Foer’s premise is unoriginal. Soccer explains sects, gangsters, nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism, radical Islam, and so on. Part of this, of course, is a little joke. Foer (brother of novelist Jonathan Saffron Foer) rather wonderfully connived an advance by telling gullible agents and editors that soccer might also explain global warming and running water. But if the premise is middling, the book is not.
Foer is a smart man and a good reporter. He’s at his best in Serbia and Spain. His Italian section includes a prescient line: “Juve and Milan can rig the system to assign themselves the most mediocre, provincially minded referees, who are (subconsciously) deferential…”
The idea that sport is social anthropology disguised by rabid gaming is neither modern, post-modern, nor innovative. It is interesting, however, and Foer brings great passion to his treatise — oh yes, he’s a Barcelona fan.