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The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  1,498 ratings  ·  78 reviews
The definitive book about soccer. With a new foreword for the American edition.

There may be no cultural practice more global than soccer. Rites of birth and marriage are infinitely diverse, but the rules of soccer are universal. No world religion can match its geographical scope. The single greatest simultaneous human collective experience is the World Cup final.

In thi
Paperback, 992 pages
Published January 2nd 2008 by Riverhead Books (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Giano Cromley
This is a great, 900-page book. The astute reader will note that the first adjective is somewhat surprising in light of the second.

Here's what I can tell you about The Ball Is Round: As you read it, you will feel your brain getting bigger. Seriously. The author, David Goldblatt, is not only an expert on the history of soccer; he has an incredible grasp of the vectors that shape world history – from colonialism, to economics, to military power, to governmental competencies. The subtitle, A Globa
The final whistle has been blown; the fat lady has sat down again; the boisterous crowd are flooding away through the exits from rows A-Z....shaking their heads in wonder at such a memorable game. I feel a little churlish,after reading such a tome,of both profound depth & touch-line-hugging width,to shake my head & sound a note of disappointment at Goldlatt's exhaustive & relentless neo-Marxist interpretation of through with a pallid internationalism & a predictabl ...more
This is a mammoth book, just over 900 pages. Broken up by continent-specific chapters within chronological sections. Goldblatt covers soccer within the cultural context of the nation he is discussing, giving plenty of international history lessons along the way. My soccer knowledge goes no further back than Cobi Jones and the 1994 World Cup (and even then it's pretty spotty), so learning about the early development of the sport and it's growth in the Americas and Africa was all brand-new. I coul ...more
Rich Jurnack

Like most Americans, I grew up with an indifference (some would say ignorance) to the passions of global football. For a variety of reasons, within the past two years I have found the sport to be one of the most fascinating expressions of athletic art and have, in my own way, become a devotee of the phenomenon.

Goldblatt is an English author who grew up with the passion of a fan, but who brings to the sport the eye of an historian and a sociologist. The book is broken down chronologically and geo

The book that I read was The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt, a great soccer book for all soccer player and soccer fans. I started reading this book a years ago when I finished reading a Michael Jordon book and I was interested in sport books. When i saw this book a year ago I was thinking of the last Goodreads book review and thought about the basketball book that I read and now, I started reading a soccer book about the best history of soccer. I was interested in t ...more
I have read many soccer history books, but none have ever reached the width and scale of what David Goldblatt has achieved. He has covered almost every single country in the World, and he has broken up the chapters into fifteen year sections to make it more digestable. But even so, he has packed so much information into this book, that it is sometimes hard to keep all the dates, numbers, names and teams straight. I have been forced to pull out my atlas a number of times to help me keep all of t ...more
Saadiq Wolford
This 900-page behemoth explains the 150-year evolution of soccer through history, sociology, and economics.

It's simultaneously both too much and too little: too much focus on the big picture and cause-and-effect, and too little focus on the individual lives and stories that humanize history and make it compelling. Soccer captures the heart and imagination like no other sport, but only glimpses of that passion are offered within these antiseptic pages.

Framing a story over six continents and alm
Josh K
(Disclaimer: I'm an American, so while the book uses "football" to refer to the sport, I use "soccer.")

Wow. What a tome. So this is a good book. Very much worth reading if you're interested in soccer, but a few things:

Firstly, it's really more of a history of the world as told through the eyes of soccer. Goldblatt goes into depth about the political and economic changes up to and through the 20th century for pretty much every country and region on the planet. You'll learn about South American ec
Pack a lunch because this 900 page epic will take you on a journey you will never forget.
Very comprehensive, well written mega-history!
Jim Lewis
I was fortunate enough to be in the closing chapters of David Goldblatt's seminal history of world soccer during the week when Swiss authorities arrested 9 FIFA executives on charges brought by the US Department of Justice and then seized paper and electronic records concerning the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup competitions. Goldblatt's book provides all the background one needs to understand the circumstances under which FIFA has corrupted the beautiful game, as well as its role in he ...more
Igor Faynshteyn
*Initial Disclosure: I write this review having read roughly half of this book.

To begin with, I really anticipated reading this book, as someone who has been a fan of soccer most of my life, even if only in an on and off fashion. I also appreciate long and in depth books, as this one appeared to be. However, I am so far somewhat disappointed in it.

The book is a survey of soccer, from its inception as an organized sport, its working class roots in England, to its evolution in Latin America and m
Chris Duval
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bobby Otter
I'm not really sure where to start... so bullet points:
--very long, but very well organized. I was never lost and Goldblatt covers the entire world, I mean every where but... Mexico which was weird. But if Mexico is the only country he 'forgets' well it's not the end of the world.
--The book becomes weaker as it moves along, the beginning is fantastic (how football started, why the US/Canada/Aussies rejected football, why the Scots took to it, the spread of the game in Europe and Latin America) b
Joe Higgins
Few books on sports transcend their subject matter as well as this one does. Really more of a cultural history, it can seem a bit of a slog at first. Goldblatt takes us from country to country, continent after continent; and everywhere the story is the same: Nation gets middle class, middle class gets leisure time, football appears and thrives.

Everyone, from fascists and racists to military juntas to corporations tries to harness its power to their own ends, but football has a way of continuall
This book is immense. It was really hard-going, not because it wasn't interesting, but because it was so amazingly comprehensive. It really does cover the complete global history of football, right from way back when man first kicked something round, right up to the present day, covering every continent, every competition, and damn near every team. It's exhaustive. One of its major virtues is that it doesn't take football out geopolitical context, as so many sports histories tend to. Football ha ...more
Christopher Bashforth
This was an interesting read but I think the author failed in his central aim - why is football so popular? He tried to explain its popularity by referring to sociological and economic theory but he actually partly succeeded when just reciting the games or interesting ancedotes. I was expecting much more of this but instead there was much relating of football to theory which was extremely ponderous to read through and don't get me started on the conclusion. I hardly ever skim read but this was s ...more
Sam Westmoreland
This is a must-read for soccer fans; the seminal history of the sport. Goldblatt's writing creates a compelling narrative, and makes this book a can't miss
Phew. If you wan all-encompassing history of soccer, this is it. It's not just about the game and the results (though, frankly, I would've liked a little more on the the players and great games since that's the part I'm interested in most), but everything else. Part "How Soccer Defines the World" and part "World Soccer Yearbook," it was fascinating to see Goldblatt weave in and out of different countries and times. The amount of research that went into this book must've been exhausting. And the ...more
Josh C.
Incredibly thorough, bogs down about 2/3 of the way through because of it. Still worth the effort.
This history of soccer was ok. Very heavy on the European development of soccer. It has good passages on how soccer tied to the African national liberation movements. For example, in aparheid South Africa, soccer was the exclusive sport of the exploited, and rugby and cricket were the sports of the Afrikaneers and colonists. At close to 1,000 pages, the book becomes repetitive. Only for the true fans and perhaps for those interested in the links between sports and social movements (especially as ...more
The first few chapters about the evolution of the game were interesting, but I started to lose interest in the chapter about how football leagues started in practically every country in the world, especially since the main idea was the same for most of them--British-educated men start clubs in all parts of the empire, then locals get involved and the sport takes off. I am mostly interested in UK/European football, so I skimmed to the parts concerning those types of topics. The author obviously d ...more
Ian Plenderleith
Best available historical overview of the world's greatest sport.
Janne Järvinen
This is a mammoth book, and like most non-fiction, heavy to read. It's better than most books you'd read for your studies, but still heavy. That being said, it took me more than six months to get through.

The book is also bleak and pessimistic. The later parts seem to show only the worst of the corruption, social unrest, and disasters surrounding the game. Then again, maybe it's just the truth.

In the end I still liked it. The size and tone manage to create and sustain an epic atmosphere. It is a
the gift
everything you ever need to know about football, everything you do not need to know, as well. i wanted to read this before the world cup championship game… just made it. this tells me many things i did not know about the game, clarifies my hopes for the game, outlines the way it has become the world’s game- and how intimately bound with economics, technology, politics, even religion. it is sobering to realize this elevation of a game to a sort of lens on our world. we can admit the world is unfa ...more
My massive football book for Brasil 14, this is not only the best soccer history I've read (yes, there have been othrs), it is one of the best histories of the 20th century I've read, full stop. Goldblatt situates the game in the context of nations, regions, and the fluid movements that contributed to making the world (and, incidentally, the game) what it is at the start of 2015. I wouldn't go so far as to urge you to read it even if yu have no interest in football, but if you do have such an in ...more
Aug 24, 2010 Kiah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: soccer enthusiasts, history buffs
900 pages of football history! GLORY! This history was at times a bit overwhelming with the ridiculous amount of information contained in these 900 pages, but everything is incredibly interesting. Goldblatt covers every aspect of the history of soccer, from where the sport originated to how it spread around the world to how and why soccer became such a popular sport (or not so popular sport) around the world. It took me a while to get through this monster, but it was worth it (though I do wish I ...more
Literally covering the global history of soccer, this book looks at the history of soccer in every part of the world and how the game was influenced by or had an impact on, current socio-economic status of a particular country. It also touches on how soccer was used in certain countries (Germany, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, etc.) as a measure of military power and influence at various points in time. It's a little tough to get through, but well worth the effort if you are a true fan of the beauti ...more
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David Goldblatt is a highly experienced sports writer, broadcaster, and journalist. He is the author of The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football (Penguin, 2006), the definitive historical account of the world’s game. He has also written the World Football Yearbook (Dorling Kindersley, 2002), which was published in nine languages and ran to three editions.

As a journalist, he has written for
More about David Goldblatt...

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