I recently became interested in soccer through watching the 2010 World Cup and seeing the sport's influence on the culture of so many different nations around the world. I was especially impressed at the egalitarianism of the sport and the wide range of its fans. It seems that everyone from the African townships to the corporate empires of the G8 is rooting for one team or other. And I was also interested to note that many US fans were not supporting the US national team but one of the teams from Africa or South America. Thus I chose to read Soccer Against the Enemy because I was eager to understand a game that is clearly more than just a game -- a game that, as the book jacket says, "starts and fuels revolutions and keeps dictators in power."
Author Simon Kuper clearly loves the sport and knows it well. He has done a great deal of research on the sport and perhaps more importantly, its fans. His book provides an excellent account of the last 30 or so years of the sport, how it has grown in popularity around the world and how it crosses the boundaries of nationality, politics, race and class. I was especially interested to learn about the influence of the Dutch on the style of play and how their rivalry against Germany in 1988 and 1992 fueled old resentments, and in some cases hatreds, from the Second World War, when the Germans invaded the Netherlands.
The one disappointment I had with this book is that it was reissued in 2010 with a brief update from the author, but the vast majority of the content is from the 1990s, which is when the author did his original research and first published the book using the name "futball" in the title rather than the US term "soccer." That in and of itself is fine, except I was expecting to learn more about the game and the influence it has today, rather than a decade ago. In the author's update he explains that globalization has changed the loyalties of fans to the extent that many now support clubs in nations not their own and in fact nations that they have never visited nor have any connection to. I would certainly have liked to understand that shift and its causes, as well as more about the world of soccer as we enter the second decade of the 21st century. This is not the fault of the author so much as the publisher and the way the book is described in its promotional copy.
So, bottom line from a new soccer fan: This is a very well-written, superior book about the recent history of the sport but if you are looking for something that puts soccer in the context of the world as it is today, you will probably have to look elsewhere. I think I will read either Soccernomics or How Soccer Explains the World to get a more contemporary view.
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About the reviewer
Bonnie McEwan (BonnieMcEwan)
I own a communications consultancy in NYC called MAKE WAVES, which serves nonprofit organizations and foundations. I also hold a Visiting Lecturer position at Milano: The New School for Management & … more
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