The World Cup will be played in South Africa in the summer of 2010 and important soccer matches are being played around the globe this fall to determine the thirty-two countries that will qualify for the tournament. To prepare you for these games, several books are available in the Duke Libraries on the subject of soccer and its global importance.
In Franklin Foer’s book, How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, soccer is described as part of the economic, political, and cultural fabric of society. In a series of essays, Foer explores the cultural roots of fierce soccer rivalries around the world, rivalries that make battles between Duke and Carolina or the Red Sox and the Yankees look tepid. Matches between the Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow reflect the divide between the Protestant Rangers supporters and the Catholic Celtics and has roots in conflicts that date back to the Reformation. Matches between Barcelona and Madrid in Spain are recreations of the Spanish Civil War. Foer examines soccer as a liberalizing force in Iran and as a destructive force in Serbia, where soccer hooligans were used as death squads in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. Although Foer does not, as his title suggests, provide a unifying theory of soccer and globalization, this book is a fascinating study of soccer in its cultural context and provides vivid examples of how national conflicts are reflected in the game of soccer.
The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey, provides essays about each of the thirty two countries that qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Each essay presents a short summary of the soccer history of the country and how each team qualified for the tournament, and places soccer in the context of that country’s culture and politics. Examples include the importance of qualification to war-ravaged Angola, the impact of globalization on the English economy, and the relationship between jihad and soccer in Saudi Arabia. Although the 2006 World Cup is in the past, the profiles of each country are fascinating and informative, and deepen one’s understanding of the world and its relationship to the world’s most popular sport.
Grant Farred, a Duke University faculty member, traces his passion for Liverpool football from his early years in apartheid South Africa in his book, Long Distance Love: A Passion for Football. He explores the cultural context of soccer around the world. Farred provides a shocking history of how Argentina’s military junta used the success of the Argentinean team to cover its ruthless oppression of dissent. Farred brings an obvious passion for world football and the Liverpool team as a lens to examine the global struggle for freedom. Although American readers will not be familiar with many of the events and players that are important in the history of Liverpool football, the reader is swept along by the force of Farred’s narrative and the deeply personal nature of his writing.
There are interesting films and discussions being held on campus this fall in conjunction with Professor Laurent Dubois’ course, “World Cup and World Politics.” A series of films about soccer are free and open to the general public. Lilian Thuram, Caribbean-born French soccer player, activist and writer, will share his thoughts on sport, racism, and immigration as well as discussing the work of his new foundation. The talk will take place at the Nasher Art Museum on Nov. 10 at 7:00 pm. More information at http://soccerpolitics.com/.
Photo Credit: Anthony Bidard/FEP