I went to an all boys’ school. Every one of us stank.

That’s a quote, and quite possibly the most accurate description of a New Zealand school experience I’ve ever read. It comes from the pen of Christchurch’s Ryan Nelsen. The All White and Blackburn Rovers defender proves himself to have quite a turn of phrase in A Beautiful Game: football through the eyes of the world’s greatest players.

Collated by English football writer Tom Watt, this  collection of memories and cultural snapshots delves into the stories of how some of the biggest names in the game started out, explores their childhoods and what football meant to them. It puts a very personal and intriguing angle on the world’s most professional game.

Organised into sections like hope, family, dedication, passion, flair and courage, the book gives a real insight into why football inspires devotion from legions of fans. The photographs are stunning and show people playing football on beaches, arid deserts and streets in places as diverse as Baghdad, Liberia and Cambodia.

For Nelsen it’s a story that takes him from Spreydon Domain to the World Cup finals – and its fantastic that a Kiwi features in a book like this. His story illustrates perfectly the opportunity  and the dream football represents for millions of people around the world. I’d recommend it if you’ve ever wondered why blokes like sport so much. If it whets your appetite, there’s plenty more football resources available online or at your library.

Do you have memories of Big League Soccer, late night F.A. Cup finals or stinking out the classroom after lunch-time battles like Ryan Nelsen? Or were you more of a sportophobe?

8 thoughts on “I went to an all boys’ school. Every one of us stank.

  1. zackids 20 January 2010 / 1:24 pm

    I’m definitely a sportophobe. I couldn’t stand PE at school and the only sport I was ever any good at was netball when I was at primary school (which I got plenty of flack for). I umpired netball for 8 years before I had to give it up because of other commitments, but I still enjoy watching it. I grew up in a family of sportophobes, apart from my dad who loves soccer so I do have fond memories of him jumping around and yelling excitedly while watching a game, much to my mother’s disgust. I’m proud to say that I loathe rugby and really can’t understand the appeal of it.

  2. Jacqui 20 January 2010 / 1:59 pm

    I started playing football in the days when their was hardly any organised football for women. The clubs always gave us the oldest kit and basically ignored us. Now my daughter is playing in mixed teams and no one blicks an eye.
    We often missed Big League Soccer as the girls used to play on Sunday mornings. I’ve just had sky installed ready for the world cup and the start of the Rugby League season.
    I get sick of all the hype about Rugby though.

  3. richard 20 January 2010 / 3:30 pm

    My seven older brothers and sisters played league, soccer, rugby, netball and volleyball – but then everything in our house was a team sport of sorts. I played soccer, cricket, rugby a few times and water polo, once making the Under 13 Canterbury B squad! 5.30am starts!! Later I played golf, and I still occassionally maim well-groomed fairways with a 9-iron. Billetting was another strong memory – all sorts of people would turn up for a week or so when it was tournament time. Sport was fun – even when I was useless at it!

  4. Donna 20 January 2010 / 4:23 pm

    I wasn’t much fussed on school sports. Was blessed with lack of coordination. Liked running till puberty messed with my runner’s physique. Played hockey, and a little netball, and managed to smash my glasses doing gymnastics.
    I salute you sporty types!

  5. Mo-mo 20 January 2010 / 4:34 pm

    Ah, the beautiful game. My first ever shift working behind a bar was in London during a world cup game between England and Argentina in 1998. The noise was deafening and I could hardly hear what people were ordering.
    Beckham got sent off (and was thusly despised by his countrymen for many a moon afterwards) and the game went into extra time, and then a penalty shoot out.
    I’ve never seen anything like it, you could have cut the tension with chainsaw. Quite the rollercoaster of emotions on display (and heavy drinking).
    I was to watch many many more games of football after that but that was my first one and boy was it a doozy.

    • richard 21 January 2010 / 12:29 pm

      Wow – great story – that was a famous match. Beckham even had hair then.

  6. Annette 21 January 2010 / 4:00 pm

    I was brought up in totally anti-rugby environment – the only game was hockey. Then I flatted with rugby fans, married the son of an All Black, and went to my first live game a few years ago when our children were of an age to “take a kid to footy”. We were in the old No. 3 stand at Lancaster Park (may have been Jade then), right by the try-line, with the Crusaders playing the Highlanders, and the Crusaders scored right under our noses. I was hooked! And then we got to walk home through the tunnel under the railway surrounded by hyped-up fans – not quite “you’ll never walk alone” at Cardiff, but probably the closest Christchurch is going to come to it.

  7. richard 26 January 2010 / 11:06 am

    You might be interested to know that the only person who represented New Zealand in a sporting team in our family was the one who’s a librarian – my sister Linda made the New Zealand volleyball team in the 1980s.

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