The Best of Football Writing in 2012

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Before we move forward, let’s take a step back.

2013 will bring new stories, and writers will continue to unveil value in the context of our day-to-day lives. But before we jump ahead, we really should take a step back. The internet is a wonderful place, but our constant consumption of content allows us to forget which stories were truly compelling, creative, well-researched, and told with conviction. For the second year in a row, I have compiled what I consider to be a list of the best writing in football. This year, I called upon some of the game’s most influential voices to reflect on how writing best interpreted, dissected, and brought meaning to the beautiful game.

Consider this project to be a sort of anthology. The games will be remembered in history, but our reactions and our stories could have been forgotten. Instead, they’re here.

View some of the best football writing that 2012 had to offer:

(Note: Titles in the PDF link to their respective URLs. For the sake of continuity and accessibility, we did not feature pieces that were only available offline or behind paywalls)

Thanks to the list’s contributors: Laurent Dubois, Richard Whittall, James Tyler, Gwendolyn Oxenham, Chris Mann, Tom Dunmore, Robert Langham, Musa Okwonga, Jeff Livingstone, Ed Malyon, George Quraishi, Maxi Rodriguez, Kevin McCauley, Elliot Turner, Dominic Vieira, and Stefan Bienkowski

Design by the amazing Dan Gribbon, of 3nil

Compiled by Eric Beard

Finally, thanks for your support throughout 2012. Here’s to another year full of vibrant conversation.

Most Compelling

January 8 – Speaking Out on the Internet: Present Status and Future Prospects – Robert Langham

January 17 - Soccer’s Heavy Boredom - Brian Philips

February 2 – What constitutes being good in the air? – Michael Cox

February 21 – The internet has killed football fanatisists – Ian Plenderleith

February 21 – Follow the money - third party investment in the Brazilian game - Jack Lang

March 14 - The Soccer Mom - Jason Davis

March 19 – The Muamba Message – Fredorrarci

March 22 – A (Seemingly) Impossible Fall – Brian Phillips

April 1- Can Andrea Stramaccioni save Inter? - James Horncastle

April 11 - Pelé and the Cult of Celebrity - Brian Phillips

May 3 – Homage to Guardiola – Brian Phillips

June 3 - Farewell, Dirk Kuyt - James Tyler

June 22 - Moutinho shines in the shadows - Andy Brassell

June 22 - James Milner, England’s king of continual peripheral motion - Barney Ronay

June 24 - Creatures of Habit - Miguel Delaney

June 26 – Mario Balotelli and the New Europe – Laurent Dubois

July 12 – Out of Love - On finding it hard to follow your club – Glen Wilson

July 17 – Off-record but on-field: Veil, Burka, Babushka, or Bedsheet? - Shireen Ahmed

August 7 - Thinking through Megan Rapinoe’s overshadowed breakout - Richard Farley

August 7 – All In, All Out: a note on the amazing Megan Rapinoe – Jennifer Doyle

August 10 – Destiny Is Ruthless – Brian Phillips

August 15 – The 2012 Olympic Games: Football’s Legacy – Mark Murphy

August 23 – The Trouble with Football Analytics – 11tegen11

August 30 - The Curious Case of Peter Wilt - Graham Parker

August 30 – Follow the money – David Conn

September 9 – Juan Román Riquelme: A Quixotic Enigma – Rupert Fryer

October 12 – What exactly does the FA intend to coach at its £105m Snazzadrome? – Barney Ronay

November 3 - Luis Suarez is the villain Liverpool needed - Akarsh Sharma

November 6 – Back to Basics: Normal Football and Skewed Distributions – Chris Anderson

November 9 – Andrés Iniesta: Football Isn’t A Science. We play this way because it suits us – Sid Lowe

November 20 - An obsolete football cliché: The best strikers hunt in pairs – Michael Moruzzi

November 26 – Antisemetic chants are sickening – and West Ham fans must show they care – Jacob Steinberg

December 12 - The evolution of Frank de Boer – Mohamed Moallim

Most Creative

January 25 - Has the transfer market become self-aware? - Andi Thomas

February 24 – On Thomas Müller – Ryan O’Hanlon

February 29 – Captain Scotty Parker’s Mission Report – Graham MacAree

May 13 – 17 Syllables - “The Cicada” – Nathan “The Sleeper’s Sleep”

May 20 – We didn’t start the Poznan – Greg Theoharis

June 6 - The Ten Game Definition of Paul Lambert – Juliet Jacques

June 21 - An Oral History of Spain’s Perfect Goal - Nicol Hay

August 9 -  Marek Citko: Confessions of an idol - Bartosz Barnas  

August 21 – Arsenal As Gatsby: At War with the Ideal? – Jordan Brown

September 3 - Sócrates: Borne Back Ceaselessly into the Past – James Young

September 29 – The Hemingway Experiment – Will Parchman

October 1 - Riquelme, modern football’s Giant Panda - Ed Malyon

October 16 - Eats, Shoots, And Leaves - Martin Palazzotto 

October 26 – Exclusive interview with Gunnersaurus – Andi Thomas

November 9 – The Sir Alex Ferguson Guide to Cutting-Out Club Stalwarts – Ethan Dean-Richards

November 14 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic Explains Extraordinary Overheard Kick Against England – Brooks Peck

December 10 - Lionel Messi’s gift - Graham MacAree

Best Research

January 24 – The Enduring Global Influence of the 1968 Atlanta Chiefs – Chris Nee

February 24 – Argentina 1986 - David Hartrick

February 25 – Unemployment and Football – Dan Mobbs

February 27 – District Ultras: Small Numbers, Big Support in DC - Tom Dunmore

March 9 – The Evolution of Football Formations – Paul Sakkal

April 30 - The truth about debt at Barcelona and Real Madrid - Swiss Ramble

May 8 - Geographies of Football: Will Cornwall ever host a Football League Club? - Lloyd Langman

May 28 – A Cautionary Tale on Post-Goal Celebration Music From Port Vale FC - Chris Dale

July 15 – Another Post about Total Shot Ratio – James W Grayson

July 25 - Italy 3-2 Brazil, 1982: the day naivety, not football itself died - Jonathan Wilson

August 30 – The N.A.S.A. Roundtable (Nerds Attack Soccer Analytics) – Steve Fenn, Rui Xu, Alex Oshansky, and Devin Pleuler

September 10 – What is American Soccer? – Matthew Doyle

September 25 - How video game is changing face of soccer - Roger Bennett

September 29 – Singapore court orders journalist to reveal sources – James M. Dorsey

November 8 – Game Without Rules – Tim Parks

November 13 - Last Champions of the Third Reich - Noah Davis

December 13 – Calculating and Comparing Competitiveness in European Leagues - Sami Faizullah

Best Storytelling

February 1 – Egyptians See Political Overtones in Deadly Riot – Robert Mackey

May 17 – Soccer in the Storm – Wayne Drehs

May 24 - Breaking Vaz: The Gruelling Rise of West Ham’s Ricardo Vaz Te - David Preece

June 22 - Acropolis Now - Max Grieve

July 9 - A Soccer Prodigy, at home in Brazil - Sam Borden

July 10 - Pelada: Pickup, the Essence of a Game – Gwendolyn Oxenham

September 13 - The Truth - Saf Hossain

October 8 – The World’s Team – Grant Wahl

October 9 – The Beautiful Game – Patrick Symmes

June 1 – The Austin Aztex Project - Dan Wiersema and Eric Betts

May 16 – Saying Goodbye to Del Piero - James Horncastle

June 29 - TuRu 1880 Duesseldorf II v SC Duesseldorf West – Kenny Legg

September 10 – The rise and fall of Kerlon – Joe Krishnan

September 28 – Out of Bounds - Leander Schaerlaeckens

October 4 - Here & Gone: The Strange Relationship between Lionel Messi and his Hometown Argentina – Wright Thompson
  
October 4 - Real Madrid’s Luka Modric: from Balkan warzone to the Bernabéu - Aleksander Holiga

October 8 - Lore-making and Law-breaking in Moscow - James Appell

October 24 – An Ode To Ronaldinho – James Young

November 29 - Real Oviedo – the remarkable story of a club the world united to save - Sid Lowe

December 11 - The story of the legend killers from Ghana’s Berekum - Kwesii Asomadu

While we’re leaving the list as it is, we’re more than open to your recommended reads from 2012. Please leave them in the comments below.

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