I Am the Secret Footballer is a book based on the columns printed in the sports section of the Guardian most Saturdays. The chapters are divided up along themes, such as money, agents, bad behaviour, etc. They are written from the perspective of an anonymous premier league footballer and are refreshingly honest in their assessment of modern football.
The identity of the secret footballer is unknown, but there is a blog devoted to trying to find this out. There is enough information about the career of the secret footballer to narrow it down to a fairly small pool of players but nothing has ever been publically confirmed. I have have heard a rumour somewhere that the secrect footballer might actually be a few different players who reveal their secrets to a journalist at the Guardian who shapes the stories into one narrative.
The book is made up mainly of the newspaper columns, with some additional material added in around the already published bits. Organising everything around themes works pretty well through most of the books but there are a few sections where the linking between one column and another is a little bit clumsy and makes you realise that you are reading something that was not originally meant to be in book form. This doesn’t really spoil the enjoyment of the book too much, but means the book leaps from one topic to another in places.
Premier League footballers are subject to an awful lot of scrutiny from the press but it is rare to hear them speak honestly about their jobs and the lifestyle that comes with it. I really enjoyed the behind the scenes stories that rarely make it into the press. While the secret footballer often argues that footballers are cast in a bad light, he also reveals some pretty appalling behaviour that he has witness or been involved in. While I would not have liked to have been involved in some of the debauchery described, there are some very interesting stories in here which lead to the occasional snort of laughter.
There is a serious side to this book too. The author admits to currently taking medication for depression and describes how the pressure of professional sports can lead to, or at least trigger off, mental health issues. The description of these issues was honest and made me feel genuinely sorry for him. What’s the point of earning tens of thousand pounds a week if you feel so bad you can’t enjoy it?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the lives of professional sportmen. Some might find it hard to have sympathy for these overpaid millionaires but they will at least enjoy being able to peek into a world that is closed off to the majority of us.
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