Ajax, the Dutch, the War

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Ajax, the Dutch, the War, Simon Kuper

This book was enjoyable but I think would have gotten more out of it if I had a better knowledge of World War II and the cultural and political happenings of the Netherlands and Europe. The relationship with the Jews for the Europeans generally and some soccer clubs specifically, is a large part of book. Again I don’t have a good understanding on this topic. Finally, a deeper familiarity with the histories of Feyenoord and Ajax would have allowed those passages to have made more sense. Having said all that, I did learn a lot, including the fact that soccer did exist during the war, which surprised me.

Whereas Dynamo was more of a linear story about a specific story line of the war, Kuper bounces around Holland and Europe to share his information and interviews. The delineation between good and evil is explored and challenges the reader. My favorite part of the book was anecdotes about various players attempting to keep playing football during the war either by changing their identity or escaping or negotiating with Nazis.

Kuper’s prose tells a tale of a very dark time in human history, and the book is worth reading because it gives a greater context to the influence of World War II on the game, the Netherlands, and football clubs in that country.

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