Here at ISN we’ve reviewed hundreds of books and yet Simon Turner’s If Only: An Alternative History of the Beautiful Game really sticks with us thanks to the innovative concept that drives the entire book.
The title is based on a simple premise: six “what if” scenarios that would have changed the world of football forever. You’ve seen this style of storytelling work in other subjects, especially world history and politics, but no one has really done it with sport, until now.
I had my own thoughts on what I would choose: the Thierry Henry handball in 2009, the U.S. advancing to the finals in a World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo staying at Manchester United for life, the original NASL succeeding, the list could go on and on. It’s quite interesting to come up with all of the scenarios, but to see them played out in their entirety is another adventure entirely.
Turner obviously knows what he is doing and decided to give us a variety that covers over 70 years of football history. He starts with the World Cup Final in 1930 and finishes with the European Champions League Final in 2001, working in events from 1968, 1973, 1984, and 1990. Each event is shown in great depth and you can visualize, even feel the events unfolding.
The end result is literary brilliance and an entertaining read from cover to cover. It’s something different and that is reason enough to buy it, but great stories and a knowledgeable author absolutely seal the deal. The fact that it comes from Pitch Publishing, one of the world’s top publishers in sport, is an added bonus.