Review: How Soccer Explains the World


How Soccer Explains the World: an {unlikely} theory of globalization
Franklin Foer
Football (Association)


While the title of Foer’s book makes it appear as though it will include pages of theoretical nonsense in reality it does not. The book itself is far more simplistic then the title suggests as it reads more like a travel log then anything else. Foer takes an incredible journey around the world of football and finds himself in some of the most intriguing situations imaginable. Foer, an American with what seems to be a reasonable yet not extensive knowledge of football, presents the perfect character to narrate this expedition.

His journey includes some telling insight into some historic football countries. Foer takes us through Serbia, a place at the time recovering from the effects of war. He tells us of Red Star Belgrade, the most storied club in the history of Serbian club football and of Arkan, a military general who bought victory in the league through intimidation. He then transitions expertly into chapters about hooligans at Chelsea, the Old Firm, Jewish Football, racism in football and Barcelona.


As far as I can tell the theory explained in the title of this book is never truly exemplified or explained. Not that this at all deters from the quality nor the interest of the book. I have read football travel logs in the past but never have they had the objective view that this one contains. Usually football travel logs are filled with stories of heroic fan support and moments that changed the writers life. Instead this book is told through the eyes of a man who seems to have no supporting interest which makes it stronger in what it is trying to achieve.

The book is full of stories and facts that not only check up when researched but encourage further research from the reader. For example a chapter about a player named Edward Anyamkyegh who is trying to make a career for himself in Europe leads the reader to become curious about the direction that his career has taken today. Personal research indicates that Edward plays in the lower divisions of Finland football and never truly found his European dreams.

This book is written with the style of an obvious professional as it flows through a rather large range of content with ease. The manner in which it is written opens doors for readers who do not have any vested interest in the sport of football. To that end it includes several possible discussion points as this novel treads into some of the darker content present in the world of football. For both football supports and detractors this book will have plenty of intrigue.


I have read plenty of books on the topic of association football and I would say only two can ever really compare with this novel. Going into reading I had very little hope for a book that looked every bit as boring as the color scheme on the front cover. Yet the content and the style of this book make it unique from any other that I have read and therefore incredibly interesting. As is the case when the best books are completed you almost wish the Foer could have explored and commented on more content from a more diverse series of countries.

Whether a fan of football or just a fan of sport Foer’s book is a page turner which you will be finished and want to read again in less time then it took you to read this review.

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