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How Soccer Explains The World: An Unlikely Theory Of Globalization [Paperback]

Franklin Foer
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 23 2005

Soccer is much more than a game, or even a way of life. It is a perfect window into the cross-currents of today's world, with all its joys and its sorrows. In this remarkably insightful, wide-ranging work of reportage, Franklin Foer takes us on a surprising tour through the world of soccer, shining a spotlight on the clash of civilizations, the international economy, and just about everything in between. How Soccer Explains the World is an utterly original book that makes sense of our troubled times.


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From Publishers Weekly

Foer, a New Republic editor, scores a game-winning goal with this analysis of the interchange between soccer and the new global economy. The subtitle is a bit misleading, though: he doesn't really use soccer to develop a theory; instead, he focuses on how examining soccer in different countries allows us to understand how international forces affect politics and life around the globe. The book is full of colorful reporting, strong characters and insightful analysis: In one of the most compelling chapters, Foer shows how a soccer thug in Serbia helped to organize troops who committed atrocities in the Balkan War—by the end of the war, the thug's men, with the acquiescence of Serbian leaders, had killed at least 2,000 Croats and Bosnians. Then he bought his own soccer club and, before he was gunned down in 2000, intimidated other teams into losing. Most of the stories aren't as gruesome, but they're equally fascinating. The crude hatred, racism and anti-Semitism on display in many soccer stadiums is simply amazing, and Foer offers context for them, including how current economic conditions are affecting these manifestations. In Scotland, the management of some teams have kept religious hatreds alive in order to sell tickets and team merchandise. But Foer, a diehard soccer enthusiast, is no anti-globalist. In Iran, for example, he depicts how soccer works as a modernizing force: thousands of women forced police to allow them into a men's-only stadium to celebrate the national team's triumph in an international match. One doesn't have to be a soccer fan to truly appreciate this absorbing book.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Americans are fond of jokes that play on our incomprehension of soccer, and, at times, this ignorance seems an apt metaphor for our intellectual disengagement from the world. But we ignore the world-- and its favorite sport--at our peril. In his wonderfully conceived treatise, journalist Foer uses soccer as an arena in which to examine world events, such as Balkan genocide (Serbian gangster Arkan helped form Milosevic's paramilitary troops from among Red Star supporters), and worldviews, such as U.S. culture wars (he uses the game as a metaphor for our divided attitudes about globalization, an issue that underlies our cultural split). Evenhanded and well reported, it's written in a crisp and engaging style that will hook even readers who have no idea how the "beautiful game" is played. Perfectly timed to coincide with soccer's growing coolness (team jerseys are a hipster's must-have), this excellent book belongs with two other great soccer-outsider inquiries, Bill Buford's Among the Thugs (1992) and Joe McGinniss' The Miracle of Castel di Sangro (1999). Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is very familiar ground July 9 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Foer is an excellent writer, and for those who aren't familiar with the history of the sport this is an excellent introduction. For those who are already well-read on football, much of this will be too familiar. The religious and political context of the Celtic v. Rangers rivalry, the laughable corruption of Brazilian football, and basically every other story in this book has already been covered by other writers. Though the globalization theme tries to bring a new perspective to these old stories, it just feels gimmicky. If you've already read Simon Kuper's FOOTBALL AGAINST THE ENEMY you'll regret spending your money here. If you haven't read Kuper's book, but you're interested in the sport, buy it immediately. This is light reading designed for those who know nothing about the sport's history. For those looking for more depth and more entertainment, skip this and go straight to Kuper, David Winner's BRILLIANT ORANGE, and Alex Bellos' FUTEBOL: SOCCER, THE BRAZILIAN WAY. All three are excellent, entertaining, and provide more insight into the topics Foer touches on. To summarize: the typical American reader with limited soccer knowledge will enjoy this, those with real interest in the subject would do well to move on to more meaty fare.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The not so beautiful game Nov. 16 2005
By Brian Maitland TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Sure this book can be compared to Simon Kuper's Football Against the Enemy, but it stands well on its own. I'm sure most soccer fans know of the infamous Red Star Belgrade vs. Dinamo Zagreb free-for-all that was a foreshadowing of the wars in the Balkans, but it's still interesting to learn how these Red Star hooligans became the strike force for one of the most notorious war criminals (Arkan) in modern history. So right from this first chapter, you will be hooked whether you are a soccer fan or not.
I also really dug the whole revealing on the Milan-Juventus axis of power and influence over refereeing in Serie A. Sure Brian Glanville has beaten this to death elsewhere but Franklin Foer writes in a much more clear and concise manner.
The only fault I see with the book is the chapter on his own nation, the U.S., and why soccer really has failed to grip the nation. I think his dismissal of MLB's failed attempts to globalize baseball misses the fact that this spring of 2006 will see the first World Baseball Classic in a format similar to soccer's World Cup Finals. A better comparison would have been how NFL football despite various forays into Europe, Asia and Mexico (well, they did well this year at the Azteca so maybe there is hope) has really not resulted in the world embracing [American] football.
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3.0 out of 5 stars This is well-trod ground July 9 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Foer is an excellent writer, but for football fans who read a lot about the sport, much of this will seem overly familiar. Though he does his best to bring a new perspective to these stories, his focus on globalization still ends up feeling gimmicky. The religious and political aspects of the Celtic v. Rangers rivalry, the ludicrous corruption of Brazilian football, and many of the other stories here have been well-covered by writers like Simon Kuper, Alex Bellos and others. While I think Foer's name and reputation might help introduce non-fans to some of football's fascinating history--and that's a good thing--football fans who are well-read on the topic will wonder why Foer bothered writing what's already been written. For an introduction to the history of the sport, this isn't bad at all, but Kuper's book is better. Those who are truly interested should skip this and read Kuper's FOOTBALL AGAINST THE ENEMY, David Winner's BRILLIANT ORANGE, and Alex Bellos's FUTEBOL: SOCCER, THE BRAZILIAN WAY. This is not a bad book, but there's nothing new here and other writers have said it better.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Globalization & soccer: together at last. Sept. 4 2005
Format:Paperback
This book is a quick and easy read. But it is also a piece of obviously well-researched journalism by someone whose love of the game is apparent. While it doesn't really explore globalism in the political science/economic sense, it is still very interesting to see the impact that soccer has on various parts of the world. What I was amazed at was how much football and government are intertwined in some many countries. As well, it was interesting to see how soccer can be both a force for unity as well as an obvious way to divide and influence, even brainwash, a country's populace.
I really enjoyed this book and would certainly recommend it. Another book for hockey lovers that fits in the same vein (although certainly less political) was written by Dave Bidini, but the title escapes me at the moment.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Soccer as a metaphor July 5 2010
Format:Paperback
The title could easily be the other way around. While Foer uses soccer as a metaphor to explain globalization, his theory states that soccer explains the world, I believe the opposite is true. Globalization has allow players access to clubs the once only read and dreamed about. This book has enough about the game, but the true gem in this book is a series of riveting real-life stories that have much more meaning than just the game itself. I would give the book 5 stars, but I just wished there was a little more soccer and a little less sociology. Nonetheless, a splendid read from beginning to end, very captivating.
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