English football/Englischer Fußball

Englischer Fußball: A German View of Our Beautiful Game is the English title of a book whose German title, when it appeared a couple of years ago, was Harder, better, faster, stronger: Die geheime Geschichte des englischen Fußballs

The author, Raphael Honigstein, studied law in London and is a football reporter, inter alia for the Guardian.

I don’t think I’ll get round to reading this, for lack of time (I did read Tim Parks on following Verona). Honigstein apparently links English football with the British class system.

I don’t know if translators were involved – probably unnamed ones, I suppose.

Review in today’s Observer:

He is rarely kind to the English in this curious book – first written by Honigstein, who was part-educated in London, for a German readership in 2006 – and he is often absurd (“Let us recall the Reverend Edward Thring and the Victorian fear of masturbation … “). But he offers a perspective on England’s football and its culture that is stimulating and rather fascinating in its peculiarity.

The review mentions two things that seem odd to me:

Thus vile tower blocks from the post-war era are called ‘courts’. Victorian ‘mansions’ are not villas on the edge of town but apartment blocks.”

Perhaps Honigstein hasn’t lived in Germany enough? There are plazas being built here, and areas of rough ground become parks. That is typical estate agents’ language, or language coined with selling/letting in mind.

But it is England, “the place where they codify everything, from human rights to cricket”, that is Honigstein’s subject for earnest translation.

‘The place where they codify everything’ somewhat contrasts with an article I just read in the MDÜ according to which all English law is ‘spoken law’. Of that, more anon.

But it’s always interesting to read others’ views of national character.

Article by Honigstein in German on German football players being introduced to English football rituals – for instance, when all new players for Chelsea had to stand on a chair and sing a song of their choice to the rest.

Interview with Ralph Honigstein in German

1 thought on “English football/Englischer Fußball

  1. Sounds like an interesting book and has already been reviewed in the UK Press.

    Considering the number of non-English managers – inter alia: Irish, Scottish, Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish – at both club and national level as well as the proportion of non-British players, esp. in the Premier League, since the ECJ Bosman ruling abrogated the rule on 3 foreign players only, I wonder whether we can really talk any more of ‘English’ football. Club soccer academies are supposed to be redressing this balance towards home-grown talent.

    When I was at Stamford Bridge almost 50 years ago watching Terry Venables (Welsh mother)as no. 8 racing down the Chelsea wing, the only non-English name on the team sheet was the goal-keeper Peter Bonetti – and he spoke with a decidely London accent.

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