Last Updated on July 1, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 397
One important quotation that explains Foer’s interest in the subject of How Soccer Explains the World can be found in the Prologue. Here, he describes how the “era of globalization” became a hot topic at exactly the same moment that he was able to access the world’s games via the Internet and satellite/cable television. He remembers that writers like Thomas Friedman hailed the “integration of markets, nation-states, and technologies” that fueled globalization, and this resonated with him:
As a soccer fan, I knew exactly what he meant. It wasn’t just the ways in which the Internet and satellites had made the world of soccer so much smaller and more accessible. You could see globalization on the pitch: During the nineties, Basque teams, under the stewardship of Welsh coaches, stocked up on Dutch and Turkish players; Moldovan squads imported Nigerians. Everywhere you looked, it suddenly seemed, national borders and national identities had been swept into the dustbin of soccer history.
But Foer’s central thesis is actually a rejection of the changes he so breathlessly describes in this quotation. In another passage, he describes how, after spending time in many of the game’s hotbeds, from Serbia to Scotland to Catalonia, he sees that globalization has failed to wipe away many of the old hostilities and tribalism that its proponents predicted it would:
Wandering among lunatic fans, gangster owners, and crazed Bulgarian strikers, I kept noticing the ways that globalization had failed to diminish the game’s local cultures, local blood feuds, and even local corruption. In fact, I began to suspect that globalization had actually increased the power of these local entities.
Another memorable passage is found in the chapter on sectarianism in Scotland, a phenomenon that has played out for decades in the “Old Firm” rivalry between the Celtics and the Rangers, two Glasgow clubs that have traditionally been associated with Catholics and Protestants, respectively. But Foer argues that these feelings are really somewhat superficial. Globalization has left them to play out only on the football pitch and in the stands. Glasgow, Foer argues, “has kept alive its soccer tribalism, despite the logic of history, because it provides the city with a kind of pornographic pleasure.”
These quotations demonstrate the complex interactions between the global game and the forces of globalization that are at the heart of How Soccer Explains the World.