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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 29 September 2010
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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on 2 April 2015
The title of the book doesn't cover the contents as well as the title of my short review does. Kuper has traveled to many countries in Europe (East and West), Africa, and America (North and South) and written a series of reports about the people he met there (occasionally they seem to be rather random characters) and discussed football and politics with. It has an interesting time-capsule element, reading it 20 years after it was written (i.e., it is quite dated).
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on 18 February 2001
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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on 25 August 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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on 21 July 2014
This is a great book about the politics of football. It conveys that in most cases football is more than just a sport and in some instances a matter of life and death. Corruption and politics are intertwined with the game in a lot of countries. Highly recommended.
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on 10 August 2013
A good story about corruption with money & power. With in football. Some with surprise & some doesn't.
But I found with different ways. With different country's. Like Cameroon. I didn't know about their Anglo & French cultures. So many different cultures around the world.
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on 5 November 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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on 24 November 2008
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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on 3 March 2014
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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on 6 June 2013
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.

The real value in this book now is the ability to look back at a snapshot in time. FATE was written in 1994, at a real transition point for politics in many places around the world (the Eastern European chapters were particularly interesting for me, having visited most of the places involved in more recent years) and football (the capitalist revolution fuelled by the Premier League's inception in 1992 was just getting going). I found it fascinating to see the world and football as it was then, to see Kuper's expectations for the future with the benefit of hindsight as to how things really worked out.

Well worth a go.
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