‘Dark Goals: How History’s Worst Tyrants Have Used and Abused the Game of Soccer’ by Luciano Wernicke (2022)

The interaction of sports, especially football, and politics is a growing topic for sports books to cover. The hosting of two consecutive World Cups in countries with authoritarian political systems and questionable human rights records has presumably led to this wider interest in the history of the interaction of football and politics.

Dark Goals examines this issues with a particular focus on early 20th century dictators and their interaction with the game. It takes a deep dive into how these tyrants used football as well as their broader relationship with the game. Each chapter stands alone as a fascinating historical snapshot but the real power is combining them to see both how political leaders try to use football and how the game itself doesn’t always let them. Given the author is Argentinian, I found the chapters on his home country particularly interesting and insightful – who knew Eva Peron tried to fix the outcome of the Argentinian league because an underdog victory could boost national morale!

Deeply researched, packed with interesting insight, and full of sources not typically seen in English language football books, Dark Goals is a fascinating, informative and engaging read. A great book to accompany the upcoming World Cup – or to read instead of watching if you can’t stomach the latest authoritarian regime to try and use football’s greatest showcase as a propaganda exercise.