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Thursday, January 24, 2013

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization

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How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization seeks to analyze the beautiful game from an unheard of vantage point, globalism. If you look at the modern game, analyzing it from this view makes a lot of sense. Players are imported and exported throughout the world, including to and from previously "untouchable" places (rivals). People like Lebron James have part ownership in football teams. And of course, money is everywhere, from broadcasting rights to bonuses.

The book sets out to explain why aspects of globalization have failed (for example, how local/tribal identities and/or hatred persists). All of this should dissipate identities and yet, it doesn't. The aim of the book is lofty, and it does present some good arguments. More than anything though, this book does a really nice job of explaining the certain aspects history of the game (reasons/history of key rivalries). That's the real bread and butter of this book. Foer is also a good writer and that really helps make the story that much more enjoyable. 

The book loses some steam and, unfortunately, crawls to its end gets. The final chapters focus on how Barcelona allows a place continue the "war" for Catalonia in a "harmless" way. Aside from that it analyzes the beautiful as a means for revolution against the Iranian government (or even in a general sense). There's a little too much Barcelona love for my taste. Not to mention the entire Iran/Islam chapter is pretty thin and hurt my opinion of the book more than anything. (You're better off watching Offside.) It's too American in approach. It has too much of the author in it. The really good chapters in this book are those where Foer just pushes the story along, instead of dragging it with him (which is how the last Iran/Islam chapters feels). The final chapter discusses soccer/football in America. It's an average chapter but it does offer some cool tidbits of information (such as, the reasons why some "big-shots" hate soccer/football). 

With that said, the first few chapters of this book are amazing. You have everything from fanatics becoming privatised armies, to rivalries that are driven by such hatred that they could tear countries apart (and have). There's also those "oh-so-evil" multinational corporations and plenty of those people who really have no place in the sport, and yet are making the most money off of it. I'd recommend this book to any fan of the sport. The history lesson is worth it. Also, you'll start to really look beyond the game and see the other aspects (mostly that bling and those dollar bills). 

You should also watch the movie Offside. It's so cool.

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