Franklin Foer analyzes how soccer, as an international sport, has displayed both the positive and...

Get Started. It's Free
or sign up with your email address
Franklin Foer analyzes how soccer, as an international sport, has displayed both the positive and negative attributes of globalization in resurfacing past divisions between people while also creating unity among many as a sport. by Mind Map: Franklin Foer analyzes how soccer, as an international sport, has displayed both the positive and negative attributes of globalization in resurfacing past divisions between people while also creating unity among many as a sport.

1. What is globalization's impact on nationalism through soccer and what is soccer's impact on nationalistic conflict?

1.1. Nationalism is defined as identifying oneself with a larger group of people united by ethnicity or nationality and supporting the interests of that particular group. It's an extension of tribalism, which is the grouping of people into tribes with similar genetics, culture, language, etc.

1.1.1. With the formation of the communist state of Yugoslavia following WWII, Josip Tito pushed forth the idea of a single Yugoslavian identity, and the abandonment of self identification as Serb, Croat, Slovene or other in favor of one national identity. However upon his death in 1980, Yugoslavia began to fracture as it's ethnic groups saw a resurgence of national identity and waged bloody wars with each other. (Chapter 1: How Soccer Explains the Gangster's Paradise)

1.1.1.1. The radical nationalism displayed by the peoples of former Yugoslavia could be seen in 1990 when the Serbian football team, Red Star Belgrade, traveled to Croatia to play the Croatian club, Dinamo Zagreb. Serbs and Croats sang about the historical slaughters of each other and the soccer game became a televised riot where Serbs and Croats began ruthlessly fighting in the stadium; a pretext for the horrible Yugoslav wars that would follow.

1.1.1.1.1. The photo to the left is the most famous scene at the riot when a Croatian player kicked a Croatian police officer for arresting a Croatian rioter, embroiled with fighting Serbs. It goes to show the extent that nationalism takes root of politics in soccer and how even simple games reflect the political atmosphere of a society watching it.

1.1.1.2. The soccer club of Red Star Belgrade was an ideological bastion for Serbian nationalism as members from the club would be recruits in the paramilitary forces called the Tigers, under the famous Serbian gangster, Željko Ražnatović (better known by his nickname, Arkan). The Tigers, along with dozens of other Serbian paramilitary groups would be responsible for the atrocities and massacres comitted against Bosnian Muslim and Croat civilians during the Yugoslav civil wars in the 90s.

1.1.2. The nation-state of Catalonia in northern Spain with it's own unique language and culture was assimilated by the Castilian Spanish during the 1490s. Catalans view themselves as distinct from Spaniards, and have attempted several times to separate from Spain as an independent state, rather than an autonomous zone. A step away from nationalistic violence, soccer takes the role as the prime battle between Catalonia and Spain, allowing ethnic rivalries to return. (Chapter 8: How Soccer Explains the Discreet Charm of Bourgeois Nationalism)

1.1.2.1. El Clasico, the name given to matches between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, depict nationalistic fervor beneath a soccer game. While Madrid is in the center of Spain and the nation's capital, Barcelona is the cultural and intellectual city of Spain, acting as the Catalan capital. Games between the two cities' teams are viewed as mini-battles between Spain and Catalonia. The importance of the struggle is visible through how FC Barcelona will send away players like Messi or Maradona to other clubs for not showing enough enthusiasm for the Barcid cause. As historically, Catalonia's political attempts at independence were always subdued by the national government, any victory by Barcelona is seen as a jab at Spain and upholding nationalistic ideals of a strong Catalan identity.

2. What are globalization's relations to religion through soccer and how has it helped lessen/worsen it for different nations?

2.1. Several chapters in the book have Foer mentioning a rarely addressed aspect of divisions in soccer as religion. There are several different depictions of religion and soccer intertwining in the book, with varying relations between the role of faith among soccer players, clubs, and sponsors.

2.1.1. In the city of Glasgow, Scotland, the Irish Catholic Celtic football club faces hatred and discrimination by the Protestant Glasgow Rangers who's sectarian anti-Catholic sentiment is exposed through soccer games between the two teams, with verbal insults and threats of slaughter directed at the Celtics.(Chapter 2: How Soccer Explains the Pornography of Sects)

2.1.1.1. The violent feuds between the Rangers and Celtics hark back to a time when Christians battled each other over having separate beliefs and variations in the same doctrines (most notably, the Thirty Year's War between Catholic and Lutheran Europe from 1618 to 1648). In this specific case, globalization through soccer has assisted in promoting inter-religious violence, as is seen when Foer traveled to Glasgow, and was pressured by Rangers to say humiliating phrases to the Catholic Celtics fans such as "Fuck the Pope" or call them "Shit Fenian Bastards."

2.1.1.1.1. The religious strife is also somewhat spurred on by nationalism as the Scottish Protestant Rangers see the Irish Celtics as having affiliations with the IRA (Irish Republican Army); seen by the British as Catholic terrorists bent on establishing an Irish state over the blood of Brits. While this is clearly an exaggeration, the Rangers use this "affiliation" to berate the Celtics regardless of historical accuracy.

2.1.1.1.2. The official sports anthem of the Glasgow Rangers, Billy Boys, further displays religious and nationalistic hatred towards the Catholic Celtics with lyrics centered on perpetrated violence against Catholics. The name "Billy Boys" harks back to the Protestant King William of Orange who ejected the Catholic Stuart Dynasty in 1688, and as such, Protestant Glaswegians see themselves as the continuation of King William's legacy. The most notable verse of the song is "We're up to our knees in Fenian blood, Surrender or you'll die." Fenian, formerly a term for members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, is used in a negative, derogatory connotation by Scots to Catholic Irishmen. Although the song has been altered in recent years to avoid controversy, when Foer visited Glasgow in the 90s, the sectarian song was used continuously.

2.1.2. Ethnic and religious conflict generally go hand-in-hand with one another as differing theological beliefs offer more incentive for different groups of people to declare others as inferior or infidels. While the battle between the Protestant and Catholic sects in Glasgow is somewhat unique due to few European clubs still behaving with religious sectarianism, religious conflict in Middle Eastern soccer is nothing new.

2.1.2.1. Israel as a nation has seen it's fair share of controversy within the international community, thanks to conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs since Israeli independence in 1948. Ethno-religious strife manifests in the right-wing, revisionist Zionist ideology of the soccer club, Beitar Jerusalem, who's promotion of an all-Jewish team and refusal to sign Muslim Arab players has led many in Israel to label them as "the most racist team in the world." The nickname is something the club revels in and they are notorious for chanting Islamophobic jeers including "War" and "Death to Arabs."

2.1.2.2. In 2013, Beitar signed two Chechen players, marking the first time any Muslim players were on the team. Their signature was met with protests in the form of jeers and riots. Even when the new players helped the team win at certain games, die-hard fans would leave the stadium in anger, not content with the success the Muslim players had brought to the club. These very same fans would later spark anti-Arab riots in 2014 when a series of stabbings by Palestinian terrorists occurred in Jerusalem.

2.1.3. In Lviv, Ukraine, the local team, Karpaty Lviv visited their local Greek Catholic Church to pray before games or at certain times. Despite their coach, Ivan Golac, being Serbian and several of the players being Nigerian or Bosnian Muslims, the entire team headed to the church to pray. Even with having players of different religions or Christian sects, non-Christian players still head to church in respect for their team. (Chapter 6: How Soccer Explains the Black Carpathians)

2.1.3.1. Karpaty Lviv serves as an example of how globalization has lessened religious conflict; even though it's mentioned that some Ukrainians supported the actions of their Serbian orthodox brethren in killing Bosnian Muslims, the team goes altogether, with Nigerian and Muslim players who aren't Ukrainian Orthodox showing their respect and devotion to the local religion by accompanying their teammates in prayer. Edward Anyamkegh, a Nigerian player on the team, is mentioned as performing the local ritual of tracing the cross on himself more often and fervently than the Ukrainian players. The team is impressed by Edward's commitment to this; even the assistant coach is recorded by Foer as having said in regard to Edward crossing himself, "I wish the Ukrainian boys did the same more often."

2.1.4. Iranian soccer has had an ever changing relation with the Islamic regime; the government suppressing the western influence traversed through soccer onto the younger generation. Simultaneously, the government had tried to make Iranian soccer more in line with fundamentalist Islamic beliefs but in November 22, 1997, women threw off their hijabs and protested to enter the Azadi stadium during Iran's World Cup qualifier game. Following Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979, women were forbidden from going and watching games in stadiums - actions that were legal under the secular rule of the Iranian shah. This protest saw a brief fracturing of the theological policies imposed by the government, and a regression to a more secular Iranian era. (Chapter 9: How Soccer Explains Islam's Hope)

2.1.4.1. The riot of Iran's women in 1997 is part of what Foer describes as a "football revolution" taking hold in the Middle East. The aforementioned revolution represents a indirect, nationalistic riot against the oppressive Islamist regimes of the Middle East, specifically Iran, but also in other nations such as Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. The football revolution, as Foer claims, is arguably the best solution for breaking the hold of Islamism compared to American pushes for democracy (which only increases anti-American sympathies) or attempts at further globalization efforts (only draws attention to lack of modernization in the Islamic world by displaying western values).

2.1.4.1.1. "Another answer to the problem of Islamism, the neo-conservative solution, proposes that the U.S. aggressively push the Middle East toward democracy. But the mere fact that the U.S. is the only force seriously committed to democratizing means that the blind hatred for the messenger will undermine the message. The football revolution shows that the best antidote to Islamism might not be something new, but something old - a return to secular nationalism." -Chapter 9, page 223

2.1.4.2. While foreign intervention usually bolsters the standing of Islamist governments, football captures the passion and energy of the younger generations expressing nationalism. As the football revolution is neither an actual, existing movement nor an open cultural revolution, it's secular and nationalistic messages only come to fruition during games, thereby making soccer not a threat in the eyes of regimes. In fact, Hezbollah - a radical, Shia Lebanese militant party - endorses a soccer team in Lebanon, and several radical Wahabi groups sponsor national soccer clubs in the Gulf States.

2.1.4.2.1. Secular nationalism through football manifested itself in 2002 with Iran's attempted qualification to the World Cup. As the Persians asserted dominance on the field over neighboring Arab nations like Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Iranian fans gave out chants such as "Long live freedom" and even "We love America" - two illegal, treacherous quotes punishable by death in the Islamic Republic. The secular, western-minded, national culture that had existed prior to the revolution in '79 exposed itself in the jubilation of the Iranian people, celebrating their national identity with victories on the soccer field.

2.1.4.2.2. The weaknesses of theological dictatorships long suppressing nationalism with Islamist virtues were not only visible with Iranian soccer fans in 1997 and 2002, but in 2011 Egypt during the Arab Spring and as recently as 2019, when fans of Moroccan football club, Ittihad Tangier, began chanting a song of humiliation during a game. The crowd chanted their disapproval of the actions of the corrupt Islamist government and how little care they had for the people. This happened just as a wave of protests across the Arab world occurred as citizens rose up against their governments to protest for better conditions in society.

3. How has globalization built tolerance and diverse unity through soccer?

3.1. While the concept of a tolerant, globalized world seems impossible at times in the book with details of conflict, Foer underlines several instances in which soccer, despite harboring nationalist sentiments, has helped unite people of different backgrounds in support of local, regional or national teams, even integrating cultures at some point.

3.1.1. The English football club of Tottenham has maintained a seemingly Jewish identity since the 1980s despite the vast majority of the fans being Protestant Englishmen. The neighborhood in North London harbored a significant amount of Hasidic Orthodox Jews who Foer described as "Black-clad, pre-modern, and unassimilated, the kind that stands out." Most clubs in the English league persecuted Tottenham for it's Jewish supporters; most notable in their attacks was the rival club, Chelsea which ironically had more Jewish supporters than Tottenham. (Chapter 3: How Soccer Explains the Jewish Question)

3.1.1.1. The integration of Jewish culture into a mostly non-Jewish British football club shows an incredibly high level of tolerance towards people of different ethno-religious backgrounds. This tolerance is taken to the extreme as the fans of Tottenham refer to themselves as "Yids," which normally registers as an anti-Semitic slur but to Tottenham fans, it's a proud moniker. Tottenham fans also sometimes refer to their players as "Jews" and chant "Yiddo" whenever a successful shot is made from the penalty area.

3.1.2. Similarly to Tottenham, Ajax, a team based in Amsterdam, also pushes an integral philo-Semitic culture, derived from their former famous star player, Johann Cruyff, who in the 1960s helped revolutionize European football with a new, fast-paced playing style and create a pleasant Jewish-like atmosphere within the team. Ajax decorates their stadium with Israeli flags and makes Judaism a part of their ethos, something Tottenham doesn't do despite incorporating Jewish elements.

3.1.3. In Ukraine, a resurgence of patriotism and a national identity (long suppressed under Russian and Soviet rule) had progressed the ideal of a strong Ukraine on the global stage of soccer; in some ways, it's a display of how a formerly oppressed nation rose to become so mighty through soccer. While teams like Karpaty Lviv value their Ukrainian identity, the acquirement of several Nigerian players such as Edward Anyamkyegh in 2001 presented a contradiction as non-Ukrainians playing for a Ukrainian team give off a message of weakness and reliance on foreigners to win; this showcased the poor state of Ukrainian soccer players in some regard. (Chapter 6: How Soccer Explains the Black Carpathians)

3.1.3.1. The city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, was at one point the cosmopolitan setting of an intelluctual, cultural city, filled with a diverse population of Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Germans and Poles. However, ethnic strife drove the Ukrainian majority to gradually force out or violently displace the other groups; Lviv's inhabitants assisted the German Wehrmacht in exterminating the Jewish population in 1941 and shortly after, assisted Stalin's deportations, repressions, and killings of Poles in Ukraine. The people of Lviv, despite never being as economically or politically powerful like the cities of Kiev, Odessa, or Donetsk, have always prided themselves on being "true Ukrainians," distinguishing themselves from their brethren in the east, whom western Ukrainians consider as traitors for adopting the Russian language and intermingling with those who used to be the oppressors of Ukrainian culture.

3.1.3.2. The irony of a prominent national Ukrainian soccer team with Nigerian and Muslim players presents an interesting insight into the geopolitics of the region. Despite historically being racist and discriminatory to other groups, the relation of Lviv to it's African soccer players is oddly calm for an isolationist-minded ethnicity renowned for historically conflicting with outsiders (even their own Slavic cousins such as Russians and Poles). While racism is still prevalent (generally younger Ukrainians at odds with the Nigerian style of soccer or far-right nationalists), Foer mentions the people of the city do not have any racially instigated conflicts with Edward or the other Nigerian players.

3.1.3.2.1. "In the atmosphere of nationalism and resentment, however, racism doesn't really exist. Aside from the odd, crude paroxysm of hate, the situation isn't nearly as nasty as in the West. At games, fans don't make ape noises when Edward enters the field or touches the ball. Even the racism of players can't compare to the leagues in England and Italy. In the Karpaty locker room, the Ukrainians never have overtly racial confrontations with the Nigerians." - Chapter 6, Pages 155-156

3.1.3.2.2. While a part of Lviv's relationship to Edward Anyamkyegh and other Nigerian players derives from there being only 50 Africans in comparison to 80,000 Ukrainians - thereby making it hard to create political friction and backlash - the air of tolerance between the Ukrainians and Nigerians is a crucial development for a community with a history of ethnic friction. Nigerian players weren't the only foreigners on Karpaty Lviv's lineup, the team also had a Serbian coach, Ivan Golac, and several players from former Yugoslav nations (most notably, two Bosnian Muslims).

4. What is globalization's connection to creating wealth and affecting economics through soccer?

4.1. Within the book, Foer dedicates several sections to explain soccer's influence on economics and it's effects on global economies, as well as being a source of wealth for "soccer oligarchs," some of whom have widespread influence over the geopolitics of their countries.

4.1.1. The most prominent soccer oligarch in the world is generally considered to be Silvio Berlusconi, an Italian businessman who bought the soccer club, A.C. Milan in 1986. Berlusconi reinvigorated Milan as the predominant Italian club with the signing of multiple foreign players and made a large fortune off of his soccer patronage. (Chapter 7: How Soccer Explains the New Oligarchs)

4.1.1.1. When Berlusconi bought Milan in 1986, he was not the first nor the only Italian soccer oligarch to have a potent influence; Juventus of Turin, the only other club equal to Milan in influence, was owned by Agnelli family - the owners of the Fiat car company. Juventus and Milan were regarded as the most powerful clubs in the Italian leagues and rigged the referee system on many occasions, holding sway over the decisions made in a game to favor their ow interests. However the two teams had very different manners of currying favor. The owners of Juventus and Milan had two distinct styles of oligarchy that Foer mentions as being crucial to understanding the most powerful people in post-war Italy.

4.1.1.1.1. The Agnelli family upheld a system that worked for the old oligarchical ways. Rather than flaunt their wealth openly, the family stayed - as Foer puts it - "hidden behind the curtains," manipulating Italian politicians with bribes. This worked to their advantage as no one could locate the "true centers of power" that was the Agnelli family. The post-war system saw a mix of northern industrialists (like the Agnellis), corrupt politicians, and the southern mafia pulling the strings of Italy's politics, with the politicians being bribed by the Agnellis, and the latter subsisting off of federal contracts. The system of corruption only technically ended in the nineties, with open investigations into Italy's corruption.

4.1.1.1.2. In stark contrast to the Agnellis and other northern industrialist oligarchs, Silvio Berlusconi embodied the ideal that was the "new oligarch." Prior to buying AC Milan, Berlusconi built his own empire off of real estate and gradually began to buy assets in television, the media, advertising, and insurance. With the purchasing of Milan, Berlusconi spent 8 years growing wealthy off it's successes and eventually reached politics, where he became the Italian premier in 1994. The successful years of Milan under his patronage only increased his credibility as a powerful leader. By 2019, Berlusconi had served as Italian prime minister four separate times.

4.1.2. Compared to other nations around the world, Brazil seemingly has an entire fanatic religion based around soccer. With Brazilian clubs being seen as amateur enterprises, "cartolas" or top hats - amateur soccer scoundrels living off the club treasury - are viewed as an integral part of Brazilian soccer culture. The role of the top hats is divisive with men like Pele (one of the greatest soccer players of all time) attempting to protect Brazilian soccer from them but eventually succumbing to Brazil's corruption and endorsing the system. The seemingly never-ending corruption has been further bolstered by globalist efforts and is described as keeping the nation in abject poverty. (Chapter 5: How Soccer Explains the Survival of the Top Hats)

4.1.2.1. Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, is used by Foer as an example of the progression of the corruption involved with soccer. His passion for sport and extensive training since youth made him the face of Brazilian soccer; at the 1958 World Cup, Pele clinched his first World Cup with his uncanny methods just at the age of 17. In the sixties, when Brazil experienced an economic boom, Pele became a national symbol for the nation's success and for Brazilian soccer; displaying that Brazil could prosper and become powerful on it's own terms and not by copying foreign models.

4.1.2.1.1. His success as the world's greatest soccer player allowed Pele to garner a fortune but despite this, he was never truly wealthy as his money was manipulated and extracted by sycophants. Similarly to Brazil, Pele continued to make financial mishaps including a large loan upon his retirement in 1974. While Brazil's economy in the '70s accumulated a $40 billion debt from the oil crisis, Pele finally stabilized his wealth and began to successfully amass a fortune as a capitalist entrepreneur, inspired by the globalized American business model.

4.1.2.2. While Pele's fall represents one aspect of soccer's relation to corruption in Brazil, globalization through a connected world of business has challenged Brazilian soccer culture as foreign investment is regarded as detrimental to the nation's sport. One notable cartola intertwined with the issue of foreign investment was Eurico Miranda.

4.1.2.2.1. With the arrival of foreign investors in Brazil, many believed the best path to transforming soccer would be to make it more transparent for business in the market, able to be seen as a money-making spectacle. However this was not to be, as the investors had no way of securing support from local clubs controlled by the cartolas, specifically the influential club Vasco da Gama, under the ownership of Eurico Miranda.