Books to Remind You of the Best World Cup Moments

Books to Remind You of the Best World Cup Moments

Every four years, the FIFA World Cup produces an incredible moment. Our Audio Producer, Nik de Garis, tells us his favourites, and what audiobooks to listen to as a reminder of them!

Everyone remembers the first World Cup tournament they watched. I have a vivid memory of being on a school camping trip to the island of Alderney. We woke up early in the morning and went to sit in a nearby school hall with a cup of hot chocolate. There, I watched Ronaldinho destroy my naive hopes and dreams with a blistering free kick for Brazil. Every four years, the World Cup produces a huge spectacle. There is always something crazy, incredible, or heart-breaking to watch. We weave narratives about underdogs, or favourite teams that capitulate entirely. Here are some books to remind you of the best World Cup moments:


1986, Mexico: The Hand of God

Diego Maradona scored both one of the the all-time greatest and the all-time worst goals in a single match.

On the one side he dribbled the ball around just about every player there was, before blasting it into the back of the net. However, four minutes earlier, El Diego went up for an aerial battle for the ball against the England goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, and knocked the ball into the goal with his hand. Maradona would later go on to call this, ‘the Hand of God’.

I think some similarities could be made to the great god Om, the all-powerful being who becomes stuck in the body of a tortoise in Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods. Both self-describe as small gods, and are looking to recover their reputation.

Small Gods Audiobook by Terry Pratchett

Admittedly, though, it either took Maradona 4 minutes to recover his reputation, or he has never recovered it, depending on your footballing stance.


1990, Italy: Strictly Come Milla

The 1990 World Cup in Italy didn’t only make an international superstar out of opera singer, Pavarotti. It also started the career of all-dancing, all-kicking Cameroon striker Roger Milla.

While he did score some impressive goals, Milla was recognised for both his age and pioneering goal celebrations. He made his international debut in 1973 against Zaire aged only 21, and played in the 1982 World Cup and 1984 Olympic Games. By 1990 he had long since retired. But, due to an injury crisis, he was persuaded to come back to the field for the Italian finals, aged 38.

The team made it to the quarter finals before being knocked out by England. However, the indomitable lions, as the team were nicknamed, surprised everyone due to Milla’s super appearances. It was also the first time the world saw Roger Milla’s samba-esque goal celebration. Many of the shenanigans we see in the game today are due to these celebrations!

I imagine George Smiley is similar to Roger Milla. He, too, comes out of retirement to save his country. In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, he is coaxed back to British Intelligence to unearth a mole.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy audiobook by John le Carre

George Smiley probably isn’t much of a dancer, though.


1998, France: English Wonderkid Scores

At 18 years old, Michael Owen set the world alight playing in the World Cup. He scored spectacular goal after spectacular goal. At the same age, I was able to eat an entire block of marzipan in one sitting. Still impressive, right?

The young scouse player had only started playing for his home team, Liverpool, that season. He made his international debut for England in February 1998. By the time of the tournament, no one expected him to even make it onto the field. There were three more experienced strikers also on the squad. But, Owen got his chance and literally ran with it, showing everyone that he was a force to be reckoned with.

Michael Owen’s story is reminiscent of a young Lucy Bonaventure. After a car accident at age 11, Lucy discoveres that she has the ability to communicate with all animals. In The Promised One, Lucy gets abducted to the Brazilian rainforest by thugs who think they have it easy. Little do they know they are about to experience the extraordinary wild force of an innocent looking young girl.

The Promised One by David Alric


2002, Japan/South Korea: Greatest Player, Worst Haircut

The Brazilian Ronaldo shouldn’t be confused with Portuguese Christiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima might not look like your typical footballer, but don’t be fooled! He is more than deserving to be up there in the pantheon of the greatest players of all time.

Brazil won the World Cup for the fifth time in 2002. It was in no small part due to Ronaldo’s skill. However, he also shaved his head to make a triangle of hair.

Clearly, Ronaldo never listened to Kjartan Poskitt’s The Murderous Maths of Everything. If he had, he may have chosen a different shape. Why? Well, in this hilarious book, you can find out how triangles can lead to murder!

Murderous Maths The Brain-Bending Basics by Kjartan Poskitt

You might want to think twice before you eat another cheese triangle…


2006, Germany: Zidane Gets Revenge

Also known as the headbutt seen around the world…except by the referee.

In the finals of the 2006 World Cup in Germany the retiring player Zinedine Zidane was infuriated by opposing midfielder Marco Materazzi. Zidane was a bit ticked off, so much so that he charged at Materazzi and headbutt him in the chest.

Of course, this was caught at every angle by all the TV cameras, but the official was’t watching! Despite that, he still sent Zidane off, to the suprise of no one.

Zidane was always known to have a snarl on his face while playing. He often looked emotionless due to his seriousness and concentration on the game. I draw a comparison to another justice-seeker, Judge Dredd.

2000AD: Blood Will Tell by Big Finish Productions

In 2000 AD’s Blood Will Tell, the law office of Mega City One is dealing with a foe from the past using a dark secret to gain revenge on Dredd to cause chaos in the city.


2010, South Africa: An Aquatic Oracle

Despite there being lots of great matches in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, one of the biggest moments of the tournament was off the pitch. Paul, the psychic octopus, correctly predicted that Spain would beat Germany in the final.

Octopuses (octopi? Octoples?) are highly influential creatures in both sport and literature.

It would be strange having your destiny in the hands of an octopus, but this is exactly the worry that Dinah faces in The Prime Minister’s Brain. In this book, everyone at Dinah’s school is really into a new video game, Octopus’ dare. However, Dinah is the only one so good she can beat it.

However, it becomes apparent that the octopus can hypnotise people. This can only be the work of a certain demon headmaster…

The Demon Headmaster: The Prime Minister's Brain by Gillian Cross

No psychic calamari for me, thanks!


2014, Brazil: Luiz Suarez Dines on An Italian

Red and white checked table cloth. Candlelight. A delicious plate of Italian.

No, this isn’t a cheesy dating profile. But this might have been what was running through Luis Suarez’s mind when he decided to bite the Italian player Giorgio Chiellini.

The Uruguayan striker had precedent before he went for the bite. He had taken a nibble on other players twice before. However, before the Brazil finals, Suarez had been on a PR campaign to paint himself as a lovely person after a series of incidents and poor choices. But, once the football started, he was back to his old tricks. He ended up sinking his teeth into Chiellini and getting a four month football ban.

If Suarez had just paid attention to Mark Lowery’s The Jam Doughnut that Ruined My Life, he might have learnt that sometimes the food you love comes back to bite you. In this story, Roman Garstang, a boy obsessed with food, takes a bite out of his Monday morning doughnut and ends up getting a lift in a getaway van, and starting an OAP riot!

The Jam Doughnut that Ruined My Life by Philip Reeve

Just goes to show, be careful what you eat!



What books do you think are good to listen to during the World Cup? Let us know in the comments!

You can borrow all of these audiobooks from the Listening Books library. Find out more about becoming member here!


If you liked this post, you may also like National School Sport Week: Book Recommendations.


This post was written by Nicholas de Garis.

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