Juve! 100 Years of an Italian football dynasty

Sport

Juve! 100 Years of an Italian football dynasty

Herbie Sykes’s history of Italy’s dominant team is a study in how power works in the country

Simon Kuper

Giovanni Agnelli thought there might be a future in horseless carriages, so in 1899 he cofounded Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, or Fiat. In 1923 he arranged for his son Edoardo to become president of one of Turin’s football clubs, Juventus. Today Giovanni’s great-grandson Andrea runs Juve. The alliance between Italy’s unofficial “royal family”, its manufacturing behemoth and its dominant football team is the longest family ownership in top-level international sport.

To understand how power works in Italy, therefore, requires understanding Juventus. With Juve! the British author Herbie Sykes has written a potted history of modern Italy disguised as a football book, told in his distinctive voice: fond, chatty, distanced, and sometimes hilarious.

The Agnellis made armaments for Mussolini, then worked equally smoothly with Uncle Sam, converting Marshall Plan money into Italy’s motorised postwar “boom economico”. Fiat obliged the Americans by spying on its own employees to root out communists and homosexuals. A football club was the perfect (and cheap) family brand passport...

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