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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid book, but with a major editing error
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...
Published on June 24, 2006 by DubyaW

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but....
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...
Published on November 13, 2007 by Ken Schiele


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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid book, but with a major editing error, June 24, 2006
By 
DubyaW (New Jersey) - See all my reviews
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
5.0 out of 5 stars The politics of sport, May 18, 2006
By 
Patrick W. Hancock (Junction City, KS United States) - See all my reviews
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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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but...., November 13, 2007
By 
Ken Schiele "sandwich lover" (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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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
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book, but with outdated references, September 25, 2010
By 
Mal Warwick (Berkeley, California) - See all my reviews
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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. Starting out as a 22-year-old fresh out of Oxford, he backpacked his way from one continent to the next, often traveling on buses and second-class trains, staying in cheap hotels and hostels, wearing worn and often torn clothing, and yet somehow managing to secure interviews with many of the soccer world's biggest-name managers, owners, and players.

Kuper successfully illustrates the interrelationship between big-time competitive soccer and the politics of many of the countries where it's taken most seriously. He recognizes, though, that the impact of the sport is limited. "The game is a good way of studying what is going on in repressed societies, but it rarely changes these societies." (So much for that misleading subtitle!)

Kuper clearly wrote the book for readers who were familiar with the leading soccer figures of the day, since Soccer Against the Enemy repeatedly refers, often using nicknames only, to players and managers whose names have long since been forgotten. The Americanized Kindle Edition I read routinely substituted the word "soccer" for the English "football" and included an extra chapter written in 2005 and an afterword along the lines of "Where are they now?" Little else was changed since the early 1990s.

(From Mal Warwick's Blog on Books)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars [...] book review - An excellent glimpse into the world of soccer, November 8, 2006
Soccer Against the Enemy is a book which chronicles the impact that society has upon soccer, and soccer upon society in various countries throughout the world. The author, Simon Kuper, is a Dutch born writer who has been around the world of soccer for most of his life and has written for numerous publications in Europe. The problem for Kuper is that he wrote this book towards the beginning of his career, and there are a few sections of this book where this becomes obvious. The fact that Kuper was a 23 year old traveling the world on an extremely limited budget gives him some excuse for this, and makes it a distraction that isn't too noticeable.

Along with these rough parts, the full title; Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power, is somewhat misleading. The majority of this book is not focused on this specific statement. Rather, the author spends time examining why soccer culture is the way it is in different countries. He spends time within some chapters addressing dictators and revolutions, notably the section on African soccer, and spends time on it in the Argentina chapter, but for many others, he seemingly ignores politics, or at least politics as we think of them in the traditional sense.

With that said, Kuper does very well in his examination of why soccer is played the way it is. His look into African soccer really gives an insight into what life is like there. He shows the absolute dictatorial rule that many people suffer under, and how soccer can become the one true expression of how people feel. This startling insight can catch the reader off guard.

Kuper looks at all sorts of aspects in the world of soccer. His journey spans five continents and over twenty countries. He talks to politicians, generals, coaches, and players to get a full view of everyones perspective on the game. This perspective is added to by the breadth of teams which he involves himself with. From Barcelona, to Dynamo Kiev, to the United States National Team, Kuper goes everywhere and talks to so many players that the reader really gets a full view of what soccer is throughout the world. The only thing that eclipses Kuper's breadth of teams, is the variety of countries he visits, including but not limited to, Russia, Croatia, South Africa, Cameroon, and Argentina. Kuper's goal is to give perspective from throughout the world, and he succeeds in this.

Kuper's segment on the Celtic v. Rangers rivalry is among the best in the book. It really shows the intensity and history behind the rivalry. This section alone defines the passion that soccer fans around the world have. However, the best section of the book was the add on chapter for the American version. This chapter, entitled Global Game, Global Jihad, details the impact that the game of soccer has on developing Middle Eastern countries in conjunction with radical Islam. It isn't a controversial chapter, just a statement of facts that helps details how soccer has turned so political in that part of the world.

When reading this book it is sometimes slightly confusing as to where exactly the author is trying to go. There are times where the big picture gets lost in the details, but once finished with the chapter everything tends to fall into place. I would suggest this book for a soccer fan of every level. It really gives a good look into why things are the way that they are in certain countries. The look at mafia ties in Eastern Europe, religious convictions, geographical and ethnic divisions, and the plight of third world countries to be noticed reveal stories that are usually kept under wraps in the soccer world. Kuper does a great job explaining these stories, and provides great information that can only come from first hand accounts like his.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Soccer as Psychotherapist, May 11, 2010
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For a book originally published in 1994, Soccer Against the Enemy remains surprisingly relevant. It is a very similar book to How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, both in structure and topic, although Soccer Against the Enemy is the better of the two. Broken into chapters that focus on countries, or regions of countries, Soccer Against the Enemy tries to explain the cultural and social meaning of the beautiful game all around the world.

Take the chapter on soccer in the U.S., "Short, Dark, Americans." Kuper begins the chapter by writing about attending an international game in L.A. during the 1994 World Cup--Denmark v El Salvador. The L.A. coliseum was packed, but the next day, even the L.A. Times sports section didn't mention the game. This dichotomy, so typical of America's relationship with soccer, becomes Kuper's theme for "Short, Dark, Americans." This chapter, like the others, is built partially from Kuper's direct experiences as he visits each location, partially from commentary on the region's soccer histoy, and partially from anecdotes about the lives of the fans who live in the region.

The piecemeal nature of the chapters is the book's biggest weakness. There is no single narrative to follow through each chapter, much less through the entire book, leaving the reader (or at least me) a little unsure of which direction Kuper was heading at any one time. Also, the book's intended readers are soccer fans. Those without a lot of soccer trivia, stadium names, and player biographies floating through their heads may feel a bit lost. I picked up the book in the U.S., but I suspect the initial printing was in England for English football fans.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it just for the story of Roger Milla and the imprisoned pygmies, July 22, 2010
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This review is from: Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power (Paperback)
Having read the author's Soccernomics first (which is not a light read), I expected a sweeping panorama (perhaps from a poli-sci point of view) of football-soccer and its often prickly relations with political power. Fortunately, the book is much more interesting than that. It is composed of vignettes written by the author as a twenty-something backpacker investigating world football a couple of years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and before globalization flattened the world. Some of the pieces clearly don't fit in well with the political theme (Gascoigne in Italy, the interview with Helenio Herrera, and Robson in Holland, which deal less with politics and more with culture clashes), but they do not detract from the book and are interesting in themselves. What I liked most of all was the discovery that the sport is just as conflictive, opaque and just plain weird as the wide world it inhabits. The story of Roger Milla and the pygmies he imprisoned in Cameroon's national stadium is worth the admission price alone. The mention in the new epilogue about Qaddafi's son playing in Italy's Serie A and getting suspended for steroids is just icing on the cake.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soccer Against the Enemy: a great read for travelling, September 29, 2008
Simon Kuper's first book "Soccer Against the Enemy" is one of the best books about football/soccer I've ever read. It's hard to believe Kuper was only 22/23 when he wrote it. But then again perhaps you'd have to be that young to travel to all the obscure corners of the globe he did. Kuper interviews football heroes in Africa, gangsters in Russia, East German fans, Brazilian coaches and just about everyone else in the spectrum of world football. What emerges is to us Americans, something of a secret history. The game is hugely important to the rest of the world, at times a matter of life and death. Kuper's book captures that importance, that excitement and that love of the great game that only now is again making some waves here in the U.S. If you love football or if your merely curious, this is a good book for you. Take it on a plane or a train and it will put you in a nice international mindset to travel in.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good soccer book, not a classic, June 8, 2010
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This was a good book, but not the classic that it has been billed as. Some of it is kind of all-over-the-place in a way that turns me off. I'm not sure the narrative really means anything, rather than just a disjointed grouping of stories. It really plays to me like a short story book where you can skip the sections you don't find as enjoyable.

That being said, the stories are very entertaining. Some more than others.

I wonder what Simon Kuper would say looking back on it (20 years later) now that he is a respected soccer journalist. I would not be surprised if he agrees with part of my sentiment as I do think it feels a little bit like a younger writer finding his voice.

That is all I have to say, if you are interested in Soccer (Football), definitely pick it up. I would recommend How Soccer Explains the World much more though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A total classic, June 28, 2007
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Amazon Customer (New Jersey United States) - See all my reviews
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I read dozens of books a year and cannot remember laughing out load so many tmes while reading a book. Kuper manages to write both a very interesting history of international soccer and also infuse it with some unbelievably funny dry humor. Other than getting a little dense in the Spain section, the book was awesome. The chapter on Afica is unforgettable. I wish he would write a follow-up.
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