How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization

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9780066212340: How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization

“An eccentric, fascinating exposť of a world most of us know nothing about.”
The New York Times Book Review

"An insightful, entertaining, brainiac sports road trip."
The Wall Street Journal

"Foer’s skills as a narrator are enviable. His characterizations... are comparable to those in Norman Mailer's journalism."
The Boston Globe

A groundbreaking work—named one of the five most influential sports books of the decade by Sports Illustrated—How Soccer Explains the World is a unique and brilliantly illuminating look at soccer, the world’s most popular sport, as a lens through which to view the pressing issues of our age, from the clash of civilizations to the global economy.

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Review:

The global power of soccer might be a little hard for Americans, living in a country that views the game with the same skepticism used for the metric system and the threat of killer bees, to grasp fully. But in Europe, South America, and elsewhere, soccer is not merely a pastime but often an expression of the social, economic, political, and racial composition of the communities that host both the teams and their throngs of enthusiastic fans. New Republic editor Franklin Foer, a lifelong devotee of soccer dating from his own inept youth playing days to an adulthood of obsessive fandom, examines soccer's role in various cultures as a means of examining the reach of globalization. Foer's approach is long on soccer reportage, providing extensive history and fascinating interviews on the Rangers-Celtic rivalry and the inner workings of AC Milan, and light on direct discussion of issues like world trade and the exportation of Western culture. But by creating such a compelling narrative of soccer around the planet, Foer draws the reader into these sport-mad societies, and subtly provides the explanations he promises in chapters with titles like "How Soccer Explains the New Oligarchs", "How Soccer Explains Islam's Hope", and "How Soccer Explains the Sentimental Hooligan." Foer's own passion for the game gives his book an infectious energy but still pales in comparison to the religious fervor of his subjects. His portraits of legendary hooligans in Serbia and Britain, in particular, make the most die-hard roughneck New York Yankees fan look like a choirboy in comparison. Beyond the thugs, Foer also profiles Nigerian players living in the Ukraine, Iranian women struggling against strict edicts to attend matches, and the parallel worlds of Brazilian soccer and politics from which Pele emerged and returned. Foer posits that globalization has eliminated neither local cultural identities nor violent hatred among fans of rival teams, and it has not washed out local businesses in a sea of corporate wealth nor has it quelled rampant local corruption. Readers with an interest in international economics are sure to like How Soccer Explains the World, but soccer fans will love it. --John Moe

From the Back Cover:

Religious, economic, political and ethnic divisions around the world are dramatically illuminated using the world's most popular sport as a lens and metaphor. A groundbreaking work.

Soccer is much more than a game, or even a way of life. In fact, it's a perfect window into the cross–currents of today's world, with all of its joys and sorrows. Soccer clubs don't represent geographic areas; they stand for social classes and political ideologies. And unlike baseball or tennis, soccer is freighted with the weight of ancient hatreds and history. It's a sport with real stakes –– one that is capable of ruining regimes and launching liberation movements.In this remarkably insightful, wide–ranging work of reportage, Franklin Foer takes us on a surprising tour through the world of soccer, shattering the myths of our new global age. Instead of destroying local cultures, as the left predicted, globalization has revived tribalism. Far from the triumph of capitalism that the right predicted, it has entrenched corruption. From Brazil to Bosnia, and Italy to Iran, this is an eye–opening chronicle of how a beautiful sport and its fanatical followers can highlight the fault lines of a society, whether it's terrorism, poverty, anti–Semitism, or radical Islam –– issues that now have an impact on all of us. Filled with blazing intelligence, colourful characters, wry humour, and an equal passion for soccer and humanity, How Soccer Explains the World is an utterly original book that makes sense of our troubled times.

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