Play Like Your Football Heroes

Play Like Your Football Heroes
Seth Burkett and Matt Oldfield, illustrated by Tom Jennings
Walker Books

Former pro football player Seth Burkett co-authors this book with friend and writer Matt Oldfield. It’s broken down first into four parts with tips on how to: Train Smart, Think Smart, Live Smart and Play Smart, and then into chapters each featuring five or six star players. It’s great to see both men and women included, one of the latter being American icon and political activist Megan Rapinoe, winner of two World Cup winner’s medals as well as both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot trophies. But what makes her even more inspirational to this reviewer is her peace message: “We have to love more, hate less, listen more, talk less.’

Self belief is key if you’re to become a successful soccer player, or indeed succeed at pretty much anything: Kevin De Bruyne is a shining example of a player who believes in his ability, in his case to ‘pull off another amazing assist’. He started having to find the courage to step outside his comfort zone (a requisite if you’re to develop self confidence) age fourteen when he left his Drongen home and family to join the Genk academy 100 miles away. Just one of the incidences of his awesome self-belief.

Incredibly skilful ball dribbler, Messi, didn’t gain that outstanding ability in a vacuum; rather he needed to work on a whole lot of inter-linked skills to become the amazing ball master that he is. Training, training and more training in different conditions: constant, variable and random. Don’t worry if this sounds a bit technical; explanations are given in the very first chapter, featuring of course, Lionel Messi.

Another star who believed in himself, no matter what is Harry Kane who scored that crucial goal in the final minutes of the first group game against Tunisia in the 2018 World Cup. A real smart hero assuredly..

When it comes to playing smart, somebody who personifies the five ‘P’s – ‘proper preparation prevents poor performance’ is French midfielder N’Golo Kanté, he of outstanding stamina.

However, no matter where you open the book you’ll likely find something that will speak to you: and sometimes challenge you.

With both authors’ passion for the game shining through all that they’ve written in this inspiring, interactive book, as well as some 80 black and white illustrations by Tom Jennings, there’s lots in here for readers from around seven, be they enthusiastic watchers/team supporters of the game, or a young player and would be football star, .

Rashford Rules / Van Dijk Rules / Be Your Own Football Hero: Ronaldo

Rashford Rules
Van Dijk Rules

Simon Mugford and Dan Green
Welbeck Publishing

These two highly illustrated biographies are the first in a series of Football Superstarsand both author Simon and illustrator Dan are soccer fans themselves, supporting Ipswich Town.

Marcus Rashford has recently hit the headlines again with his superb campaigning for free school meals over the half-term holidays which received tremendous community support and certainly put the government to shame. The opening pages of the book acknowledge his national hero status both as an awesome goal scorer and as a charity campaigner. Readers are then told what makes him the brilliant player that he is, and can also discover some statistical information.
Divided into short chapters, there’s information on his Manchester childhood, early achievements, his debuts including a comment by Rashford’s hero Ronaldo. Then come his path to national England player 

and the final chapter focuses on his activist charity work during the Coronavirus lockdown. All this and he’s still only in his early 20s.
The book ends with a quiz and some key soccer words as does the companion book Van Dijk Rules

This follows a similar pattern, giving facts about achievements, his early life in the city of Breda in the Netherlands as a child who always had a football at his feet, and how he progressed from over-grown, sometimes troubled teenager with a part-time job washing dishes in a local restaurant, through his successes with Celtic 

and Liverpool, and as captain of the Dutch team. Both this and the previous title are enormously engaging for young soccer enthusiasts especially. Dan Green’s black and white illustrations capture the essence of the individuals and add additional detail and humour to Simon Mugford’s accessible writing.

Be Your Own Football Hero: Ronaldo
Matt and Tom Oldfield
Studio Press

The Oldfield brothers invite youngsters to don football boots and participate in a decision-making activity as they select one or other of the options presented at intervals throughout the book. There are many choices to be made in the world of a soccer professional such as Cristiano Ronaldo, some of which take the reader along the path taken by the real Ronaldo, others are would-be alternative realities – what might have beens.
Readers are taken back to Ronaldo’s childhood when as son of encouraging, soccer-enthusiast, hard-up parents. the football mad boy has his chance to go and play with his cousin at a Andorinha training session. It turns out to be something of a disappointment so what is your response when your dad asks if you enjoyed it? Time for that first decision …
And so it continues.

I’m not a football fan, but to readers from around six or seven, I can perfectly understand the allure of these books, written by the authors of the Ultimate Football Heroes biography series.