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How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalizationby Franklin Foer
Synopses & Reviews
Soccer is much more than a game, or even a way of life. It is a perfect window into the crosscurrents of today's world, with all of its joys and sorrows. Soccer clubs don't represent geographic areas; they stand for social classes and political ideologies, and often command more faith than religion. Unlike baseball or tennis, soccer is freighted with the weight of ancient hatreds and history. It's a sport with real stakes — one that is capable of ruining regimes and launching liberation movements.
In this remarkably insightful, wide-ranging work of reportage, Franklin Foer takes us on a surprising tour through the world of soccer, shattering the myths of our new global age along the way. He finds that instead of destroying local cultures, as the Left predicted, globalization has revived tribalism. And far from the triumph of capitalism that the Right predicted, it has entrenched corruption. In his travels, Foer encounters a collection of fans that is stranger than fiction: an English hooligan with a Jewish mother, a Nazi father, and a career as a soldier of fortune; a soccer fan club in Serbia that turns into a brutal anti-Muslim paramilitary unit; and a raucous crowd of Scots who urge him to take sides in their age-old rivalry between Catholic and Protestant teams. Telling stories in turns wild, violent, funny, and tragic, the author is able to shine a spotlight on the clash of civilizations, the international economy, and just about everything in between.
From Brazil to Bosnia and from Italy to Iran, How Soccer Explains the World is an eye-opening chronicle of how a beautiful sport and its fanatical followers can illuminate the fault lines of a society, whether poverty, anti-Semitism, or radical Islam. Filled with blazing intelligence, colorful characters, wry humor, and an equal passion for soccer and humanity, this is an utterly original book that makes sense of our troubled times.
"Foer, a New Republic editor, scores a game-winning goal with this analysis of the interchange between soccer and the new global economy. The subtitle is a bit misleading, though: he doesn't really use soccer to develop a theory; instead, he focuses on how examining soccer in different countries allows us to understand how international forces affect politics and life around the globe. The book is full of colorful reporting, strong characters and insightful analysis: In one of the most compelling chapters, Foer shows how a soccer thug in Serbia helped to organize troops who committed atrocities in the Balkan War — by the end of the war, the thug's men, with the acquiescence of Serbian leaders, had killed at least 2,000 Croats and Bosnians. Then he bought his own soccer club and, before he was gunned down in 2000, intimidated other teams into losing. Most of the stories aren't as gruesome, but they're equally fascinating. The crude hatred, racism and anti-Semitism on display in many soccer stadiums is simply amazing, and Foer offers context for them, including how current economic conditions are affecting these manifestations. In Scotland, the management of some teams have kept religious hatreds alive in order to sell tickets and team merchandise. But Foer, a diehard soccer enthusiast, is no anti-globalist. In Iran, for example, he depicts how soccer works as a modernizing force: thousands of women forced police to allow them into a men's-only stadium to celebrate the national team's triumph in an international match. One doesn't have to be a soccer fan to truly appreciate this absorbing book. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A novel look at how the world is everywhere becoming more alike, and everywhere more different, as people seek to define themselves through football....[T]he author is unfailingly interesting. Lively and provocative." Kirkus Reviews
"Foer's book is such an eccentric, fascinating exposé of a world most of us know nothing about that his inability to prove his central thesis seems almost irrelevant." Joe Queenan, The New York Times Book Review
This wide-ranging work of reportage is a unique and brilliantly illuminating look at the world's most popular sport as a new metaphor for the pressing issues of our age, from the clash of civilizations to the global economy.
Religious, economic, political and ethnic divisions around the world are dramatically illuminated using the world's most popular sport as a lens and metaphor. A groundbreaking work.
Soccer is much more than a game, or even a way of life. In fact, it's a perfect window into the cross–currents of today's world, with all of its joys and sorrows. Soccer clubs don't represent geographic areas; they stand for social classes and political ideologies. And unlike baseball or tennis, soccer is freighted with the weight of ancient hatreds and history. It's a sport with real stakes –– one that is capable of ruining regimes and launching liberation movements.In this remarkably insightful, wide–ranging work of reportage, Franklin Foer takes us on a surprising tour through the world of soccer, shattering the myths of our new global age. Instead of destroying local cultures, as the left predicted, globalization has revived tribalism. Far from the triumph of capitalism that the right predicted, it has entrenched corruption. From Brazil to Bosnia, and Italy to Iran, this is an eye–opening chronicle of how a beautiful sport and its fanatical followers can highlight the fault lines of a society, whether it's terrorism, poverty, anti–Semitism, or radical Islam –– issues that now have an impact on all of us. Filled with blazing intelligence, colourful characters, wry humour, and an equal passion for soccer and humanity, How Soccer Explains the Worldis an utterly original book that makes sense of our troubled times.
About the Author
Franklin Foer is a staff writer at the New Republic and a frequent contributor to Slate. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Policy, and Spin. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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