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Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power Paperback – April 7, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kuper, a reporter for the Financial Times, delves deeply into the ways that soccer has become intertwined with the politics, philosophies and worldview of most of the planet's population. Originally published in the U.K. in 1994; this updated version includes chapters that refer to more recent events such as 9/11 and the U S. foray into Iraq. Sketching relations between Holland and Germany or Croatia and Serbia, Kuper describes a transglobal culture of fans, managers, players and political leaders engaged not only on the pitch but in the arenas of money, power and influence. Toward the end of this often slang-laden book, Kuper makes some useful observations: "the main allure of soccer to terrorists is the game's global reach." Indeed, Kuper quotes Osama bin Laden's biographer Yossef Bodansky stating that the deadly 1998 al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were the direct result of a foiled plan to disrupt the World Cup competition earlier that year. Arresting stuff, but as a whole the appeal will be limited by the microscopic focus on the particulars of a sport whose professional teams haven't yet found mass appeal in the U.S. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In 1992, Kuper set out to travel the world, looking for case studies to support the thesis in this book's subtitle. He found a former East German who'd been hounded by the Stasi for his love of a West German team, a Slovakian president who made a nationalist statement with troops and truncheons in a soccer stadium, a Ukrainian club that exported nuclear missile parts, and much more. First published in England as Football against the Enemy (1994), this version has been updated (with a new preface, a postscript, and a chapter called "Global Game, Global Jihad") and Americanized (the word soccer substituted for football and occasional American references added). It's an exceedingly interesting book and a good shelf mate for Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World (2004). But while Kuper ably blends travelogue, political research, and social investigation, the material's lack of timeliness limits its effectiveness. And while the examples don't always justify the bold thesis, it's a worthy approach: "Enough has been written about soccer hooligans," he writes. "Other fans are much more dangerous." Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (April 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560258780
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560258780
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,344,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By DubyaW on June 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
The work Kuper put into this book is terrific (one can see where Foer got his inspiration, as "How Soccer Explains the World" reads like an attempt to write a new version of this book). However, it seems that the folks at Nation Books (or whomever was in charge of updating this book) has made a blunder with Kuper's words. Since they decided to change the name of the book from "Football Against the Enemy" (the original title, if I recall) to "Soccer Against the Enemy", they also decided to change references inside the book from "football" to "soccer". While this change is no problem in itself, it appears that the editors may have ran Kuper's text through a "find/replace" program, because now EVERY time the word "football" should be mentioned, it has been changed to "soccer", even if it messes up the grammar or meaning of the sentence. For example, when Kuper referres to the position of "an American Football Quarterback" the text reads "an American Soccer Quarterback", which makes no real sense. Or the "corrected" sentence that reads, in part, "they saw or even bought a World Cup bumper sticker that depicted a soccer covered by barbed wire" (page 215), where it should read as either "a football" or even "a soccer ball." This happens in many parts of the book, and detracts from the fantastic work Kuper has done.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Patrick W. Hancock on May 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Finally available in the U.S., this is essentially the same book as Football Against the Enemy, which was originally published in England in 1994, with an additional chapter touching on the connection between soccer, terrorism, and the Middle East. According to FourFourTwo magazine, this is the number one football/soccer book ever. The author travels to Croatia, Russia, the Ukraine, Argentina, South Africa, and many other venues famous and obscure, talks to the people that matter, and focuses on telling stories about the beautiful game and the people who play it, own it, use it, and live it, while including great insights on the cultural and political issues that surround this truly international sport. Much better than "How Soccer Explains the World," the people, places, and stories in this book remain as vivid and relevant as ever. As you read how an East Berlin fan of "Western" teams was stalked for years by the East German secret police, you realize that international soccer is much more than a sport. Not just for soccer fans, this is also highly recommended to anyone interested in politics or travel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ken Schiele on November 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this a few years after reading "How soccer explains the world", so my comparison is based on a shaky memory, with lots of other soccer reading in between....

In some ways, SATE a more interesting read - you can really feel that the author knows soccer much more intimately than Foer (HSETW author) does. And the writing is a little less 'clinical' than the other book, and the extra chapter is nice. But while this book is a series of anecdotes that are entertaining, I thought Foer does a better job making the point implicit in the title.

And the clumsy translation is ridiculous - it's as if the publishers just performed a "search and replace" for "football" and "soccer" - to the point where it's at times confusing: sections about "American soccer" where clearly he meant American Football (=gridiron). I know it's not Shakespeare, but I'd rather read the "real thing".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mal Warwick on September 25, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you think England's notorious soccer hooligans represent the worst expression of violent behavior in competitive soccer, read Soccer Against the Enemy. As British sports journalist Simon Kuper explains it in this lively book, soccer, like war, is merely politics by other means.

The style a national soccer team brings to the game is also widely thought to be an expression of national character. As Kuper writes, "Soccer is never just soccer. In debating soccer, the Brazilians also debate the kind of country Brazil should be." Presumably, much the same holds true for South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, Argentina, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, and most of the other countries whose soccer scene Kuper profiled -- despite the fact that playing styles may change from year to year and manager to manager and that any given country at any particular time may employ a "Brazilian" style while the Brazilians themselves have adopted an entirely different approach.

A handful of dictators surface in the pages of Soccer Against the Enemy, and Kuper treats us to the colorful tales told about their meddling ways. Perhaps one or two of them actually stayed in power for a year or two longer as a result, but their citizens' passion for soccer may just as easily have been a factor in their undoing. It's an exaggeration to claim, as the book's subtitle does so brazenly, that the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power.

Soccer Against the Enemy was originally written in 1992-93, when Kuper traveled the world to investigate the relationship between soccer and politics.
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