Football School by Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton, illustrations by Spike Gerrell


In the school library, the most popular non-fiction titles tend to be the Guinness Book of Records with its array of weird facts and figures, Horrible Histories with its cartoon-like stories from long ago, and biographies of footballers. This brilliant new non-fiction manages to combine all three.

Football School, subheaded: Where Football Explains Rules the World, is a magnificent concept – a way of exploring school topics through the beautiful game. It even starts with a timetable as its contents page, highlighting that zoology is covered on pages 42-53 for example, while psychology is 78-87. There’s maths, English, history, drama, music, physics – and much much more.

So how does it work? Well biology explains the digestive system by explaining the optimal food for footballers to eat as well as the optimal time for them to poo before a match. English explains football jargon, Maths explores the probability of dying whilst playing football, psychology looks at the importance of positive thinking when taking a penalty…and there are further sections on business studies, politics, photography and even PHSE. Where you come in the order of your siblings may increase or decrease your chances of becoming a professional footballer.

What really makes the book work though is the authors behind it. Not only are they experienced experts in football and popular science writing, but their passion and enthusiasm for the game shines through the text. It’s like having pundits read aloud to you, and it works a treat. The positivity rubbed off all the way through.

Of course, although informative, it’s also massively tongue-in-cheek. Pages are annotated with embellished black and white Wimpy Kid-style cartoons, and Horrible History type illustrations to explain the text, and annotate the dialogue. Every section opens with a comic strip dialogue between the two authors (disguised in various costumes), asking about the meaning of life, and there are a host of delights such as a four-legged footballer joke cartoon, tables of statistics, and even a diagram of a human eye. It makes it fun and appealing, yet also hugely informative. The writing style is witty and conversational, and yet consistently knowledgeable.

There’s even a multiple-choice quiz at the end of each section to test the reader’s knowledge. (Answers at the back of the book).

A really fabulous addition to any non-fiction library, and apparently there’s another title coming next season. I know which team of authors and illustrators I’ll be rooting for. Give it to all football enthusiasts you know, and any people who have to put up with football enthusiasts. The passion will filter through. For ages 8+ years. You can buy it here.

I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.