Morbo by Philip Ball (Shane's book 38, 2010)

I like Spanish football a lot. I've seen Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao at home and seen Real Madrid play against Levante - Valencia's second team. I find the footballing and fan culture fascinating, though I don't know much about either. That's where this book comes in.

[amtap book:isbn=0954013468]

Philip Ball explores, chapter by chapter, the Spanish regions and their major clubs. All the time he searches for evidence of 'morbo', the almost untranslatable Spanish term that means, roughly, the passionate animosity between rival supporters.

There are plenty of fascinating stories here - from the sport's birth in Spain thanks to Englishmen abroad to the often seedy backroom dealings over players, managers and even stadiums.

There are plenty of colourful characters, not only players, managers and owners from the past but also the fans and journalists Ball meets as he tours Spain. Ball wants to emphasise three key themes: first, there were regional tensions in Spain long before Franco; second, that Barcelona are not as saintly as they are often painted; and third, that Real Madrid are not as evil as they are frequently portrayed.

To be honest, he labours these themes a little too much but at least they are interesting arguments and Ball offers plenty of evidence to support his case.

Anyone with an interest in Spanish football should read this.