Autobiographies are the bad first dates of the literary world.
You’re stuck in your chair listening to her talk about herself, and talk about herself, and talk about herself, and the best you can hope for is that the restaurant she picked is as good as she made it sound.
So it follows that sports autobiographies are the bad one night stands of the autobiography world.
Every once in a while, though, you have that one night stand where you wish you’d asked for her phone number, or that you’d stayed to make her breakfast.
Vieira: My Autobiography is a bit like that surprising girl.
You pick it up, blast through it and wish you could go back and ask Vieira to tell you some more.
Vieira’s story reads like an oral history, which is probably exactly what it is: his story rambled out to a ghostwriter in a series of conversations. But that’s okay. There is no pretense to literary talent, no silly attempts to elevate the prose above conversations about his impressive career in football, which is dominated by his years at Arsenal, and absolutely no attempt to make Vieira more than he is.
So what is Patrick Vieira?
He is a Senegalese born Frenchman, who plays defensive midfield for club and country; he has won a World Cup, a Euro Cup, a Scuddetto, multiple Premiership titles, and the FA Cup; he has captained Arsenal and Les Bleus; and he seems to be an honest man who either has too much probity or too much naivety to keep his mouth shut when it comes to those he’s played with and against.
And therein lies the great charm of Vieira’s book. Much like the autobiography of Roy Keane (a competitor, incidentally, whom Vieira greatly admires and respects), Vieira: My Autobiography is filled with no nonsense opinions about all the great players Vieira has come in contact with.
He is as quick to call Ruud van Nistelrooy a “son of a bitch” as he is to call Tony Adams “a towering personality.” And with some players, like Didier Deschamp and Zinedine Zidane, he can be as complimentary as he can be critical.
The honesty of his perspective is refreshing, particularly since most sports autobiographers (Roy Kean excepted) are sickeningly diplomatic while they're still playing.
Nor does Vieira pause in his attacks when he wants to clear up his side of a story, especially when it comes to his infamous battles with Manchester United, both on the pitch or in the tunnel.
Yet whether he is providing his side of a story or attacking someone personally, Vieira always conveys a real sense of integrity, making it very difficult to disbelieve his perspective.
Vieira: My Autobiography is a must read for Arsenal fans, but it is also worth a read if you are a neutral or an adversary. Vieira gives us a hint of what footballers go through on and off the pitch, but he also entertains along the way.
And that makes Vieira's book worth reading for anyone who cares about football.