The perfect time to mark for the author of a football book
WHILE the country is still basking in the glory of the England women’s soccer team that won the Euros, author Robin Bennett has chosen the perfect time to post Fantasy Football, the second book in his Stupendous Sports series.
He says, “The timing couldn’t be better to write what we’ve always wanted to be an inclusive book about sport — inclusive in so many ways.
“The idea of Stupendous Sports is a sport for everyone, even if you’re just interested in reading about it and not playing it.
“I’ve never been a great sportsman but I’ve played just about everything, badly.
“Fortunately, I went to Oratory Prep, the kind of school that allowed me to try everything.
“It didn’t matter if you were short, skinny, not fast, massive, you know, it didn’t matter – they would always find something for you in any sport.”
Robin, 53, who lives in Queen Street, Henley, with his wife Helene and their three children, says most people would agree that women’s football had been “sidelined” until the Euros, that the Lionesses won with a 2-1 win over Germany. .
“It was amazing and the timing was awesome,” he says. “There’s a lot about women’s football in the book.”
The family were on holiday in France when the final took place at Wembley on July 31.
Robin says, “We were camping with Germans and they were full of them, which, considering we beat them, was pretty generous of them.”
The Stupendous Sports series was partly inspired by the Horrible Histories line of books, which also examines topics using humor to make them child-friendly.
“I absolutely loved them,” says Robin. “When we read them to our kids, I learned things and that’s what Stupendous Sports is.”
The first book in the series, released last August, was titled Unleashed Rugby. Robin says: “I wrote it with former All Black Conrad Smith. He was a professional rugby player for arguably the best team to ever play the game and he said: ‘There are rules that even I don’t know.
“He played in three World Cups and won it twice. The second or third time I met him I said, ‘You know, the game you played against Australia at the 2015 World Cup in London was probably the best rugby game I’ve ever played. ‘have you ever seen?’ He looked at me like I was a little weird to remember such a thing. I think it’s all part of the daily work of the players.
Robin found writing about football an education.
He laughs: “For hundreds of millions of people, it’s almost the most important thing in their lives.
“For me and probably for many of my friends, football is a great relief valve. I find it extraordinary that one sport can be so much more important than another and change so many lives. It’s amazing.
He adds: “The rules of football change all the time and the biggest challenge for me was to make sure I followed the rules as much as possible.
“Most of the time you try to explain, for example, the offside rule, you say what it is, and then the kids will just google it anyway. But I think you need this prompt from a book.
Robin hopes that fantasy football will hit the same note as the first book.
He says: “We noticed that Unleashed Rugby was very, very popular with reluctant child readers – that was the feedback we were getting from the schools.
“I think it’s because you can immerse yourself in it and because it’s funny. It’s one of the things I’m most happy about.
“It’s about trying to show that the sport is for everyone. The book contains facts, but it is more about the fun and spirit of the game and the interest of children.
“A real bugbear in children’s publishing is getting the 68% of children who don’t actually read to read and the Book Council was very keen to promote the book.”
Robin, who is currently working on a third book in the series, titled crack cricket, had his own sporting adventure with his children, Jude, 17, Victor, 16 and Hortense, 13, and Jude’s girlfriend, Ellie Howlett, 17, while on vacation.
They climbed the Pic du Montaigu, a 2,300m mountain in the French Pyrenees, and played different sports on the way up, raising £827 for Sport Relief.
“I had forgotten how difficult it is to walk almost 2 km uphill,” says Robin. “I broke my foot while swimming in a lake full of very small sharp stones. It wasn’t fun.
“I was ok with going back, but then he got infected.
“I’m better now, but I just moaned and complained while my wife got all the grain out of it.”
• fantasy football by Robin
Bennett is published by Firefly Press (£6.99).