Sports Books of the Year: Hard-hitting and honest rugby reads lead the way

Chronicle of Barcelona’s implosion and fascinating look at gambling business also stand out

Ireland captain Willie Anderson faces up to New Zealand captain Wayne Shelford as the All Blacks perform  the Haka in 1989. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Ireland captain Willie Anderson faces up to New Zealand captain Wayne Shelford as the All Blacks perform the Haka in 1989. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

The Best

Crossing The Line by Willie Anderson and Brendan Fanning (Reach Sport, €19.99)
The best books this year are rugby books. This, it’s fair to say, has not been the case for many years now but in 2021, for whatever reason, they’re a bonus-point win clear of the rest. First among equals is Willie Anderson’s rollicking memoir, written in conjunction with Brendan Fanning. There is no more enjoyable book about any sport to be found anywhere this year.

What a treat it is. Anderson has been around a long time and so he has lived a life. A few of them, indeed. Older readers will be aware of the scrape he got into in Argentina in 1980 but for any of us under 50, the story of his three months in the judicial system over there for the late-night high crime of stealing a flag is jaw-dropping. Anderson was able to dig out the letters he wrote his future wife Heather at the time, which gives the whole escapade a true sense of jeopardy.

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