A word from the terracerati

Click to follow
Sky television's forthcoming soccer soap opera, will not be universally welcomed by football fans, writes Andrew Baker.

Dannie Abse, for instance, already rails against "our unhealthy, uncaring Thatcher-fashioned society where even TV football is stolen from the people by the fattest cats of this world. May they all drop dead."

The poet and Cardiff City fan is writing in Perfect Pitch, a new magazine at the opposite literary extreme from Dream Team, which is aimed at a tabloid-reading audience. Perfect Pitch is a football version of Granta.

The first issue, published by Headline, contains fiction, journalism and reminiscence - writing which, according to the editor, Simon Kuper, seeks to penetrate beyond failed attempts to copy Nick Hornby, the author of the best-selling Fever Pitch. "That `I stood on the terraces at Hartlepool for years and we always lost and it rained' sort of thing," he explains in the foreword.

Mr Kuper has succeeded: the only damp terrace memories are contributed by Abse, for many years one of Britain's foremost poets. Not all of the writing is of such a high standard, but the subject matter compensates: Diego Maradona, Eric Cantona and Newcastle's latest hero, Faustino Asprilla, feature as paranoid persecutee, cultural icon and elusive interviewee respectively.

Among the fictional pieces, Simon Veksner's The Battle of Wounded Knee is a well-crafted satire based on a world in which footballers can admit to any kind of mental problem but physical injury of any kind is taboo, while Jorge Valdano's story I Believe Your Son's Cocked It Up, Old Girl is a slight, sweet tale of revenge given additional appeal by the fact that its author has scored a goal in a World Cup final (in 1986, for Argentina, as anyone likely to buy Perfect Pitch will know already).

Some of the writing veers toward the self-indulgent: Jimmy Burns's examination of the psyche of Diego Maradona reveals a great deal more about the mindset of the writer than the subject, and I am not sure how many readers will be interested in Simon Kuper's love life, although they will no doubt be gripped by his conversations with Bert Trautmann, the former German prisoner-of-war-turned FA Cup Final hero.

Perfect Pitch was inspired by a Dutch publication, Hard Gras (the name means what you think it does) which has been in business for three years or so: apparently every edition makes the national best-seller lists.

But who is likely to buy Perfect Pitch? Anyone who bought Fever Pitch, as the publishers acknowledge both in the publication's title and the graphic style of its cover. They may be dismissive of the kind of writing inspired by Nick Hornby, but the team behind Perfect Pitch would be happy with a fraction of his sales.

Comments