Sto­ries to stop you in your tracks

Mar­tin Chilton on the sport­ing life – from Hitler’s only foot­ball match to the joy of cow-dung ten­nis courts

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - CONTENTS -

Sport has al­ways been full of tales of the un­ex­pected. When Adolf Hitler at­tended a foot­ball match for the first (and last) time in 1936, it did not go to plan. He stormed out of Ber­lin’s Post­sta­dion with five min­utes left of Ger­many’s shock de­feat to Nor­way in the Olympic quar­ter-fi­nal.

Ger­many had been favourites to win, but Hitler and his pro­pa­ganda min­is­ter looked on aghast as the na­tional team went down 2-0. “The Führer is very upset,” Joseph Goebbels recorded in his di­ary. Later, Amer­ica’s black ath­lete Jesse Owens win­ning four gold medals en­raged Hitler fur­ther.

In the en­gross­ing

(Bod­ley Head, £16.99), his­to­rian Oliver Hilmes de­scribes the cor­rup­tion and mo­ral cow­ardice of guests who took ad­van­tage of Nazi hos­pi­tal­ity. Just a few miles from the lav­ish open­ing cer­e­mony, the SS were tor­tur­ing pris­on­ers who were build­ing a con­cen­tra­tion camp at Sach­sen­hausen.

The quest for per­sonal sal­va­tion through sport was a theme of sev­eral books this year. Moun­tain run­ner Moire O’Sul­li­van’s me­moir

(Sand­stone, £8.99) is a can­did ac­count of how a re­luc­tant par­ent bounced back to win Ire­land’s Na­tional Ad­ven­ture Race Se­ries. In

(Head­line, £16.99), the self­de­scribed “fat bird Bry­ony Gor­don” de­scribes how she did the un­think­able and ran her first marathon, aged 36. He­len Croy­don’s

(Sum­mers­dale, £9.99) is a sim­i­larly light-hearted ac­count of “a party girl turned triath­lete”, who learnt to swap “fid­dly lacy lin­gerie” for anti-chaf­ing cy­cling knick­ers.

Gre­gory Howe’s

(Pitch, £12.99) chron­i­cles the 35-year-old teacher’s costly bat­tle to qual­ify for top-flight ten­nis tour­na­ments. It is full of droll anec­dotes about the risks in­volved – and the stinky re­al­ity of play­ing on courts made of dried cow dung. Along the way he meets Do­minik Utzinger, who tells him about a “lazy lit­tle brat” he once coached, called Roger Fed­erer.

In (Pitch, £18.99), Mark Wal­ters re­minds read­ers of a grim chap­ter in foot­ball’s re­cent his­tory. The Rangers winger was the Scot­tish Pre­mier League’s first black player. In 1987, “a bay­ing mob” of thou­sands of Celtic fans chanted racist in­sults and threw ba­nanas and darts at him.

Like­able for­mer New­cas­tle man­ager Kevin Kee­gan gives a tragi­comic ac­count of work­ing with owner Mike Ash­ley and side­kick Den­nis Wise in

(Macmil­lan, £20).

Af­ter re­sign­ing in 2008, Kee­gan was awarded more than

£2mil­lion by a tri­bunal. “The whole ex­pe­ri­ence was so hideous it con­vinced me I never wanted to work in foot­ball again,”

Kee­gan writes.

Foot­ball is a frag­ile ca­reer and Alan Smith was shrewd enough to find a chal­lenge af­ter he stopped play­ing in 1995. The Arse­nal striker be­came a sports writer (for The Tele­graph) and a TV pun­dit. His ku­dos among young fans now is for be­ing one of the com­men­tary voices of the video game fran­chise FIFA. In (Con­sta­ble, £20), he re­flects on the knee in­jury that ended his ca­reer, and why study­ing books on sto­icism helped.

Although for­mer Manch­ester United cap­tain Michael Car­rick’s

(Blink, £20) is bland about col­leagues such as

Jose Mour­inho, his me­moir is com­pelling when he opens up about his men­tal health prob­lems and fall­ing into “a very dark place”.

Ben Thorn­ley was con­sid­ered the most promis­ing mem­ber of Manch­ester United’s “Class of 92” (a group that in­cluded Ryan Giggs) un­til a reck­less chal­lenge

“smashed his knee to smithereens”. His sub­se­quent down­ward spi­ral is the ba­sis of

(Pitch, £19.99). “He’s never been as happy as he was be­fore the in­jury,” is the sad re­mark from his brother Rod.

In

(Par­tic­u­lar, £14.99), Tom Gre­gory vividly re­counts his har­row­ing 32-mile swim across the English Chan­nel in 1988. For 12 hours he was in ag­o­nis­ing pain and even hal­lu­ci­nat­ing. At the time, he was 11. His re­mark­able world record will stand for­ever, as chil­dren un­der 16 are now barred from cross-Chan­nel at­tempts.

Gre­gory was urged on by his ob­ses­sive coach John Bul­let. For some cham­pi­ons, early sport­ing am­bi­tion is in­grained by a patho­log­i­cal par­ent. A six-mon­thold Tiger Woods was put in a high chair and fed spoon­fuls of baby food af­ter each prac­tice shot he watched his dad Earl hit. In

(Si­mon & Schus­ter, £20), bi­og­ra­phers Jeff Bene­dict and Ar­men Keteyian dis­sect the golf ge­nius’s dys­func­tional life. A for­mer em­ployer de­scribes Earl’s home as “a house of hor­rors”, where preda­tory be­hav­iour was the norm. When it came to wom­an­is­ing, Tiger Woods was a chip off the old block.

Shane Warne is an­other great whose li­aisons made head­lines. In his me­moir (Ebury, £20), he ad­mits he “let down” his chil­dren and “hu­mil­i­ated” his wife. Cricket fans seek­ing more than pruri­ence will find enough about how this su­perb spin bowler claimed a record 708 Test wick­ets to keep them sat­is­fied.

Ber­lin 1936: Six­teen Days in Au­gust & Baby Bump, Bike Eat, Drink, Run This Girl Ran Win­gin’ It in Foot­ball Chas­ing Points My Life Tom Gre­gory swam the Chan­nel while hal­lu­ci­nat­ing and in great pain. He was 11 Be­tween the Lines Tack­led A Boy in the Wa­ter Woods Heads Up No Spin Tiger

The nov­el­ist’s me­moir of her years as an NHS nurse is a master­class in how to count your bless­ings when re­ally you want to cry. (Chatto & Win­dus)

by Christie Wat­son

SEE YOU IN THE PITLorenzo Ban­dini in a Fer­rari 512 at Monza, 1964, pic­tured in Fer­rari by Pino Al­lievi and Marc New­son (Taschen, £4,500. Not in­cluded in 20% reader dis­count)

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