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How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  11,704 ratings  ·  830 reviews
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 j ...more
Paperback, 261 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published June 29th 2004)
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Majkelo Chmielewski This is a perfect book for anyone interested in Football and in Sociology. Since I red it , I am giving examples from the book in lot of different dis…moreThis is a perfect book for anyone interested in Football and in Sociology. Since I red it , I am giving examples from the book in lot of different discussions. It's a very interesting, extraordinary point of view over football. I really recommend it! (less)

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Apr 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to miaaa by: footy maniacs
Warning: next writing is written under the state of cracking emotion. Any confusions and flaws it affects should not be taken for granted.

And it's not a review!

What is so special about football, that it pains so much when you lost and taking you so high when matches are won. And it kills you to see your beloved club is brought down by ignorant fools who know nothing about the game of passion.

Right now, when I'm writing this, I was torn in two out of madness. The real me is always a Blue and that
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The right book at the right time. I'm not a big soccer fan but I love the World Cup. I couldn't pick out a Chelsea from a Real Madrid player in a police lineup but every four years, with the help of 538 and the Guardian World Cup podcast, I will shamelessly bluff my way through conversations about things like Neymar's theatrics, strengths and weaknesses of VAR and whether England has the easier side of the draw.

Foer mostly talks about club sides (as opposed to national teams) but I thought it w
Apr 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who knows that it is really called football
First of all, it's played with the feet, but I'll call it "soccer" even though it pains me to do so. Like the author, I too am a soccer geek and a mediocre player. (I was a much better coach.)

The title promises more than the book delivers, but titles are often the work of publishers' promotion departments. (It's a minor quibble.) The book does a good job of showing how soccer is intertwined with issues of ethnic and sectarian identity, class conflict, politics and culture. It does this in a ligh
Hippo dari Hongkong
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiksi
It's ectasy, anguish, joy and despair.
It's part of our history.
It's part of our country.
And it will be part of our future.
It's theatre, art, war and love.
It should be predictable ... but NEVER is.
It's a feeling that can't be explained but we spend our lives explaining it.

It's OUR religion.
We DO NOT apologise for it.
We DO NOT deny it.
They're OUR team, OUR family and OUR life.

We know how you feel about it.
Because we feel the same...

Well, few years ago, I caught myself l
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
The title is completely misleading. There is no theory about globalization and soccer is not explaining the world at all. That out of the way, what Foer does is provide a series of vignettes or showing examples of how globalization has impacted the game in a few specific examples (ranging from the Glasgow Rangers and FC Barcelona to the Iranian and American national teams) focusing on changes in the culture of those teams over that last 60ish years. He provides anecdotes in each chapter that sho ...more
Mar 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Foer (brother of Jonathan Safran Foer, for those of you keeping track at home) puts his pen to the paper to explain world affairs to his american audience through the one lens they might identify with -- sports.

Unfortunately, the sport he chooses is soccer. Which American's don't give a shit about. But guess what? They don't give a shit about world affairs either, so it's a brilliant marriage.

(For you curious folk out there, he takes on major questions- racism, gender discrimination, fundamental
William Johnson
Oct 09, 2009 rated it did not like it
Reprinted from my website Secure Immaturity:

Hello mates!

I gave this book a quick read. The cover’s title and the gravitas the book gives off makes you feel like you really are reading something amazing here. Think about the oppurtunities in a book that examines the world’s greatest game in such a massive way! But the dubious length (a paltry 250-ish pages) and the rather broad approach quickly shot down my joy. Foer’s greatest strength here will be an ignorant audience. Those who don’t know foot
Nov 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
Alright, so anybody that knows me knows what a freak I am about the beautiful game. Having said that I have to admit that I was more than a bit disappointed by this book. Now, the reviews that it had received weren't entirely terrific, nonetheless, it was a quick and interesting read at work. I can't say I didn't learn anything, but the author's thesis was tenuous at best and he never really "proved" (for lack of a better term right now) how, exactly, soccer "explains the world."

There was a good
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This was very readable and mostly enjoyable, but with caveats.
Foer's blithe USA-centric blinkers were annoying at times (especially in the Iran chapter) but it's pretty representative of a certain kind of early-2000 optimistic liberal mindset I guess.
Also frustrating was the absolute unwillingness to call Ukranian football's blatant racism by what it is, the author instead arguing that it's some quaint sort of folkloric nationalist impulse unlike racism in western Europe (even while h
Shuhan Rizwan
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
World Cup read.

The theme is very interesting, but the implementation is not what I expected.
Jan 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Warning: Depsite the fact that I am a Yank, I might refer to soccer as football in this review. The term football makes more sense.

In 2000, I was making my way back from Copenhagen (Ah Wonderful Copenhagen, Beautiful Copenhagen, where I lived down the street from a waffle factory. I would get hungery just stepping outside the building), I had a lay over in Paris. The only time I have ever been to Paris. (Do you have any idea how long it took to me find something affordable to eat? And this was b
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aside from the misleading title, this is an excellent book. It's important to point out, I think, that this book does not explain globalization by means of soccer. Instead, it shows the ways in which many of the various facets of globalization can be seen in microcosm within the world of professional soccer. For people who are soccer fanatics and who know very little about the world around them, the title may therefore be true; but I think for the average person, there's more to be learned about ...more
Steven Peterson
Oct 11, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a quirky work; it ends up proving more satisfying than one might have imagined. The subtitle:"An Unlikely Theory of Globalization." That subtitle provides a takeoff point for the book. The author notes that (Page 5): "On my travels, I tried to use soccer--its fans, its players, and strategies--as a way fo thinking about how people would identify themselves in this new era."

He explores the role of soccer by a series of case studies of teams--in Serbia, Scotland, Brazil, England, Jewish t
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I wouldn't say it's about the theory of globalization. However, it's really great book about the impact that football has on cultures around the globe. In each chapter, the author follows different football clubs from different countries and cultures. The soccer is linked with religion, mafia, politics, power and corruption, hooliganism, nationalism, race, class and so on. So somehow it's really logical that football can explain cultural differences and why some people in Liverpool support Evert ...more
Aaron Arnold
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm hardly the first person to point out that the book's title is overblown; a better one might have been "How soccer reflects the world". However, that's not nearly so snappy, and wouldn't have sold as many copies, so I won't quibble. While this 2004-vintage book could use some updating, for the most part many of the aspects of soccer as a global sport that Foer identifies haven't much changed: soccer is still beset by hooligans, trapped by ancient rivalries, riddled with corruption, and burden ...more
Randell Green
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Nice sociological concept. Reminds me of my collegiate readings. Interesting, with brief flashes of dullness. ⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️
Dec 17, 2008 rated it liked it
How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization has been on my shelf for years and it was the mention of soccer that kept me from reading it. Despite being from Eastern Europe, I am completely ambivalent toward soccer.

And yet Franklin Foer uses soccer as a brilliant example to discuss hooliganism within soccer, nationalism and corruption. He writes about specific soccer teams (mostly in Europe but also Brazil) and how team rivalries show themselves to be much more complex than
Alekh Agrawal
Football is a game played by more nations on this planet, than probably many other games put together. That FIFA has more affiliated members than the United Nations is proof enough of the global reach and impact of the beautiful game. While these figures almost feel cliched, Franklin Foer goes on to analyse how is it that a sport passionately followed by billions goes on to change the thread of life on earth. Because something so widely accepted cannot just be a mere footnote in the larger schem ...more
Bob Newman
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
Getting a kick out of soccer

When you're reviewing a book for the 722nd time, it might be hard to find something original to say. Plus, I could never call myself an expert on the subject. In a most entertaining work that's very easy to read and is never boring, Foer examines some aspects of soccer other than the game itself. He claims soccer provides a guide to globalization or various forces that exist across almost all frontiers. Serbian hoodlums and their links to both soccer and politics, not
Jul 26, 2007 rated it liked it
As a recent college graduate, unemployed, and slightly depressed during the summer of 2006, the World Cup in Germany was my saving grace. Hours upon hours of soccer games helped pass the idle days spent in bed fretting about the future.

Thus, by no means am I an expert of soccer. I've come to really enjoy the build up and release of tension that punctuates the games course of action. Not any less important is my fervent appreciation of very fit foreign men in shorts.

When I picked up "How Soccer
Jan 11, 2015 rated it liked it
There are no theories, only stories. The title is misleading. It doesn´t support its thesis, but is still a good read.

I really like the segment that talks about the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, especially since the author is a Culé. Not everyone who supports Real Madrid are fascist. And the popular belief that they are Franco´s mascot is not true, when they are a puppet. Imagine if Real Madrid went against Franco, what would have happened? We probably wouldn´t have a Real Madrid no
Dec 27, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An educational look at several cultures viewed through the lens of the soccer teams/business/fans of those areas. A little simplified, but what sweeping survey style book is not?
Apr 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, sports
I enjoy soccer. I can watch it live or on tv. I cheer for the Vancouver Whitecaps, but I can enjoy a good goal scored by the opposition so I guess I'm weird. If I were to be in Glasgow I guess I would sit with and cheer for Rangers but why not enjoy good play by Celtic? After reading this book I am not sure whether I'd want to go to a live game anywhere else. Our cheering section is called the Southsiders and they don't seem to have picked any particular cultural, racial, or religious biases so ...more
Julián Gerez
May 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Picked this up in the wake of the Super League fiasco expecting to be mildly amused at how the takes here have aged poorly since its publication. There’s some of that for sure, but there’s also plenty that aged really well—all adding up to a pleasantly surprising read. The book is a series of vignettes (ostensibly half narrative, half essay) on soccer and its connections with globalization and nationalism but there’s no huge overarching theme or argument and it feels more like an anthology film ...more
Troy Sehlinger
Nov 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Defining globalization is difficult because one does not know if it is a positive or negative “ideal”. This was an Interesting read. Gives great insight into the world’s cultures, while maintaining the central point of soccer being important to them all/being able to explain all facets of life/culture. A bit wordy at times and had me defining words more often than not. But the history and stories of soccer culture are captivating.
Connor Anderson
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Title is misleading - really should be "how the world explains soccer." Interesting stories about how culture affects soccer and how the rest of the world interacts with their favorite teams. Makes me wish Americans loved soccer more. ...more
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was very interesting from a soccer perspective, a political perspective and also from a globalization perspective. I enjoyed the personal stories that put a face and story to illustrate the principle being discussed. Being that it was published in 2006, it leaves me with questions about the possible update from current perspective. For instance, USA domestic soccer looked different at that time then it does know. Although the point about the place of soccer and globalization is probabl ...more
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite parts of traveling is the chance to read some of the books that are stacking up on the floor in my bedroom. The pace of life doesn't always leave time for these simple pleasures, but there is really no excuse when you're crossing time zones in the air.

Speaking about my work abroad, a close friend of mine recommended the book I just finished—How Soccer Explains the World—which takes an unusual look at globalization through an analysis of the impact of soccer (football to most o
Fore beginning, I should note that this book doesn't really offer the sort of unified theory that its title suggests. That's okay by me -- I knew what I was going to get when I started it, and it's what I wanted. It would be more accurate to say that it's an examination of soccer culture from around the world, broken up into discrete chapters by region. I worry a little that that description gives it short shrift. It's not strictly about soccer, nor is it confined to the inside of soccer grounds ...more
Z. J. Pandolfino
Aug 19, 2017 rated it liked it
If you believe Franklin Foer, then soccer is one of the few true cosmopolitan, multicultural sports, whose fans and players come from all corners of the world. Given such liberal associations, one would assume that the forty-fifth president, a vociferous proponent of ethnic nationalism and red-blooded American populism, would despise the sport, not unlike former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jack Kemp, who once said that “a distinction should be made that [American] football is democratic, capitalis ...more
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Franklin Foer was the editor of The New Republic (2006-10, 2012-14)and has written for Slate , New York magazine., and The Atlantic.
He has published several nonfitction books dealing with sports, technology, and globalism. Foer, who lives in Washington, D.C., is older brother of novelist Jonathan Safran Foer and freelance journalist Joshua Foer.

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“Soccer isn't the same as Bach or Buddhism. But it is often more deeply felt than religion, and just as much a part of the community's fabric, a repository of traditions.” 27 likes
“there's a long history of resistance movements igniting in the soccer stadium. In the Red Star Revolution, Draza, Krle, and the other Belgrade soccer hooligans helped topple Slobodan Milosevic. Celebrations for Romania's 1990 WOrld Cup qualification carried over into the Bucharest squares, culminating in a firing squad that trained its rifles on the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife. The movement that toppled the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner had the same sportive ground zero.” 4 likes
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