ll be a familiar story. It’s what he dreams of. It’s what he talks about on his site and I’m sure it’s all he talks about at BBQ’s.

The Team, like the man who wrote it, is the proverbial rough diamond. Part soccer novel, part football fiction, part coach’s pocket guidebook. It offers a coaching ethos, coaching wisdom and plenty of Gianni’s own views. Particularly on why football isn’t working in the US – 300 million population, 17 million players, and only 13 national league teams. Organised football has existed in San Francisco for almost 100 years, something concrete should probably have materialised before now. Mininni is as baffled as everyone else.

Maybe the Australian model, currently picking up power, momentum and most importantly, large-scale corporate sponsorship dollars, could be held up for the US authorities to have a squizz.

But back to the book. Through talking about the fundamental aspects of football’s success in Europe and the factors choking it in the States – some of them more than a little familiar after watching the fall and rise of the local game in Australia – Gianni takes his book beyond the simple frame of it’s storyline.

Each chapter opens with a nugget of wisdom. An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it for example - this one's from JFK I'm told. Some of it is pure Gianni, some of it is filtered wisdom gleaned throughout his long, and I’d have to say colourful, football journey.

There are some issues with the book. English is clearly not Gianni’s first language, but I knew that before I started reading. It needs a solid edit (copy and structural), but most self-published titles do. The simplistic story is fairly predictable, but while it’s more of a vehicle for Gianni’s thoughts and ideas, it’s still an effective means to draw the reader in. It’s certainly more engaging and imaginative than wooden how to guides for dummies.

Rough diamonds get their name because they're uncut and in need of a polish. While The Team might need a hefty polish, the sparkle is there. It may not be a work of literary aplomb, but, for us here at thesimplestgame, it’s football fiction with two very important concepts folded in. There’s football and there’s plenty to talk about. Isn’t that what we’re all looking?

Coach Gianni would probably tell you to scratch the surface and see for yourself. You can buy The Team here.

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