Award-winning football historian says "write because you love it, not to make money"


Award-winning football writer David Goldblatt has garnered high praise for his latest book The Age of Football.

The Sunday Times has said that he “is not merely the best football historian writing today, he is possibly the best there has ever been." 


In 2015, his book 'The Game of Our Lives' - a study of the changing face of English football and how it reflects the nation as a whole - was named William Hill's Sports Book of the Year.

He is also an Honorary Research Fellow at De Montfort University Leicester’s (DMU’s) International Centre for Sports History and Culture.

David recently took time out from a day of lectures at DMU to talk about his book, the state of football and what it takes to be a sports writer.

Why another football book?

“Because football is not just the most popular sport in the world, it is the most popular of popular phenomena in the world.

“It is bigger than the entire European publishing industry. It is bigger than the European cinema industry. It is the spectacle of all spectacles.

“It is only in the last 30 years, since Nick Hornby’s book Fever Pitch, and All Played Out, by Pete Davies, that you see this outpouring of writing about football history and culture.

“It is incredible to think that compared to writing my book The Ball Is Round in 2006, which covered the last 150 years of football, I needed to read so much more to write the Age of Football, which covers the first 20 years of the 21st Century.

“Two years was lost to reading Twitter. For example, I went through all the sub Saharan political leaders to find out how many of them professed to supporting a Premier League club in their Twitter account. Two thirds of them did.

“Robert Mugabe, I am pleased to say, was a Chelsea supporter!” (David supports Spurs)

“Nobody owns football…”

“Football is an instrument of social development.

“In the last 20 years the rise of women’s football has made a difference. Given that football has purported to be the global game for 150 years, women have been actively excluded or marginalised. There has been a really profound shift and challenge to the ruling order now. It shows another world is possible.

“Iran, for example, has given in and allowed women to watch a team game. That’s a phenomenal shift.

“With this book I would really like people to take away the idea that nobody owns football. It is our collective, shared property and a precious one at that, and we can and should have a say in how it’s run and staged.”

“Football is a microcosm of the rest of the world.”

“The football being played in the top end of the Champions League is the best football that has ever been played. Last season’s Champions League semi-finals. Wow. How good does it get? The calibre of football played was stunning. But a price is paid for that at almost every other level of football in the world, and something has been lost in the process.

“Football is an extraordinary microcosm of the rest of the world. It reflects the pattern of globalisation. Global capitalism creates inequality.

“You see this in football. The arrival of satellite TV has produced increasing inequality between Europe and the rest of the world. The gap keeps getting bigger and bigger.

“Look at the consequences of Africa’s love for the English Premier League, with millions tuning in to every game. Africa had a rich culture of football. The best players at least played some of their career in Africa. That has all been devastated in the last 25 years.”

Write because you love it” plus other tips

“I would say first and foremost do it because you love it, not to make money. It is very hard these days to make money from writing about sport. If you have not got a staff job in the media it is a difficult world.

“This is not a reason for not doing it, but it’s pretty important to ask “do I love it that much?”.

“The second thing is writing has brought me an enormous amount of pleasure. So think about something you love and find intriguing and deeply satisfying to write about.

“I am going to my grave satisfied I left my mark.

“Thirdly, wage war on clichés.

“Saying someone has a cultured left foot, or a team is parking the bus, is great for a chat down the pub but aim higher than that.

“Fourth, there is still lots of space for writers. The profession is overwhelmingly male and white. There is a real and desperate need for more voices and diversity.

“It gives me great pleasure to see how fabulously diverse DMU is.

“I wish the media boxes at sporting events around the world were as diverse as DMU’s campus.”

Posted on Monday 4th November 2019

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