David Goldblatt, The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football. Penguin/Viking 2006.
I'm gearing up to teach a course on globalization and football (soccer), so I couldn't resist ordering this book from Amazon.co.uk (it will be published in the U.S. next year) based on a glowing review in Four Four Two, the British football magazine. Well, I guess I have to give it a glowing review, too. Better than Harry Potter, if you are interested in the political economy of sport!
It's a fat book, 911 pages of text plus notes, bibliography and index. You might wonder how anyone could have that much to say about a game, but then you would probably be missing the point. Goldblatt in an IPE scholar as well as a football fan (I'm using a book that he co-edited in one of my classes this fall) and so he cannot help thinking about how the play on the field reflects the economic, political and social conditions in society more generally. His history of football over the last 100 years is therefore interwoven with a a critical analysis of world history during that era so that the context and connections are clear. You cannot help but be impressed with Goldblatt's mastery of all of this history and his detailed knowledge of football. It is an incredible achievement. I will certainly use this book in my course.
This isn't to say that the book is perfect. I would say that the analysis of European and Latin American football and society is the book's strength. Africa is almost as good, I think, but less complete. The analysis of Asia seems superficial by comparison. And the United States? We are hardly there at all! But that's appropriate, given our place in the global football market.