So I finished off Soccer Explains the World and I’m pretty convinced. The subtitle is “an (unlikely) theory of globalization” and it’s one of the better theories I’ve come across. Soccer doesn’t explain the whole damn world, but it explains more than you think.
The book is in fact a road trip story as the author goes from soccer (and world) hotspot and looks at how the beautiful game crosses paths with politics, religion, culture and trade. The stories that Foer tells are just fascinating. How Arkan, one of the most murderous thugs to emerge from the Balkans, recruited his militia from Belgrade soccer hooligans. How Nigerian strikers come to play for Ukrainian professional clubs. The struggles of women in Iran to just watch the game live in the stadium.
To be honest, these stories don’t add up to one single, unified, pithy theory of soccer and globalization. There’s no causation. Understanding Brazilian soccer will show you how the Nation of Brazil works, but soccer reflects, rather than makes the societies if comes from. This is a book that’s really about using to soccer to show us the world.
Which brings us to Iraq's run in the Asian Cup. The National team has had an amazing run, scored major upsets and made its way all the way to the finals. But fifty people died when bombers struck the celebrating crowds. Soccer will not solve Iraq problems any more than George Bush will. But it helps us understand.