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What We Think about When We Think about Soccer

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  534 ratings  ·  78 reviews
You play soccer. You watch soccer. You live soccer You breathe soccer. But do you think about soccer?

Soccer is the world's most popular sport, inspiring the absolute devotion of countless fans around the globe. But what is it about soccer that makes it so compelling to watch, discuss, and think about? Is it what it says about class, race, or gender? Is it our national, reg
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 31st 2017 by Penguin Group (first published October 2017)
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Average rating 3.36  · 
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Travis Timmons
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Update: after three reads, I think I finally figured this book out. It's better than I first thought--more tightly argued, interesting, and definitely more useful than I first thought. Tip: read Critchley like a Chesterton, Zizek, or parts of Kierekaard. Critchley writes in a "gesturely" way, rather than systematically drilling down into ice blocks of arguments.

Honestly, I had struggled between a 3 or 4 on this one. From reading reviews, I can see the book was mostly panned by critics (both with
Phillip Saginario
Nov 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
Only saving grace is the nude on p.18
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This book should have been titled WHAT I THINK WHEN I THINK ABOUT FOOTBALL. It's an enjoyable read, from the perspective of a soccer fan, but it's linked with super glue and chains and handcuffs to its author. It's a fanboy book by a fanboy. It has moments where he tries to open up the discussion of soccer into something meaningful or philosophical, but, in my opinion, never reaches too far beyond surface level. Aside from that, I felt his assertions about the beauty, spectacle, and importance o ...more
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title of Simon Critchley's book seems to be clearly inspired either by Raymond Carver's short story, 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love'. Or probably by Haruki Murakami's book 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running'. In this book, Simon Critchley explores the game of football from different perspectives - football's roots in socialism and how it has transformed into a capitalistic game, why it is regarded as a beautiful game and what is the source of its beauty, the team natur ...more
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, non-fiction
This was a quick, fun read. Be warned: there is a full-page nude photo. I, not knowing this, flipped to it in a very crowded public place and got some strange looks. Also, the author is a Liverpool fan.

Some people – and many Americans, it must be said – find football boring. This is wrong. And they are boring for believing it.
Đoàn Duy
Mar 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Just glib tidbits teeming with big names and big terms in a pretentiously stirring fashion.
Dakota Sillyman
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great review of the sport through a philosophical lens. Some interesting analysis on the game, fans, players, etc. The one thing that I couldn't do was find a sort of respect for Critchley's Liverpool fandom. He warns of it early on and talks about how opposition fans should find a mutual respect among the banter, but every time he fawned over Liverpool's glory days or Juergen Klopp's 'heavy metal football' all I could think of is "Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham are doing much more interest ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Κριτική στα Ελληνικά πιο κάτω...

I'm a huge football fan and I support Liverpool, but I don't know what's the purpose of this book.
Some of the author's contemplations are obvious and your everyman sure have make such thoughts at some point, been a football fan or not. Some of the other contemplations of the author make not much sense and are very stretched and full of hyberbole.

The book is too biased and is overdoing it with all this Liverpool stuff (a Jurgen Klopp-time?) which while I could
May 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This was a hard book for me to review because I thought it flowed well, I liked the pictures and the random factoids, and I really want to go hang out with the author at a bar.

My issue is that I just felt as if nothing was really said. There were no profound points made, big statements that made me question myself, or even anything to debate at all. It was just a weird compilation of known philosophical ideals and showing how they can be attributed to someone watching a football match.

While this
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
Sixteen very short chapters looking at soccer fandom through a philosophical lens that I found, surprisingly, massively entertaining. Certainly not a book for everyone - it helps if you have some kind of interest in either theoretical humanities (especially in regards to theater - he spends a lot of time with Greek tragedy and, to a lesser extent, Brecht), philosophy (especially in regards to ideas of time and broad hermeneutics), or European soccer (especially club soccer, and my Lord, especial ...more
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Colour me unimpressed and impatient. Critchley has a fine and elegant mind; it is here untroubled by depth and content to skim the surface of possibility. The chapters are each quite promising but delivery remains breezy, with a few pages dedicated to Zizou here, a few to Klopp there, mentions of family scattered throughout, and the most substantial passages dedicated to platitudinous phenomenology that fails to illuminate anything about soccer beyond the basics: the game is an intensity stretch ...more
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book, because I like both soccer and theory. However, with a solid knowledge of soccer and different philosophical works, anyone could have written this. Perhaps this book was meant more for the soccer enthusiast who wanted a bit heavier reading than the academic who also likes watching soccer. It is very well written, with a great author's voice and the arguments are easy to follow. However, the arguments do not go very deep- for example, when talking about the soun ...more
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
So this British guy wrote this book & discussed the difference between football & soccer. It seemed a bit off to me but that wasn't the focus so will move on. He talked about a variety of things from the influence socialist countries have where people breathe, eat, sleep soccer. Of course not in the US where it has gained popularity but still has a ways to go. He also talked about the importance of club teams in the UK which is a whole other thing. He discusses some of the more popular players & ...more
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
First, I’ll forgive Simon for being a Liverpool fan, we can get past that. This book is a fascinating read, especially so for a person like me as a soccer fan and a bit of an armchair philosopher. This is the first book on soccer that I have seen take a metaphysical perspective and attempt to go beyond the superficial elements of the game (stats, fixtures, results) and inspect really what truly makes soccer the way it is. Sometimes dizzying, I will need to re-read this book several times before ...more
C.M. Brandon
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: football
i'm always here for a deep dive into the philosophy of football. this book isn't quite that -- critchley tends to write in broad strokes rather than drilling down into the nitty gritty of both football and philosophical concepts -- but it's enough to whet the palate and get your mind turning. i was surprised by how many pages in an already relatively short book were taken up by full-page photos. it's an easy read and a good jumping off point for a football fan who wants to think about the game i ...more
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars rounded up to 4. This is a serious work of philosophy with analysis drawn from lifetime support of Liverpool FC as well as an academic career in philosophy. The only thing I had expected that I found missing was the willingness of European football fans to spend their lives supporting a side that has no chance of ever winning silverware. I think this interest is uniquely American since we all expect our teams to at least have a competitive chance, but, given the author's residence in N ...more
Peter Lech
Aug 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Endearing, with some purple passages. At his best, Critchley gets at the heart of the experience of football from a fan's perspective; the psychology of the fan. At the book's worst, it devolves into an ode to Liverpool FC (not that I mind Liverpool FC); the argument goes underdeveloped; or is swamped by a morass of references and allusions to philosopher's work. Ultimately, an ambitious and worthy project that is not followed through, alas. ...more
Rob Manwaring
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was demanding in places, but utterly readable and engaging. Don't often read much about football, and certainly not the usually dreary, formulaic sports biogs; but this was different. A very considered philosophical take on the meaning of football. The early sections on de-objectifiying and de-subjectifiying were really good and Critchley balances the heavy going stuff with some clear insights - especially 'What's like to be a ball'. The sections on Klopp were overlong for my taste, and ala ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting diversion into what the author perceives is going on (philosophically speaking) as a soccer match is occurring.

Critchley's Thoughts are intriguing and certainly give the reader much to digest. I'm not so sure it changes anyone's viewpoint of the game itself.

A fascinating melding of philosophy and the "beautiful game".
Coriolana Weatherby
Lots of name dropping of philosophers, writers, players and coaches without much context. Knowing German makes some of the sentences laughable, as he tries to make a regular German word sound more interesting than it is.

Had higher hopes, but still enjoyed the deconstruction of what makes a fan tick.

Oh, and too much Liverpool and Klopp..*shudder*
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a book to take in pieces with many references to philosophy and history. It provides a different perspective on how football (or any sport for that matter) truly fits into our lives. Why are we so enamored as spectators and what, if any, reflection does it have on our society as a whole?
Stephen CM
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophicks, futbol
This book had some interesting thoughts about thinking about soccer. It's all about getting swept up in the moment of the event. He relies on Heidegger a lot to make his argument and it made me wonder if there aren't non-Nazi sympathizing philosophers one could use instead, given that one of the first premises presented is that soccer is socialism. ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: football
Critchley comes off as a sanctimonious, delusional, egotistical, egregiously entitled, rather provincial, wooly-headed, logorrhetic nostalgia junkie who is largely oblivious to his own massive privilege.

In other words, a typical Liverpool supporter.

A Toffee
Mark Banaszak
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Entertaining, but you have to love reading about soccer. I like to, but I'd rather play. The chapters about Jürgen Kopp and caring more about passion than planning were good chapters on how to lead a team. ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I've always tried to explain to people why football, or soccer, is so vastly different from other sports but not been able to allude to the many undercurrents of why. This book does precisely this in a way that is easy to grasp and approachable. ...more
Ioan Mosincat
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
I expected a book about footbal, but it was more philosophical than I thought football can be.
A case of different expectations, I guess. It's not a bad book, as long as you know what you're in for.
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Quite an interesting read until the book gives way to an overlong paean to Liverpool FC, their trophies, a fun Europa League game and their current manager. Doesn't bill itself as something that could be available in an official club shop but ends as such. ...more
John Matthew IV
Sep 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Fun read by a philosopher who is a Liverpool fan.

Hard to follow at times and it quick read.

The book looks and feels great.

p. 131: "It's not defeat that kills you. It's the ever-renewed hope. The hope that every new season offers."
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this, but I’m not sure Critchley is sure what he’s trying to do. A lot of tangents and sidetracking makes it difficult to understand the points he is trying to make, and I think a lot of the links are tenuous at best. Disappointing.
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
A true philosophical musing on the sport of soccer/football. As a player and fanatic I really enjoyed the musings which reflect a lot of my view of the game.
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Simon Critchley (born 27 February 1960 in Hertfordshire) is an English philosopher currently teaching at The New School. He works in continental philosophy. Critchley argues that philosophy commences in disappointment, either religious or political. These two axes may be said largely to inform his published work: religious disappointment raises the question of meaning and has to, as he sees it, de ...more

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