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Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power
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Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  3,510 ratings  ·  180 reviews
Soccer is much more than just the most popular game in the world. It is a matter of life and death for millions around the world, an international lingua franca.

Simon Kuper traveled to twenty-two countries to discover the sometimes bizarre effect soccer can have on politics and culture. At the same time he tried to discover what makes different countries play a simple game
Paperback, 302 pages
Published April 28th 2006 by Nation Books (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  3,510 ratings  ·  180 reviews

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Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sports
As a huge football supporter (I refuse to say soccer) -- this book is very disappointing. Don't read it.

This book was written in 1994, and reading it nearly 20 years later -- it is grossly outdated (even with the updates in 2006).

I had to put the book down 30 pages in because it was so dire. I skimmed through other sections just to see if it was just as bad -- and it was. The writing is uninteresting and the stories are tiresome. Celtic is Catholic and Rangers are don't say? Be
Paul Haspel
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: soccer
Soccer has the most widespread appeal of any sport on Earth; everyone knows that. What may not be as readily apparent – especially in countries like the United States and Canada, where soccer lags in popularity behind football, baseball, basketball, and hockey – is how strongly soccer can influence social, cultural, and political life in the countries where it is most popular. Simon Kuper’s Soccer Against the Enemy takes to the pitch with the intent of exploring that often-overlooked aspect of t ...more
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful book about the connections between soccer, politics and culture around the world.
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this book as a gift 11 years ago but only read it now...One upside of Covid lockdowns is I've excavated my boxed up books from the basement and am working my way through them.
It's a bit dated as it was first published in 1994, however that era is pretty vivid for me personally so I still found it interesting. A bit tone deaf in some sections (see previous sentence) but still a very enjoyable read with an endearing authorial humility.
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
i am happy to report that the title of this book is, in today's context, misleading; there is no grand totalizing new-new journalism/freakonomics-style narrative.

this is a themed travelogue, and as such, it works really well. the text is built to contain anecdotes both odd and expected. negative reviews suggest that kuper doesn't have anything new or interesting to say, and while i understand, i think that's missing the point. kuper didn't travel to glasgow (or yaounde or zagreb or johannesburg
Elliott Turner
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book has aged super well. We are spoiled by websites dedicated to niches of soccer culture, but two decades ago Simon Kuper shelled out five thousand pounds to travel the then still large world. He interviewed generals, dissidents, and association presidents. He caught games on different continents and traveled like a pauper.

The pacing is breathtaking, the descriptions detailed, and the characters vivid. Even if his conclusions are not so amazing (soccer is a window into a nation's politic
Jan 06, 2010 rated it did not like it
This book was absolute torture. I had to read it in pieces (and only a couple of pages at a time in order to get through it). While he definitely has interesting anecdotes about the relationship between soccer and politics, and some amusing facts about various national soccer histories, to say the book left something to be desired is an understatement. The title was a complete misnomer. My only comfort three months in to reading the book: the second half of the book was considerably less awful t ...more
May 25, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At one point in the narrative, when Simon Kuper is describing the book he ultimately wrote to an interviewee in Argentina, he says that he's working on a book about "soccer and politics." (Note: The use of soccer in that context is likely a publisher's edit for the American market; this happens throughout, occasionally to the point of altering meaning in the words. Find and replace is maybe not the best method of book editing.)

In any case, the Argentine being interviewed responds to Kuper's decl
I wish I could give this book a higher rating, as I like the premise and I enjoy Kuper's style and often witty insight. But there are two major reasons I can't.
First, the US edition could have stood for some better editing. It seems someone went through a document and did a find and replace for the word "football." The problem is, "football" refers to both the sport and the actual ball, and the editor didn't go through the tedium of re-reading to add the word ball where necessary. This results i
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
First of all, don't read this. It just isn't worth your time. And I'm not saying that because I hated it or that I hate the author - Simon Kuper's book Soccernomics is excellent - but because it just doesn't deliver what it promises. I was going to give this one star until I made it to the final chapter, which was written probably about a decade after the rest of the book. It's the only one that doesn't fixate on Kuper's own irrelevant travels and interviews, and rather deals with the subject at ...more
Tim Roast
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about football politics around the globe. It was written in the 92-94 period. It starts with a look at the Dutch national team and their hatred of the Germans. I wasn't very impressed by the initial chapter but after that the stories are excellent. The stories include a look at corruption at clubs in the former states of Russia and how East Germans would try and watch West German teams when the two countries were divided. In fact corruption is a theme that reappears in different c ...more
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sport
I imagine if I’d read this upon its publication (1994), it would have been an incredible window into such a global game. But even with updates (2006), many of the ideas fall flat. Some books on sport age well; this is not one of them.
Paul Haspel
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Soccer has the most widespread appeal of any sport on Earth; everyone knows that. What may not be as readily apparent – especially in countries like the United States and Canada, where soccer lags in popularity behind football, baseball, basketball, and hockey – is how strongly soccer can influence social, cultural, and political life in the countries where it is most popular. Simon Kuper’s Soccer Against the Enemy takes to the pitch with the intent of exploring that often-overlooked aspect of t ...more
Andrew Gibney
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great snapshot of a time gone by

Football has changed a lot since Simon wrote this book. It has definitely dated in places, but it is a lovely look at the world of football and culture of the 90s. Knowing how the world has evolved makes it an even more interesting read now.
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing

I liked this reading
M. Kirollos
Dec 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: football
A question I'm often asked from friends and acquaintances, specially with my other interests, is why I like football that much. One side is because it's involved with many things around us; in addition to strategies, chess-like tactics, and drama, it involves economy, specially nowadays, and more interestingly, politics; which is what the book discusses. The writer takes us for a journey from Eastern Europe to USA, from Latin America to Africa, to witness the interaction between football and pol ...more
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: football
This is often quoted by people who know their stuff, and I had feared that 20 years on it might be a bit irrelevant, or high-minded, given my experience of Kuper's journalism. My fears were unfounded though, and it has stood the test of time, even if some of the places featured are almost unrecognisable compared to today.

The central theme of the book is the political side of football around the world. Sometimes this is Political in the government-in-office sense, and at others it is more cultura
Brendan Crowley
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simon Kuper once got me a job. I’ve never met him and he doesn’t knew who I am. His move from sports writing to general pontificating for the Financial Times, however, saved me when I lied in a job interview about reading the FT everyday and was challenged to name my favourite FT writer. My knowledge of obscure new FT columnists, I was told afterwards, apparently proved my keen interest in financial news and pushed me over the competitors.

But before he was an esteemed columnist, Simon Kuper was
Jun 26, 2010 rated it liked it
I'd picked up a copy of this awhile ago - reviews of How Soccer Explains the World
said this was a far better book, so I bought it instead. Then, what with World Cup frenzy, it seemed like a good time to finally read it. In a sense, the book is exactly what you expect - a series of essays about the links between soccer, politics, local culture, etc. There's not really much surprising in it (to me at least), honestly, but there's plenty of interesting stuff there. However, I found mysel
Jan 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When this book first came out in 1994, The Times wrote: "If you like football read it. If you don't like football read it". This may have been true then, but reading it 20 years later, one immediatley notices that some of the stories told, probably quite novel back then, have with time transformed into common knowledge. Nowadays even people remotely interested in football know almost everything that is to know about the German/Dutch rivalry and the mafia connections of big Ukrainian clubs. Howev ...more
Adrian Fingleton
I was listening to a sports podcast recently, and one of the participants suggested it was (deep breath) – the ‘best book ever written about sport’. So obviously I had to read it, because I firmly believe that the genre of ‘great sports books’ really is a rich source of great and inspiring stories.

But for me, this is NOT even close to being the best book ever written about sport. Sure it’s interesting, it’s funny, it’s informative and well researched. It’s written by someone with a passion for t
Jul 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyable read, though you get the impression it could have used a little more attention from an editor. There are a couple instances where the word football was carelessly replaced with soccer, which is fine, as it is an American edition. However, football can refer to the sport or to the ball used in the sport, and in those instances, the word "ball" is missing. Careless. One other editorial qualm - as a book written in the early 90s, the references to football are a bit static, and very much ...more
Wes Freeman
Mar 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Key book in the eminently readable soccer-as-socio/national-exegesis genre (see Among The Thugs and How Soccer Explains the World). Came out in the 90s so a lot of the articles herein are not as current as they could be, but as I know soccer about as well as I know astrophysics it didn't really matter. Cool book to read if you want to know more about soccer's international culture of fans and get the flavors of the national infrastructures that have grown up around them. I think the idea is that ...more
Jul 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Reading this one was a weird experience for me. First off Kuper is an excellent writer and the stories he tells are very compelling. I enjoyed his writing here every bit as much as I enjoyed it in Soccernomics.

What kept throwing me was that I read this book about 15 years too late. Many of the people, places, and events that Kuper details are very much "of the time". That being the early 90's, the fall of the eastern bloc, the break-up of the Soviet Union, the recent end of apartheid in South Af
Bert van der Vaart
This book is superb as a relatively in depth review of the world of soccer circa 1994--when it was published. It provides sometimes humorous insight into national soccer politics and history, from Barcelona to Cameroon, from South Africa just after apartheid to the eve of the World Cup played in the USA. It seeks to explain how important soccer is to the identity of many nations, while at the same time describing some of the scurrilous national officials and fans who live for fighting the fans o ...more
Mar 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
In Football Against the Enemy, Simon Kuper writes about the effects of soccer on the politics and culture of many different countries. I was particularly interested in the chapters on Brazil (they are truly a soccer powerhouse) and on the former Soviet Bloc countries, including Russia, where the soccer stadium was the one place that people could express their discontent with the state without being taken away or killed. (Incidentally, there used to be a lot of teams in Eastern Europe that had th ...more
marcus miller
Aug 05, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
Ways to capitalize on the World Cup - Take a book you wrote 14 years ago, write an introductory essay, a postscript, slap on a new cover, and wallah, you have a book you can get on the shelves around the time of the recent World Cup and make money with a limited amount of effort.

I enjoyed Kuper's "Soccernomics" and I did enjoy the new introductory essay but the bulk of the book seemed dated and much of the "analysis" seemed rather obvious. As Kuper himself points out in his postscript he was a
Rich Saskal
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Had the strange temporal distortion of reading this book, researched in the early 1990s, during the 2014 World Cup. As the author readily admits in a preface to a later edition, the internet and globalization have in many ways overtaken his thesis, rooted in the difference of different 'footballing cultures' and political cultures. Footballing culture, in terms of tactics et al, has been a bit more malleable, but as events in Egypt have shown, the sport still can have incendiary impact in a revo ...more
Mar 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Maybe the passing of the years haven't been kind to this 1994 book, but in this day and age discovering goings on behind the scenes or that the beautiful game has been manipulated to suit those in power isn't that big a shock.
What does hold up, however, is Simon Kuper's genuine interest in football in different parts of the world. I question that he attempts to show what makes each country play the game the way they do, but at the time of writing he was clearly keen on understanding what attract
Mohammed Alghamdi
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read it in Arabic, and I counted 137 football pop culture mistakes. The translator was ignorant about football or about countries in the world of football. The most common mistake throughout the book was his his confusion between Dutch and Danes. Also, the word league is translated in Arabic as a group of teams. Australia instead of Austria, and any foreign word that starts with J is translated to the sound you pronounce in the name Juan. Other than that, the book is great. My criticism is onl ...more
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