Monday, July 9, 2007

The Beautiful Game

Leon Grunberg and Sunil Kukreja (editors), Discourses on the Beautiful Game. Ashwin-Anoka Press (New Delhi/Kuala Lumpur), 2007.

Soccer is the beautiful game, of course, and it is more than a game. I wrote a chapter on the globalization of soccer for my 2005 book Globaloney and my friend and colleague Sunil Kukreja invited me to edit an excerpt of that chapter for a special issue of the International Review of Modern Sociology, which he and Leon Grunberg edited. That special issue has now appeared in book form.

Reading through the book, it is easy to understand why I say that soccer is more than a game. The nine articles (by an international group of scholars) deal with such topics as why American's do not embrace professional soccer the way the rest of the world does (that's my piece), why soccer is important to the identity of English soccer communities and how soccer figures into post-colonial relations in Algeria. Other articles deal with soccer economics and team management, the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional soccer and persistent issues of racism and hooliganism.

What makes soccer so interesting, of course, is that it is a game that reveals so much about both the players and the spectators and the world they live in. That's why the study of soccer (as a lens through which to view bigger issues) has caught fire in academic circles. I'm even going to teach a course about it in a couple of years.

Two of my favorite books about soccer and society are Futebol: Soccer, the Brazilian Way by Alex Bellos and A Season with Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character, and...Goals! by Tim Parks. Click on the links and scroll down to read the reviews.

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