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Reviewed by:
  • The Global Game: Writers on Soccer
  • Gabe Logan
Turnbull, John, Thom Satterlee, and Alon Raab, eds. The Global Game: Writers on Soccer. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008. Pp. xvi+296. Sources, acknowledgments, and further reading. $19.95 pb.

In moments of athletic precision, soccer becomes kinesthetic art. Similarly, the editors of The Global Game, Turnbull, Satterlee, and Raab, have collected soccer writings that articulate the emotional nuances of the "beautiful game." The anthology has been organized into five sections: space, improvisation, challenge, loss, and belief. Each contains ten to twelve essays from different authors that examine soccer from the viewpoints of fans, players, and coaches. All the readings "address some of the qualities inherent in both soccer and the human experience" (p. xiii). It is a clever approach as these themes are indeed identifiable in the game and life. The results aptly demonstrate soccer's myriad language.

The "space" chapter explores the game as a contested area of social constructs beginning with soccer's spatial origins, the ball, and number of players. Other essays specifically focus on geographic space in Pachuca, Mexico; Ft. Missoula, Montana; and Holland. Gender is another spatial division as explained in spectator behavior in Lima, Argentina, and U.S. "soccer moms." The readings about Cameroon and Bengals' soccer space explain how entire communities can unite during a match.

"Improvisation" comprises the next chapter. The topics range from make-shift goals in eleventh-century Japan to the musician Elvis Costello recounting his improvised watching of the 2005 European Cup Final while performing a concert. England's great player, Stanley Matthews, recollects and sets straight an amusing rumor from a 1948 game. Other essays consider the fans, such as a streaker's impact during an Iceland/Albania friendly, and a failed radio transmission during the 1950 World Cup match between Yugoslavia and Brazil. This chapter shows how the unexpected often becomes the norm in soccer.

Soccer is filled with "challenges," the next chapter's theme. These writings reveal how soccer engenders conflict on and off the pitch, such as two Brazilian players who meet years after one of them suffers a career ending injury by the other. Further gender readings demonstrate how females in Latin America and Iran are excluded from soccer and the social problems this creates. There are also political challenges, such as the imprisoned German spy considering his loyalties during the 1974 East and West Germany World Cup match. Soccer also creates community challenges when cities such as Glasgow and Rio de Janeiro have two premier teams and residents often divide their loyalties. Challenges [End Page 184] also extend internationally as the correspondence between the Mexican Zapatista Revolutionary Army and A.C. Milan demonstrates.

Chapter Four deals with "loss" an integral part of life and soccer. Two Chinese writings explain social and personal loss: one depicts a Tang emperor playing soccer while the country weakens, the other is a poignant account of Liu Ying who failed to convert her penalty kick against the U.S. in the 1999 Women's World Cup. An essay about Kosovo's underground soccer league during the Serbian takeover demonstrates both loss and gain. Two writings focus on World War II. These include the murder of Dynamo Kiev's soccer team by the German occupation army and Nazi guards forcing Jewish prisoners to play a pickup game in the shadow of the death camp's crematorium. This chapter also shows how soccer can help restore what was lost, as in the case of the two mothers who helped draw world attention to Argentina's disappeared political prisoners during the 1978 World Cup. A comparable reading from Sierra Leone details how rebels and villages used soccer as a community tool to reconstruct society following the Civil War.

The final chapter, "belief" investigates the correlations between soccer and the metaphysical. Some of these selections equate and compare religious belief systems to soccer matches. Argentina's Diego Maradona also receives poetic attention as authors explain how his skillful play allowed spectators to transcend their problems and simply admire the moment. An especially powerful piece explains how a homeless shelter used soccer to inspire belief in "self" for its residents.



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pp. 184-185
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