Monday's Book: Perfect Pitch ed Simon Kuper

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Perfect Pitch is a Granta-sized journal which aims to provide "the best new football writing". Editor Simon Kuper has modelled it on the successful Dutch magazine Hard Gras and plans two issues a year. This first boasts a collection of fine contributions - among them a wonderful account by Dannie Abse of the 64 benighted years he has spent in love with Cardiff City, a funny and astute obituary of Eric Cantona's career by Jim White and an intelligent critique of referees by Karl Miller. Kuper himself rounds thing off with a dry, droll diary of Euro `96. There are also a couple of short stories, including one by Jorge Yaldno, best-known for the goal he scored for Argentina in the 1986 World Cup final.

So far, so very good, and Perfect Pitch seems ideally suited to fill a gap in the market for creative writing about our most popular sport. Yet I fear it will be greeted with some gratuitous catcalls. This is because there is a widespread suspicion among people who specialise in facile cultural punditry that the new football writing (by fans rather than by hacks) is somehow bogus, either a symptom of the game's new-found fashionability or even its cause. Such suspicions are insane, but they have led to chatter about something that can be identified as the "Hornbyfication" of football - as if the wonderful Fever Pitch were responsible for all-seater stadiums, executive boxes and the fact that every second television advert now stars Ian Wright.

It's not just the crazed suspicion of bandwagon-jumping that Perfect Pitch will have to counter but also the prejudices identified by D J Taylor in the best piece in the first issue. In his timely and intelligent essay on football and literature, Taylor points out that anyone who writes about the game and is not employed by a newspaper sports desk risks being accused of "cultural slumming" - an accusation that requires all writers to be mimsy toffs and football the pastime of oikish proles.

The cherishable stupidity of this prejudice won't stop trend-spotters from sneering at the boom in football reportage which is, at its best, passionate, witty and highly entertaining. But the truth is out there - and available at pounds 7.99 in all good bookshops.

`Perfect Pitch' is published by Headline Review

Harry Ritchie

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