How Soccer Explains the World (2005) by Franklin Foer is a book about how people relate to soccer in different parts of the world and how this reflects on them. The book contains fairly little about the actual game of soccer. It’s a light read in the American essay style of Thomas Friedman. You can imagine the pitch Foer made for the book that coupled soccer, a sport many middle class Americans like with travel, another subject many Americans like. It’s a clever combination.
Foer travels around the world to look how people support soccer and what they us it for. Foer goes to Belgrade to look at the Red Star fans who formed a core of the Serb armies that were used in the wars that broke up Yugoslavia. He goes to a Celtic vs Rangers game to look at Catholic Protestant quarrel. Foer looks at the Jewish teams of central Europe of the first part of C20. He also travels to look at how corruption has wrecked the Brazillian league. Black soccer plays playing in Ukraine are given time as is a view of the new Oligarchs and their soccer. He also writes about FC Barca and soccer’s role in Iran. He finishes by looking at soccer in America and the peculiar relationship Americans have with the game.
It’s not a bad book and has quite a few interesting anecdotes but it isn’t particularly riveting. It shows as much about Americans as it does about many of the subjects of the book. The remarkable lack of content about actual soccer is, in itself, revealing. The book really is a collection of essays, there is no narrative and little historical view of how soccer has grown.