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I picked this book up at my local library when it had an "ex rental" book sale. Having previously read Hotel Babylon I thought that this was by the same author and bought this for a whole 10 pence!
When I got it home I realised that it is not by the same person as Hotel Babylon but is definitely a book in the same vein!
Mel Stein is, and has been for many years the "football secretary" of premiership football clubs. Now this is cunningly not his real name as he wants to survive to enjoy the royalties from selling this book.
What is Football Babylon about?
Much as Hotel Babylon exposed many of the dirty secrets of a five star hotel this "novel" sets out to do the same for a premiership foot ball club.
It does this by following the fortunes of Thamesmead FC, a fictional football club who have managed to get promoted from the championship (second division for people like me who are not clued up on football) to the premier league. Suddenly instead of playing in small towns up and down the country Thamesmead FC have to play Liverpool, Chelsea and Man United!
The book is split into chapters, each entitled the date during the season during which the action happens. So we start in July (celebrating promotion) through the transfer window, early losses, the Christmas party, the January transfer window etc.
The back of the book tells you that Thamesmead FC "slide back into the championship" so I guess you know before you start reading that they will be relegated. There are just lots and lots of bumps and stories along the way.
Is the book fact or fiction?
A bit of both, the book draws from Mel Stein's experience in the premiership and obviously is based on several real clubs. He sheds all the gossip about dodgy transfer deals, the players methods for passing drugs tests and of course WAGS!!!!!
Does it identify any famous footballers?
Well there is a rich foreign owner who I guess could be Mohammed Al Fayad, or Roman Abramavich or Malcolm Glazier but is probably a combination of the three.
If you are more of a football fan than I am you can probably identify who the real characters are based on. As I am not massively keen on football I just found the book funny!
Ranging from the club chairman to the rich foreign investor, to the club captain, to the groundsman all characters within the football world are critiqued.
What did I think?
Despite not having an in depth knowledge about football (or even a great interest) I loved this book. The writing style is wholly tongue in cheek, taking the mickey out of the ridiculous salaries and goings on in the football world! Nothing is taken seriously but you can believe that every anecdote is based on a real character out there. If you are a football buff you can probably identify more of the characters and may even be slightly shocked at what goes on.
I liked the fact that this book was based on a fictional club newly promoted as you can see this happening in the real league often. The story romps along and at no stage did I get bored. At several stages I laughed out loud.
Football fan or not I would recommend this as a light and funny read, who knows you might even learn something. Or perhaps even be inspired to go and watch a football game (or try to bag a footballer!!!)