Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 269
There is a host of characters in How Soccer Explains the World. The first is the author himself, Franklin Foer. He is a longtime soccer fan who, as a journalist, is also intrigued by questions about the phenomenon of globalization. This, he explains, compelled him to research and write the book. But each chapter, which deals with a different aspect of the world's game, revolves around one or more important characters.
In the first chapter, for example, Foer describes a Serbian gangster known as "Arkan." Arkan was a leader of a group of Red Star Belgrade "ultras," a hooligan force that he mobilized in the civil war that broke out in Yugoslavia during the 1990s. He represents the "nihilistic violence" that sometimes surrounds football, particularly when it mixes with nationalism.
Later, he describes "Dummy," a supporter of Glasgow Rangers, an "avatar" of a "lumpenproletariat" that uses football as a way to express his identity and to blow off steam, including through fighting. Other "characters" include Pele, the Brazilian hero and one of the game's greatest ever players, who struggled to maintain a distance from the corruption endemic in Brazilian sport and politics. There is also Edward Anyamkyegh, one of many Nigerians who traveled to Ukraine to pursue a football career, and Silvio Berlusconi, typical of many of the "new oligarchs" who have invested in football clubs—AC Milan in Berlusconi's case. Each of these "characters" is a sort of case study in how the global game has failed to break down many of the old localisms present before its arrival. In many cases, in fact, it has intensified them.
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