World Cup fans, it's time for corner kicks and soccer books

Although the globe's sporting community is always in the mood for soccer, it especially relishes the supersized, month-long World Cup tournament served up every four years. This time, 32 national teams are squaring off in Brazil from June 12 to July 13. With all the attention paid to the most widely watched international team championship comes a surge of books on soccer. Here are excerpts from a handful of titles on topics ranging from Pelé, perhaps the greatest player in history, to an examination of the struggles soccer has had in gaining traction in the United States.

1. “Why Soccer Matters”

By Pelé with Brian Winter

Celebra Books

293 pages

(Pelé led Brazil to World Cup championships in 1958, 1962, and 1970, and is widely considered the best soccer player of all time. In the 1970s he was brought to the United States to play three seasons with the New York Cosmos, which led to a surge in popularity for the original North American Soccer League, which folded after the 1984 season.)

“Over the years, I’ve raised eyebrows by sometimes referring to Pelé in the third person. ‘Pelé scored two goals today, but he felt…’ ‘Pele is very happy to be here in Berlin.’ This was often out of necessity. There were aspects of being Pelé that were almost impossible to understand, even – or especially – for me. Being the object of so much love has been a true honor – I’ve been humbled by the good wishes I’ve received from all over the world. One writer, Norman Cutler, once wrote: ‘In the course of half an hour, he is showered with more hero-worship than a normal player receives during his whole career.’ I don’t treat this lightly. God blessed me with an extraordinary talent, and I’ve always felt that it was my solemn obligation to Him to use that talent to make as many people happy as I could. That’s one reason why, to this day, I never turn down anyone who wants an autograph or a photo with me.”

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