How Soccer Explains the World
Franklin Foer tackles globalization from soccer fields around the world.
Soccer scribes are a bit like wine connoisseurs, detecting hints of national character where others just see corner kicks. They also tend to be European (Nick Hornby) or South American (Eduardo Galeano). Franklin Foer is that rare thing: a homegrown soccer pundit. Here, Foer presents the game as a case study on the effects of globalization, both good and bad. At times, this connection between sport and theory can feel somewhat forced and airy-fairy. But Foer put himself on a lot of airplanes, and several chapters stand alone as surgical strikes of intelligent reporting. In the former Yugoslavia, for example, he has a funny and terrifying interview with a member of a Serbian soccer gang that helped foment ethnic hatred. He also writes movingly of a Nigerian forward in Ukraine who has the awkward distinction of being the only black man that most locals have ever seen.