Although written with a notably American slant, How Soccer Explains the World has universal appeal--just like the beautiful game itself. The global power of "soccer" might be a little hard to comprehend for Americans, living in a country that views the game with the same scepticism used for the metric system and the threat of killer bees, to grasp fully. But in Europe, South America and elsewhere, football is acknowledged as not merely a pastime but often an expression of the social, economic, political and racial composition of the communities that host both the teams and their throngs of enthusiastic fans.
New Republic editor Franklin Foer, a lifelong football devotee dating from his own inept youth playing days to an adulthood of obsessive fandom, examines the game's role in various cultures as a means of examining the reach of globalisation. Foer's approach is long on football reportage, providing extensive history and fascinating interviews on the Rangers-Celtic rivalry and the inner workings of AC Milan, and light on direct discussion of issues such as world trade and the exportation of Western culture. But by creating such a compelling narrative of soccer around the planet, Foer draws the reader into these sport-mad societies, and subtly provides the explanations he promises in chapters with titles such as "How Soccer Explains the New Oligarchs", "How Soccer Explains Islam's Hope", and "How Soccer Explains the Sentimental Hooligan".
Foer's own passion for the game gives his book an infectious energy but still pales in comparison to the religious fervour of his subjects. His portraits of legendary hooligans in Serbia and Britain, in particular, make the most die-hard roughneck New York Yankees fan look like a choirboy in comparison. Beyond the thugs, Foer also profiles Nigerian players living in the Ukraine, Iranian women struggling against strict edicts to attend matches, and the parallel worlds of Brazilian soccer and politics from which Pele emerged and returned. Foer posits that globalisation has eliminated neither local cultural identities nor violent hatred among fans of rival teams, and it has not washed out local businesses in a sea of corporate wealth nor has it quelled rampant local corruption. Readers with an interest in international economics are sure to like How Soccer Explains the World, but football fans will love it. --John Moe, Amazon.com