14 July 2010

Football Against the Enemy, by Simon Kuper

I'd picked up a copy of this awhile ago - amazon.com reviews of How Soccer Explains the World
said this was a far better book, so I bought it instead. Then, what with World Cup frenzy (seriously, what am I supposed to do with myself now? Write my phd?), it seemed like a good time to finally read it. In a sense, the book is exactly what you expect - a series of essays about the links between soccer, politics, local culture, etc. There's not really much surprising in it (to me at least), honestly, but there's plenty of interesting stuff there. However, I found myself liking the book less as it progressed. As a side note, I should mention that I read the first edition, not the new updated American one (where football is called soccer and there's a chapter on 9/11). I found myself slightly annoyed by the author's vague air of snobbery. It had a bit of that awful kind of travel writing, where the narrator expresses a subtle contempt for the poverty/savagery of places he visits. Also, the second half of the book is quite uneven, with chapters varying from 3 pages to 30, and structure falling entirely by the wayside. Not really a terrible thing, but noticeably somewhat sloppy.

Still though - there were a lot of chapters that I absolutely adored, in the way that any soccer lover appreciate a good soccer story. They're just charming and wonderful and kind of interesting.

Would the book be interesting to someone who doesn't know much about soccer, or care about it? Probably not. But if you do, it's not a bad read, and occasionally great.

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