Foer's main point in this book is to use soccer as a sort of "metaphor," as he puts it, for globalization. He uses a series of vignettes about things unique to the sport to illuminate many of the issues surrounding globalization. Soccer, he suggests, is on the one hand a quintessentially global phenomenon. It is by far the most popular sport in the world, and it has penetrated virtually every corner of the planet, including (more so now than when Foer wrote his book) the United States. Clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester United are household names, with passionate fanbases on every continent.
On the other hand, though, soccer has a strong organic connection in many communities in Europe, South America, and elsewhere, and this is in part because it became intertwined with the political, social, and ethnic situations on the ground in these places. Globalization, Foer says, was supposed to efface many of these old divisions, but in his research, he still detects them in many places around the world, expressed through soccer. On the other hand, the game reflects many changes associated with globalization.
His intent, in short, is to use the game to illustrate the positive and the negative aspects of globalization, and ultimately to argue that globalization (or at least its effects) has its limits, and that the way it has played out is very complex and contradictory. The game, like globalization itself, has manifested itself in different ways in different places around the world, and some of the loyalties, customs, and divisions have persisted, if expressed in different ways. Most powerfully, he argies that the globalization of soccer is different from the narrative surrounding globalization in general: It is hardly a case of American cultural hegemony, indeed it is exactly the opposite.