What is success in football? It seems that there is an obvious answer. Winning. But if this book was titled 2002 Brazil I wouldn’t have felt the giddy anticipation when beginning it. The 1982 Brazil side didn’t even make the World Cup semi-final. Yet, despite the fact I didn’t arrive in the world until 2 years later, they hold a mystique and allure for me that their more successful successors lack.
1982 Brazil tells the story the of the (arguably) best side not to win the World Cup. This is a definitive account of a team stocked with legendary players who captured the world’s imagination if not its ultimate prize.
The detail is fascinating and Horsfield brilliantly sets the broader context of Brazilian football and society at the time. He traces the development of the team from the 1970 winning team through Pele’s retirement and the preparations for the tournament.
If that was all this book was it would still be a really good read. The book stands out however for the personal context in which it is set. Because as much as it is about the 1982 Brazil team, it’s also very much about the author’s personal experience as a young boy of watching them. Horsfield captures the magic, the awe, the sheer giddiness of the World Cup seen through a young fan’s eyes. All football fans have the first World Cup they truly remember experiencing. It usually happened around 8 to 12 years old when, for 3 or 4 weeks, you got to experience the indescribable magic of watching the best footballers play in a competition which meant more than anything else you could imagine. Very few writers have the skill to capture that magic in the way Horsfield has.
1982 Brazil is simply a joy to read. Packed with nostalgia, insight, and trivia, it fully lived up to my exceedingly high expectations. Beware the list of YouTube links at the end of the book though. Click just one highlights video and it sucks you in and consumes hours and hours and hours!
Also worth a mention that Horsfield is a senior writer for These Football Times, a website and magazine I absolutely love. On moving country recently I left my collection of their magazines with a friend and I really miss them!