"The final whistle blows. It takes a moment for Thomas Rongen to realise he has achieved the improbable. After thirty failed attempts, American Somoa records its first ever victory."
Football travelogues usually fall into one of two categories; the journalist allowed access to a single team as they journey through something as exciting as a World Cup or as mundane as a season, or the fan following his team across a specifically marked trail and all the ups and downs that brings. Thirty-One Nil doesn't fall into either of these categories and covers far more miles than most. It doesn't play to a specific club or nation and it ends up doing something quite unexpected from a football book - it becomes something genuinely moving.
James Montague looks at the process of World Cup qualification from the viewpoint of some of football's "other" nations. We spend time with teams from Haiti, Serbia, Jordan and American Samoa, we go to the Confederations Cup with Tahiti, we experience protests and hardships beyond anything the normal football fan will have considered before and it is an extraordinary voyage. To say much more would spoil it, but if you like what IBWM does it's fair to say this book is very much cut from the same cloth.
You can buy Thirty-One Nil in print and electronic versions here and as I've said before, we only review books we recommend. It's a great and at times emotional read, as this brilliant World Cup continues to delight us this is the perfect accompaniment.