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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book that started it all
First, this is a groundbreaking work. Before it, literary football books came by once a decade or so. Now, there's a new "quality" title out every week.

Second, it's still a cracking read. Some of the foreign places aren't quite so foreign anymore, but that's down to the internet and how the world's changed. The introduction where Kuper talks about staying...
Published on 5 Nov. 2010 by DcLonChi

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dated and almost a little conceited
I wanted to love reading this book. However, it didn't quite live up to expectations.

It has clearly suffered from being written so long ago, as so many of the political circumstances described have changed hugely in the intervening years. Having read other reviews it's clear that, when it was first released, this was a pioneering attempt at examining the...
Published on 29 Sept. 2010 by M. Howell


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book that started it all, 5 Nov. 2010
First, this is a groundbreaking work. Before it, literary football books came by once a decade or so. Now, there's a new "quality" title out every week.

Second, it's still a cracking read. Some of the foreign places aren't quite so foreign anymore, but that's down to the internet and how the world's changed. The introduction where Kuper talks about staying in youth hostels and how hard travelling is seems as quaint and old fashioned as black and white television.

Finally, his main point -- that football creates national culture, as much as national cultures create football -- is still every bit as difficult and thought provoking as it was 15 years ago.

One of my all time desert island books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for sociologists and sportsmen., 12 Oct. 1999
By 
tjensen@dmfirm.com (St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
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.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Football, the way of the world., 18 Feb. 2001
By 
kopite4ever (Washington, DC, USA) - See all my reviews
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essence of football, 14 Feb. 2011
Simon Kuper manages to write a book that touches the true essence of football: a game that's much more than a game.
If you like football, not only as a game but as a social, economical, cultural and political aspect of modern day society, then this book is for you.
Wonderfully written, it's one of the best books about football ever.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dated and almost a little conceited, 29 Sept. 2010
By 
M. Howell (Hampshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I wanted to love reading this book. However, it didn't quite live up to expectations.

It has clearly suffered from being written so long ago, as so many of the political circumstances described have changed hugely in the intervening years. Having read other reviews it's clear that, when it was first released, this was a pioneering attempt at examining the socio-political background of football.

Aside from the outdatedness, the writing style grates a little. So many passages begin with an 'exclusive interview' with a certain character. While it's impressive that the author has these connections, you begin to imagine that you are being told a story by the man in the local pub who claims he's friends with everyone 'off the telly.' As such, the regular "XXXX told me in the strictest confidence that..."-style passages become irritating. Conceited is perhaps the wrong word, but it's certainly getting that way.

Ultimately though, anyone with an interest in international football (club or country) will be able to appreciate and enjoy this book. If you find yourself lagging after the first chapter - stick with it, it gets better.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not as good as I'd hoped, 24 Nov. 2008
By 
legslikeaspider (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
Given that this book won a major award, I had high hopes for a well-crafted exploration of the relationship between football and politics and perhaps a bit of travelogue-type writing thrown in there too. The book certainly covers these bases well but is just a little dull. The author is the only one I have read who has managed to downplay the intensity of a Rangers-Celtic derby. He also failed to expound properly on the relationship between a national team's playing style and the national character. That said, he describes some memorable encounters and writes in a quite enjoyable manner.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From the sublime ... to the average, 25 Aug. 2002
If the rating system allowed half stars, I would give this book three and a half, because overall I would recommend it (and three stars does not imply recommendation quality). At times the book is 5 star in Kuper's cultural insights on the game but unfortunately stoops to lows in the author's tendency towards a confusing writing style.
I feel I have to disagree with The Times's purportion that 'If you like football read it. If you don't like football read it.' Pay no attention to the latter - for the uninformed this book is only mildly interesting. However, I was compelled at times to read excerpts to my girlfriend, who may or may not have been interested, and a prime example of this is found on page 72, where the author quotes Luther Blissett (while at AC Milan) as having remarked; "No matter how much money you have got, you can't seem to get any Rice Crispies."
The confusion in the book is due to Kuper's vague initial aim, which is two-fold: (1) to discuss the relationship between politics and football around the world and (2) various cultural habits that suggest the ways different styles have come about. Perhaps he should have concentrated on the cultural explanations of style, as it becomes a little repetitive when we hear of presidents and leaders taking charge of their national team. Having said that the chapter, Argentina, campeon!, which discusses the corruption during the 1978 World Cup, is mindblowing. However, Kuper's argument in 'Gazza and the fall of Margaret Thatcher', where the author tries deperately hard to convince the reader of some weak comparisons between Gazza and John Major, fails miserably but is nonetheless very entertaining.
The book's high-points are the chapters on Brazil and Cameroon. Kuper paints a rather amusing portrait of Roger Milla... The explanation of the flamboyant Brazilian style as an outgrowth of the ancient sport of the capoeira as practised by the 'Malandro' in Brazilian folklore, is brilliantly argued and well-explained.
Overall, this book made me realise how much the game has changed in the last ten years and given that this book was first published in 1994, when for me football was only beginning to be explained in aesthetic terms, perhaps we should give the book a little extra credit. For those wanting a more refined aesthetes discussion of football, look at David Winner's 'Brilliant Orange'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible book, 3 Mar. 2014
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Brought to book for a weekend away in Budapest. What a read. Clearly of its time, written in the early 90s with appropriate references, this book represents a fixed point in football history. Its far mroe than a football book though, full of insight into a wide range of politics, culture, societies and people. Great
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5.0 out of 5 stars A groundbreaking sports book, 11 Feb. 2014
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.<!--more-->

The main theme is that cultures and nations use football to reflect their national identity and self-image. Kuper looks at several examples from across the globe to illustrate his point. Notably he focuses on the Dutch and their rivalry with Germany; something that he, writing as someone who lived in Holland for years, states just didn’t exist in the same way pre the 1988 European Championship semi finals. It was an almost invented rivalry and justified with the understandable historical reasons, to stoke the feelings of a generation too young to have lived through the Nazi occupation. It became an event of national significance, which transcended mere sport.

There is also a look at the perception in Argentina of such underhand antics as Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal and the reasons for this, and sections on the development of national identities in an Eastern Europe that was freshly split from its Communist nation states; and the mention of one East German whose interest in western football clubs earned him a Stasi file and a secret police follower. All in, there are studies of football and character in 22 countries from Europe to South America to Africa

It’s easy to forget with our saturation sports reporting and a steady supply of wonderful sports books these days, but at the time this book came out in 1994 it was an almost lone gem in a genre that wasn’t so much moribund, as almost nonexistent. Quality football writing, or indeed sports writing in general, has come on in leaps and bounds since, but in the early nineties it was more about poor autobiographies or how-to manuals. Truly ground breaking, and still a terrific read today. [...]
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3.0 out of 5 stars A little dated but essential reading on football and politics, 20 Jan. 2014
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Simon Kuper has balls, that is for sure. Travelling as he did throughout some of world's toughest countries during the nineties. Can only imagine that announcing yourself as a Dutch/English journalist in Argentina puts you in a precarious position.
A bit lofty at times but a very good read.
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Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper (Paperback - 15 Dec. 1994)
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