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Luke Chafer 

Luke Chafer guides you through some of the best sportsbooks to get your sporting fix during self-isolation 

The current Covid-19 crisis has resulted in a sporting void, and whilst some have opted to watch a number of replays of great sporting triumphs to reminisce summers gone, one other alternative to get your sporting fix could come from being entranced in a book. With that in mind, outlined here are some of my personal favourite sportsbooks, all of which are more than just an autobiography detailing a mediocre playing career.

Out of the Ashes: The Remarkable Rise and Rise of the Afghanistan Cricket Team, by Tim Albone 

A truly extraordinary uplifting tale charting the unlikely emergence of Afghanistani cricket from a refugee camp on the Pakistani border to the international stage. From the sports decriminalisation by the Taliban in 2001, it took the side a mere 10 years to become the 14th best T20 side in the world. Albone’s work is captivating; detailing the political challenges encountered by the National Association, demonstrating the turbulent political landscape, but also the personal struggles of the players both culturally and in the context of conflict. Out of the Ashes is not simply a cricket book – it is a must-read for anyone who loves an underdog story.

Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice, by Mathew Syed 

A work that might just persuade you to maintain your training programme during isolation, Mathew Syed, a two-time Olympian, illustrates that talent is a byproduct of hard work and expert practice – a simple cliche that he explores in unparalleled depth. Fundamentally, Syed makes you question sports preconceptions from child prodigies, family sports stars to the demographics within certain sporting arenas. My favourite section of Bounce is Syed’s dismantling of racist genetic explanation as to why there is an over-representation of African American’s in elite sport, for this alone Syed’s work is worth a read. This is a great book and there is perhaps no better time to read it. 

Addicted, by Tony Adams and Ian Ridley

The sports section of bookshops are awash with average sport stars’ autobiographies merely looking to make a quick buck by detailing teammates scandals. Addicted, on the other hand, offers a gripping account of his struggles with alcoholism behind his tough facade which made him an outstanding player as Arsenal and England captain. Adams’ story is a candid account that is at times hard to read; he recounts stories of the effect of binge drinking whilst noting his internal thoughts downplaying the effects of alcohol. This stark juxtaposition is what encapsulates the brilliance of the work.  

The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472, by Rubin Carter

In 1967, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was the leading contender for the middleweight championship. In May of that year, he was found guilty of the murder of three people. This autobiography, written from his cell, details the events from the ring to solitary confinement. The work is brutally honest, outlining his troubled childhood which saw him involved with a gang and charged with stabbing a man at only the age of 11. But its authentic narrative voice offers a truly heartbreaking account of his life outside of the ring. Injustice, racism and structural inequality are at the core of this incredible plea of innocence. 

The Damned United, by David Peace 

Detailing the life of Brian Clough, with a focus on the 44 days he spent as Leeds Boss, the faux biographical account blurs the line between fact and fiction. Peace’s self-professed style of “fiction based on facts” results in a work that portrays Clough as a deeply flawed hero. The imaginative use of internal monologue brings the battle with his inner demons, anger and alcoholism to the fore, revealing Clough’s hamartia. The Damned United is an engaging account of one of football’s great figures.


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