Africa United, by Steve Bloomfield

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The Independent Culture

Steve Bloomfield is at pains to point out "this isn't an encyclopaedia of African football" but his choice of 13 countries from Africa's total of 53 is, to put it mildly, eclectic.

There's room for Somalia and Kenya, but only passing references to the much more significant footballing heritage of Cameroon and Ghana; North Africa's multiple World Cup qualifiers Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia might as well not exist.

But there's still plenty to savour: he attends the Cairo derby between Al Ahly and Al Zamalek, Africa's biggest club game; sees hope for Zimbabwe's Warriors despite the country's chaos; and marvels at how well Chadian and Sudanese supporters get on at a vital World Cup qualifier, despite their nations being practically at war.

Focusing more on reportage than analysis, Bloomfield struggles to stand up the subtitle's claim, "How football explains Africa", but despite not quite arriving there, he is always travelling hopefully.

Published in paperback by Canongate, £12.99

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