The Italian Love Affair with Sport
I.B. Tauris 2011
Azzurri, cyclists, boxers, Berlusconi, Balotelli, strapping Fascist men preparing to bear arms, strapping Fascist women preparing to bear children, the shirtless Duce, Ferraris, Vespas, doping scandals, World Cup celebrations, Serie A officials on the take, Il Grande Torino, and the barefoot marathoner Abebe Bikila. You find all this and more in Simon Martin‘s history of Italian sports, Sport Italia: The Italian Love Affair with Sport (I.B.Tauris, 2011).
Simon’s book is sports history at its best–that is, it’s history at its fullest. As you hear in the interview, Italian sport offers a window to understanding the country’s uneven economic development, its fractious politics, the ideology and aesthetics of Fascism, the unrelenting weight of corruption, the role of the Catholic Church, and the persistent divide between North and South. Above all, there is the unresolved question of what it means to be Italian. Metternich’s adage that “Italy is only a geographical expression”still holds a kernel of truth, some 150 years after the Risorgimento.One of Simon’s principal arguments is that sport is the one thing which most consistently binds the country together.
Simon’s book was awarded the 2012 Lord Aberdare Literary Prize, presented each year by the British Society for Sports History. This was the second time he’s received the award, having won in 2004 for his history of Italian football under Fascism. You can also find interviews with other winners of the Aberdare Prize in the New Books in Sports archive: the 2011 winners, Chris Young and Kai Schiller, talking about their book on the 1972 Munich Olympics; and Tony Collins on his history of English rugby union, which won the award for 2010.