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The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,430 ratings  ·  114 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
...more
Paperback, 992 pages
Published January 2nd 2008 by Riverhead Books (first published 2006)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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Giano Cromley
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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Jamie
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture
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
Andrew
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Football...run through with a pallid internationalism & a predictable sneer at Engla ...more
Kelvin
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Rich Jurnack
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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

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Damon
Apr 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: soccer
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 th ...more
Saadiq Wolford
Apr 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Eric
Feb 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Very comprehensive, well written mega-history!
Homer
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Pack a lunch because this 900 page epic will take you on a journey you will never forget.
Sohei Kudo
Jul 22, 2019 is currently reading it
This time I read “DAYS”. It is soccer manga. There are a lot of soccer manga so I guess writing script is the most difficult part for author. If there is same or similar one, readers notice the fact and they can criticize it. However “DAYS” is completely different from other soccer manga that I’ve read ever. It is shounen manga so angular and bold. It’s usual thing. The author often uses realistic pictures but sometimes he uses iconic picture. The picture is narrow line and background is realist ...more
Chris Duval
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Thomas
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remarkable and comprehensive book. Wonderful.
Jeff
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Here's the thing about this book: to read it, it's not enough just to have an interest in soccer, you also have to have interest - and pretty deep literacy - in geopolitics, economics, and contemporary cultural history. It contains fascinating anecdotes from important moments in soccer, i.e. what most people probably think they're getting when they pick the book up, but placed in extremely deep and detailed historical and socioeconomic context.

I'm inclined to give it high marks because I learned
...more
Bobby Otter
Mar 29, 2010 rated it liked it
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
...more
James H.
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Richard
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Ball is Round is the global history of football by David Goldblatt. It is a breathtaking work, one of those instances where the words of praise on the cover do not do it justice. It is a work of great learning, of great scope, it is an important work, something which contributes to the knowledge of humanity. The tone is slightly academic and wordy but this fits the contents. It is not just a history of global football but a social history of the world. Football history and the histories of t ...more
Paul Croft
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book about football I've ever read.
Josh Knowles
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: blogged
(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
...more
MH
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This history of soccer, told chronologically and covering every nation in the world, is a massive undertaking, and there are obviously going to be some quibbles: Mexico seems to get pretty short shrift, and the chapters on colonialism and the diaspora of the sport (and why some nations took to it, and some didn't) were much more interesting to me than the last third of the book, which seemed to be a dreary catalog of bald-faced corruption in South America, Africa, and the offices of FIFA (punctu ...more
Joe Higgins
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
John
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I did not really read this, but I read the first hundred plus pages and some random other bits. I needed it for a guest lecture on the history of Atlantic World sports. I have to say, it is well-written and I get that it is supposed to be the definitive history of soccer doorstopper, but the thing is 900 pages. This is too long. I kind of wanted to read it just for fun, because I like global histories of things and I like sports, but really, I do not have 900 pages of time. And Goldblatt include ...more
Caroline
Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
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
Sheila
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports, history
I am finally finished with this monolith of a book! Not only is this gigantic work a complete global history of football, it is a history of the world in the Industrial and Post-Industrial age, as the incubation & growth of football is completely intertwined with the industrial movement.
This is also an ethnography of one sport in many cultures, a thorough examination of the singular phenomenon of one ball sport taking hold & captivating over 1 billion people from disparate cultures and societies
...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
Mike
Jun 02, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Michael
100710: 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 wor ...more
Lauren Guynn
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book quiet a little bit. I read some of it and didn't finish but i like this book because i love soccer and that's all this book talks about and it doesn't get boring to me. They talked about how different players did different things like tricks and it taught me some things about soccer. So this book was definitely a good book to read and if anyone is interested in soccer they should read this book.
Don Willow
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took forever, but worth it

It took me ages to get through this thing and I believe that half of this book could have been cut out and we'd all be better off for it.

However, this is THE book for the history of the game and gives you everything you need to understand the intricacies of the modern landscape. For those of you newer to football and who are serious about understanding the complex nature of it, do yourself a favor.
Jack
Oct 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
A very thorough travelogue of soccer/football, but the errors I spotted in my area of expertise, soccer history in the United States, make me question the totality of this book as the definitive history of the world's game.
Robert  Baird
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A bit surprised by how well Goldblatt intertwines global geopolitics and cultural modernization with a very exhaustive history of soccer, itself. I've learned more about the history of many places from this book than I have from most other books I've read or documentaries I've watched.
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Librarians note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

David Goldblatt is a highly experienced sports writer, broadcaster, and journalist. He is the author of e 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 publ
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