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?