The Full 90

Five for Friday: Author Steven Stark

One of the most indispensable resources for me as I prepare for the 2010 World Cup (both as a fan and a journalist) has been Steven Stark and Harrison Stark's "2010 World Cup" guide.

If you're looking for something more than a quick-hit magazine preview, and wouldn't mind delving (often deeply) into some discussion of the geopolitical implications of the sport, this is the book for you. The guide is packed with historical insights, the best analysis I've read about how weather conditions might affect the teams, 6 rules on how to predict the winning team and (easily) some of the deepest team profiles around.

As a guide to this coming World Cup, I prefer it over ESPN's more glitzy "World Cup Companion." The ESPN book is more of a historical look backwards and is more of a coffee-table book you peruse occasionally. This guide is an actual book you plow through, learning along the way. (Plus, the Starks' book compares each team to a Beatles song. That's easily worth the price of purchase.)

Steven Stark is a former world sports columnist for the Montreal Gazette and has been a commentator for CNN, National Public Radio and Voice of America, trying to interpret American culture to the rest of the world. Harrison Stark is currently a student at Brown University and a was a ball boy for Fulham FC.

Steven was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions about the World Cup, his book and his love of soccer.

The Full 90: First and foremost, where/when/how did you come up with the idea to do a World Cup guide? How long did the book take to write? How long did it take to research? What was the process involved in gathering and disseminating so much information? Stark:

We did a similar book as a shorter e-book for Amazon Shorts four years ago and the success of that venture convinced us that we should try a longer version. We've been writing the book over the past year: We read and collect a lot of articles and books from all over the world and of course, watch a lot of soccer.

The Full 90: What got you into soccer in the first place? How long have you followed the sport? Who's your team? Stark:

I was always interested but what really turned it into more than a hobby was moving to England with the family when I was working on another book on the Beatles. One really needs to be immersed in the sport to understand it. Favorite team is Fulham and we're not Europa Cup-come latelies! We've followed them ever since they were in England's bottom division.

The Full 90: What's your favorite soccer book? Stark:

I hate to pick just one but anything Simon Kuper writes is just wonderful. We'd pick his first book -- Football Against the Enemy --but they're all great.

The Full 90: Based on your research and knowledge, who do you think will win the World Cup? Who are your dark horses?

Based on the teams and the history, Brazil is a better favorite than anyone else but in a 32-team tournament, the odds of any one team's prevailing isn't that high. Dark horses? Ghana, Denmark, maybe Serbia.

The Full 90: Why do you think people should pick up your book to get ready for the Cup? Stark:

We hope the book offers a glimpse into how soccer can reveal the world. In a sense, it's a kind of travel book: We feel that in the same way that language or cuisine can reveal a culture, so too can soccer. We also tried to cover the players involved pretty comprehensively, of course.

You can pick the book up at