The 2010 World Cup (the international soccer tournament, spanning an entire month, held once every four years) is now over. New librarian and soon-to-be world traveler Andrea Gough describes herself as ‘the obsessive kind of fan who fills out competitive brackets, tapes a broadcast schedule to the fridge, and rambles endlessly about the game to anyone who will listen.” Not surprisingly (and happily for us), she has more to say:
by Andrea Gough
During this year’s World Cup soccer tournament, I spent a fair amount of time wondering how to convey the joy of the game to those who didn’t watch the contests. I also found myself anticipating how sad I would be when the tournament was over (answer: very sad, and also—very bored). I hope the following suggestions might provide entry into the sport for novices, and sate fellow fanatics looking for something to fill game-less days to come.
This 2010 World Cup Tournament, held in stadiums throughout South Africa, is the first ever to take place on the African continent. More Than Just a Game: Soccer vs. Apartheid, by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close, is an excellent way to place the tournament in the larger context of South Africa. Not just a sports story, this weaves in the history of apartheid in South Africa through the story of 1960s political prisoners on Robben Island, and their fight and success in forming a multi-team soccer league.
In Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby—perhaps best known for his novels, High Fidelity and About a Boy, and their movie adaptations—here turns his witty eye inward as he chronicles his life through soccer games. Dedicated to the English football club Arsenal through the ups and the downs, Hornby is an articulate and amusing guide to obsessive fandom.
In How Soccer Explains the World, Franklin Foer widens the lens to examine the relation of soccer to national identity and internal politics, using an analysis of soccer’s role in various cultures as a way of probing the reach of globalization. Incorporating history and interviews on inter-team rivalries and league organization, Foer discusses issues of globalization such as trade and the exportation of Western culture.
The United States may not reign supreme in world soccer, but in many ways it is a very American sport. Two books that look at soccer teams as a microcosm of American society are The Boys From Little Mexico: A Season Chasing the American Dream, by Steve Wilson, and Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference, by Warren St. John. In The Boys from Little Mexico, Wilson follows the players on an all-Hispanic boys’ soccer team in Oregon as they prepare for their twentieth straight playoff season against teams from the wealthy white suburban schools around them. Outcasts United tells a parallel tale, that of a small Southern town home to an influx of refugees from all over the world, the three soccer teams composed of refugee boys, and their American-educated, female Jordanian coach. Both books combine excellent sports writing with sociological insights, global and local politics, and stories of determination and a continuing eye on the American Dream.