How Soccer Explains the World

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How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization
How Soccer Explains the World (book cover).jpg
Author Franklin Foer
Country United States
Language English
Subject Soccer, globalization
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
June 29, 2004
Media type Hardback & paperback
Pages 272 pp (hardback edition)
ISBN 978-0-06-621234-0 (hardback)
OCLC 55756745
796.334 22
LC Class GV943.9.S64 F64 2004

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization (also published as How Football Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization[1]) is a book written by American journalist Franklin Foer. It is an analysis of the interchange between soccer and the new global economy.

The author takes readers on a journey from stadium to stadium around the globe in an attempt to shed new insights on today’s world events, both from political and economic standpoints. Soccer is here the globalized medium that seems to lend itself to explaining the effects globalization has on society as a whole.


Failure of globalization[edit]

In the first part of the book, Foer tries to explain "the failure of globalization to erode ancient hatreds in the game’s great rivalries," commonly referred to as football hooliganism. His case studies include sectarian conflicts between supporters of Celtic F.C. and Rangers F.C. (the Old Firm) in Scotland and the tendency of supporters of Tottenham Hotspur F.C. and AFC Ajax to appropriate Jewish symbols and terminology (such as yid), causing some opposing supporters to employ antisemitic chants and taunts.[2]

Rise of corporate hegemons[edit]

In the second part of the text, the author uses soccer "to address economics: the consequences of migration, the persistence of corruption, and the rise of powerful new oligarchs like Silvio Berlusconi, the President of [both] Italy and the AC Milan club".[2]

Persistence of nationalism and tribalism[edit]

In the final part, Foer uses soccer "to defend the virtues of old-fashioned nationalism", as "a way to blunt the return of tribalism".[3] The book thus challenges theories that a universal, globalist philosophy will subsume local nationalisms. Overarching structures such as the European Union and the United Nations may attain structural prominence, but underneath the veneer of these structures, vibrant sub-cultures and tribal loyalties remain, and may even be strengthened by modern communications like the Internet. They may thus foreshadow not the hope for unity sought by globalized bureaucratic and political elites and corporate oligarchs, but increasing fragmentation and national/ethnic conflict within outward facades of globalized unity.


The book received positive reviews in The New York Times[4] and The Washington Post.[5] Critics for The San Francisco Chronicle[6] and The Boston Globe[7] praised Foer's portrait of the soccer world while dismissing his larger arguments.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Foer, Franklin (2 March 2006). How Football Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. Arrow Books Ltd. ISBN 0-09-949226-1. 
  2. ^ a b Foer, Franklin (4 November 2004). How Soccer Explains the World. HarperCollins. p. 5. ISBN 0-06-621234-0. 
  3. ^ Foer, Franklin (4 November 2004). How Soccer Explains the World. HarperCollins. p. 6. ISBN 0-06-621234-0. 
  4. ^ Queenan, Joe (2004-07-04). "Of Headers and Hooligans". Review. Retrieved 2010-03-24. 
  5. ^ "Team Spirit". 2004-07-04. Retrieved 2010-03-24. 
  6. ^ Berrett, Jesse (2004-07-11). "World goal / An American soccer fan finds the good and the bad in global soccer culture". Retrieved 2010-03-24. 
  7. ^ Guttmann, Allen (2004-07-04). "Goal Diggers: Franklin Foer sees the widespread passion for soccer as a reflection of larger cultural changes". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-03-24. 
  1. Testa, A. and Armstrong, G. (2008). “Words and actions: Italian ultras and neo-fascism” Social Identities, vol. 14 (4), pp. 473 – 490
  2. Testa, A. (2009) “UltraS: an Emerging Social Movement”, Review of European Studies, vol. 1 (2), 54-63
  3. Testa, A. (2010). Contested Meanings: the Italian Media and the UltraS. Review of European Studies, vol 2(1), 15-24
  4. Testa, A. and Armstrong, G. (in press; November 2010). Football, Fascism and Fandom: The UltraS of Italian Football, A&C (Bloomsbury), London, Black Publishers.

External links[edit]