RE­QUIRED READ­ING

FourFourTwo - - UPFRONT - EUROPE UNITED Matt Walker (river­run, £16.99) ●●●●●

Walker’s quest to watch a match in each of UEFA’S 55 na­tions, all in one sea­son, is at its best when he ex­plores Euro­pean foot­ball’s less fash­ion­able out­posts. In the Faroes and Ice­land, the £240,000 that clubs re­ceive for Europa League qual­i­fi­ca­tion – a week’s pay for one player at some top clubs – re­ally is make-or-break.

Walker paints an in­for­ma­tive, quirky, fas­ci­nat­ing pic­ture of match­day cul­ture across Europe. In Nor­way, as Arc­tic terns swoop over­head, Brann sup­port­ers sing, “Ni­a­gara Falls, London and Paris, what are these com­pared to Ber­gen, the Nordic par­adise?” In Al­ba­nia, sup­port­ers sip 65p beer and bask in the af­ter­glow of a sur­prise Euro 2016 ap­pear­ance. In Ar­me­nia, 80 fans at­tend a ghostly top-flight fix­ture.

While on his trav­els, Walker demon­strates how Europe is be­com­ing more ho­mogenised – yet the have-nots crave the lu­cra­tive TV deals that see, for in­stance, the best Pol­ish play­ers moving to Ger­many or France.

The book’s sheer breadth does mean Walker whizzes through some sec­tions. Even so, Europe United is a cul­tur­ally savvy look at foot­ball across the con­ti­nent.

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