Football Against the Enemy

Football Against the Enemy (1994) by Simon Kuper is a book about how football and society relate across the world. Kuper also wrote the excellent Soccernomics that I read earlier this year but did not review.

In Football Against the Enemy Kuper travels the world, going to Holland to look at the Dutch German rivalry, the Baltic Republics, Russia and the Ukraine to look at soccer under Communism and corrupt soccer, to England to write about Gazza, to Italy to talk to Helenio Herrera about Catanaccio, to Spain to look at Barcelon and Catalonia, then on to Africa to look at the game there and then to America to look at soccer before the 1994 World Cup and then to Brazil and Argentina to look at the game there and then to an Old Firm and then to Croatia to look at soccer and Yugoslavia.

It’s a good book. Kuper is interested in and knows what he is talking about. There is an element of irony in that part of the book is looking at the cliches about how soccer is played in particular countries but the book adds to these myths in many ways. The book How Soccer Explains the World is so similar that it after reading Football Against the Enemy it seems like a sequel. Football Against the Enemy is a considerably better book. Kuper has the advantage of really knowing the game and he provides a lot more insight into how soccer relates to politics.

The chapter on the Ukraine and how the Ukraine related to Dynamo Kiev is fantastic. The chapters on African soccer are also very good. The section on Argentinian and Brazilian football are also fine. Kuper is at his best when looking at corruption and football and how they intersect. The way corrupt cultures do things is exposed and discussed with real skill. The sections on Holland and Gazza are pretty weak.

The book is well worth reading for anyone interested in soccer and is worth reading for someone looking for an interesting read about politics in corrupt countries.


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