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The classic winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award.

Throughout the world, football is a potent force in the lives of billions of people. Focusing national, political and cultural identities, football is the medium through which the world's hopes and fears, passions and hatreds are expressed.

Simon Kuper travelled to 22 countries from South Africa to Italy, from Russia to the USA, to examine the way football has shaped them. At the same time he tried to find out what lies behind each nation's distinctive style of play, from the carefree self-expression of the Brazilians to the anxious calculation of the Italians. During his journeys he met an extraordinary range of players, politicians and – of course – the fans themselves, all of whom revealed in their different ways the unique place football has in the life of the planet.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1629 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; UK ed. edition (21 July 2011)
  • Sold by:  Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray: Not Enabled
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

Customer Reviews

Five Stars

 on 1 October 2017
By BaselBoy
An all-time great in the football world

A very different read now than in the ’90s

One person found this helpful.
 on 6 June 2013
By James Cox
I found this book a real mixed bag – some insightful commentary on the relationship between politics and football cut with interviews which were too often overlong and with people who often had no meaningful credentials other than being where Kuper happened to be at the time. This might be unfair – the media flurry around football in the past decades has probably blinded me to how interesting this may have been at the time – but I found myself flicking pages at times bored of the same drab talk.

Football, the way of the world.

7 people found this helpful.
 on 18 February 2001
By kopite4ever
Simon Kuper astonishes me by the experience he gained traveling the world and viewing it through football. The stories of East Germany and Russia are right out of the spy world and secret football mafia. I will never think of the word “Dynamo” the same again. The story of Herrera and Italy was a unique insight into how the world’s game changed on one man’s tactics. This book goes right into the world of con men, dictatorship, tyranny, and business and shares how football is used as a vehicle to fulfill the agendas of corrupt men. I am still fuming at the injustice of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and cannot believe that FIFA are not blameless in conspiring to further the evils of the world at large. I only wish they could make movies this good. I immediately thought, after reading this book, that they need to do more documantaries on the type of material covered here. It is eye-opening.

Should be required reading for sociologists and sportsmen.

One person found this helpful.
 on 12 October 1999
By tjensen@dmfirm.com
Simon Kuper’s work shows exactly how football can penetrate any aspect of day to day life in the most unsuspecting and subtle ways. Not just a football book, Simon Kuper illustrates how only one medium in the world could encompass such a wide range of seemingly divergent subjects. From gulags in Russia to Apartheid in South Africa, military corruption in Argentina, religious conflict in Scotland…the list goes on. In chapter after chapter the author makes his point that the world would not be the same place without the boundless reach of the influence of football. Mr. Kuper deftly tells stories of his travels and makes his point as neatly with his pen as a player like Pele did with his feet on the football pitch. This book belongs on the reading list of college political science courses and should be required reading for any American yet convinced that there is no force in the world like the sport of real football, of soccer.

A football book against the time

 on 12 July 2012
By RobertBlaszczak
It is every author’s dream to write a book on contemporary affairs that will still have a sensation of freshness in twenty years’ time. This task becomes even more challenging when the story is composed with evasive bits that can change their meaning and importance with one kick of the ball.

A groundbreaking sports book

 on 11 February 2014
By The Sports Book Review
When is football more than just a game? When it’s against a rival so bitter, that emotions take things to another level altogether. That’s the premise behind this wonderful book, which isn’t solely a football book, but a social and political study with football as its recurring theme. This made it truly ground breaking in that such “intelligent” football writing was rather rarer when this first came out in 1994 than it is today. Some elements now seem slightly dated, but for a reader willing to give it some historical context this is still a compelling book.


 on 21 November 2011
By Uncle Mike
I first knew Kuper from his columns in FourFourTwo magazine and had heard good things about this book. Sometimes the depressing books are better than the happy ones, and his stories of Eastern Europe, Argentina and Africa are quite depressing. And yet the tone of the book never loses hope, and shows why the personalities described therein never lose hope.
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