Soccer doesn’t explain globalization

In a fit of World Cup enthusiasm, I bought Franklin Foer’s book How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. The book is roughly 10 years old, and ages less well as you progress through it. The initial chapters on soccer history and racism in soccer feel fresh and are really interesting. Foer says in the introduction that the book progresses from bad news to good news, and unfortunately gets gets worse as you make your way through it.

Foer’s argument that soccer will provide the organizing force that disrupts Islamic fundamentalism in Iran seems particularly regrettable with the benefit of hindsight. The good news for wannabe soccer fans is that the book argues effectively that Barcelona is a perfectly good fan for a dilettante to support. The team is owned by its supporters, serves as a foil for fascist Real Madrid, and plays an exciting style. If you want to cultivate a soccer rooting interest and are afraid of unwittingly making common cause with white nationalists, Barcelona is there to offer safe harbor.

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