“Joy, Misery and Bewilderment” – Life as a Football Writer, Coach and Referee

plendIan Plenderleith is a Frankfurt-based writer and football journalist whose opinion columns and features have appeared in The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, When Saturday Comes, Prospect and Soccer America. He is the author of three football books (see below), and writes a weekly blog about the travails of refereeing in the amateur leagues of Hessen.

His next book is called The Quiet Fan, to be published in the autumn of 2018 by Unbound. An already crowd-funded fan memoir, The Quiet Fan is a pacy, wit-driven mixture of observation, anecdotes and analysis, looking anew at the way we watch and relate to football. How it can be a fundamental part of our lives, but without completely blanketing some other important issues like love, death, divorce and the Birmingham post-punk indie scene. How football is, of course, so much more than a game, but perhaps just slightly less than the universe.

His most recent book, Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League, was published in the UK by Icon Books in 2014 and by Thomas Dunne in the US the following year. It details the rise and fall of football’s greatest, and largely forgotten, cult league – the NASL (1967-1984). It was nominated as Book of the Week in the sports section of the Independent on Sunday (21/9/14), which described it as “vividly entertaining”. The Times Literary Supplement said the book was “written with a raffish exuberance worthy of its subject”.

Ian has also written a collection of mainly football-based stories, For Whom the Ball Rolls, published in the UK by Orion and BB Art in the Czech Republic. Its adult-oriented short fiction was described in The Sunday Times as “a fine read”, set in a “bittersweet world [where] football can bring joy, misery and bewilderment in the same story.”

He’s given up playing as his knees are waning in their support of his body, so he now also tries to coach the game to youth teams in the Frankfurt district of Bockenheim. You can see him there on Saturdays, weeping on the touchline.