Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Buy this book: Interview with author Neil Dunkin about "Anfield of Dreams: A Kopite's Odyssey from the Second Division to Sublime Istanbul"

Today, we celebrate the 100th post in the short history of Match Pricks with the first installment of a really fun interview I did this week with Neil Dunkin, a lifelong Liverpool fan and author of "Anfield of Dreams". Neil's story differs from many Liverpool books in that it is basically about his life as a supporter, following the team from the Second Division, living within a few hundred yards of Anfield while growing up, seeing Shankly and Paisley reach the highest highs and then ending the book with that once-in-a-lifetime night in Istanbul. Neil was excellent in giving me a lot of time for this simple little blog here, and I couldn't recommend more giving him some of your time by checking out the book.
In this first installment, Neil talks about seeing the club go from promotion in the '50s to getting phone calls from an American 50 years later to talk about Liverpool, the fun that comes with putting a lifetime of memories into a book and, fittingly for today, his thoughts on the Atlético match ban and how it can be difficult balancing fair treatment to all fans.

MATCH PRICKS: There’s a small group here in America, especially here in Milwaukee, we really seem to do anything to watch the matches. From reading about your book and your history of following Liverpool, are you amazed by that, how it’s spread?
NEIL DUNKIN: Well I am, insofar as I’m amazed, going back 20 years, I mean, Italy was really, that was the hotbed. I seem to remember going over to the States and talking to someone in Seattle, and he watched Italian football all the time on his local football TV station.
Obviously, what’s happened is with TV rights and TV money, the clubs here are able to buy very good players from all around the world. I don’t know if you watched the Liverpool game on Saturday (against Wigan).

MP: Oh yeah, definitely.
ND: Well, the perimeter advertising, now they’re getting adverts in Spanish for people in Spain because Liverpool have a very big support in that country. And there are adverts I think it was in Indonesia now.

MP: I noticed some Asian script on the advertising board, which really surprised me.
ND: It really is becoming massive. Just to sort of go to the ending of my book, which is the Istanbul final, what staggered me was the range of nationality – in Istanbul – of Liverpool fans from all around the world. From Japan to Australia to Americans to Canadians to Norwegians. It was just phenomenal.

MP: You’re not really – I shouldn’t use the word bothered – but it doesn’t make you nervous at all?
ND: No, it doesn’t. To be honest, the reason I wrote my book was to try and spread the gospel, to share my passion for this fantastic club. You obviously are a fan, and you know what it’s like, but it’s just a wonderful club with wonderful fans.

MP: It seems like a fans’s dream to be able to share a lifetime’s worth of stories. I was curious how the writing experience was, how it was to relive that and put all that down into a record.
ND: It took a lot of research. I started making notes about six years ago, just rough notes, because I’ve experienced a lot with my team. Both in England, because I started supporting them in the Second Divison in the ‘50s, and then I went on from there right through to European success. A lot has happened, good things and bad things, like Hillsborough and Heysel. … So I started writing down rough notes, and then if I saw an anecdote which reminded me of something, I wrote that down. So I had three years doing notes, and then I thought, ‘Right, now discipline yourself and start writing.’
So I did. I wrote about 190,000 words in all – a long book. Then, I cut that back to 160,000 words. It’s a lot to me. It’s a fascinating story. I’m not just saying that because it’s my book, but I just wanted to put it on the record. Fortunately, people have read it. Non-Liverpool fans have read it, and they’ve been very encouraging in their comments.

MP: I was curious about your thoughts about the Atlético situation. (Note: Click this link for the Match Pricks post on this.)
ND: I agree wholeheartedly about your comments on racism and the way the authorities – FIFA and UEFA – have been very, very weak in their attitudes because I hate it. I hate any kind of prejudice.
But I think to announce it so late in the day – well, what they could have done was said, ‘Right, after the Liverpool game in Madrid, we will implement this ban.’ But when they’re attracting 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 Liverpool fans – it came too late, I think. They could have thought this through more carefully, and I agree with the club and the English FA to protest about this. I think when so many people had already arranged accommodations and flights, it was badly thought through. I absolutely detest racism. I’m glad they’re being punished, and let’s hope next time the punishment is twice as severe, but I think this time you have to allow the match to take place.

MP: Thinking back over this over the last couple of days, I thought, ‘Maybe I didn’t have a good sense of what people go through to try and get to a match.’
ND: I mean it’s no exaggeration to say that, probably, people now (Monday) are on trains in France to try and get through to Madrid because that’s the way Liverpool fans are. Their club is all for them. They sacrifice so much for their team. I’ve seen forecasts of 3,000, 4,000 or 5,000 fans going there because, obviously, the Torres connection. I think to victimize those fans would have been wrong, so I’m glad that what they’ve done is to delay the ban on Atléti and to implement it after the game with Liverpool.

MP: I hope UEFA wouldn’t go soft on that behavior because it’s so atrocious the way Atlético tried to explain it, that they were chanting for Aguero.
ND: ‘Kun, Kun, Kun,’ which sounds like a monkey chant. It’s happened so many times with clubs before, like with Sevilla, and I think Real have had problems. We all hate racism, and as far as I’m concerned, you hit the racists hard or their club hard. It has to be done.

1 comment:

Colin said...

Congrats on the 100th post, Jim. Way to work. The balloons are dropping from my living room ceiling as I type.