Theater of Cruelty

Football party from football saves

A book that almost gives me a bad conscience because I still love football.


I know of two Norwegians who also take turns playing football when explaining how society is locally and globally intertwined politically: Ingebrigt Steen Jensen and Nils Arne Eggen. Boka Football explains the world makes me think quickly about them both. And maybe especially Steen Jensen's concept: tribal culture.

Good tells

Like the two Norwegian completely saved football eccentrics, the American author Franklin Foer is a very good narrator, with a sense of detail, good research, lots of enthusiasm, enjoyable anecdotes and often a little staging of his own person – if necessary. In contrast to the mentioned Norwegian gentlemen, Foer is a journalist, and knows how a message is sold. And he knows something about the link between sports, religion, politics and power.

The book has ten chapters that try to explain the world through football glasses. In Chapter 2, for example, he writes this (we are in Glasgow, Scotland): “Soccer matches between teams from the same city are always the most flammable on the table. Such rivalries form the basis of football's worst horror stories; people are denied jobs because they keep the wrong team and supporters are killed because they wear the wrong jersey in the wrong neighborhood. But the battle between Celtic and Rangers represents something more than just local animosity. It is a never-ending battle for the Protestant Reformation. "

And a little later, about the city of Glasgow: "The city has, contrary to the logic of history, kept its football tribal war alive because it gives the people some kind of pornographic pleasure."

In this book, Foer gives some examples of local settlements that make the matches between Vålerenga and Lyn appear as Sunday sermons.


Foer shows what football can be used for, for better – but mostly for worse. Fascinating is the story of the Austrian football club Hakoah which became league champions in 1925. The club consisted of only Jews and was a pure propaganda team. And it became a brand, then Manchester United.

And who knew about the close connection between Judaism and the two big clubs Tottenham Hotspurs and Ajax? The author's analysis of the growth of the Chelsea football club is also apt, and both frightening to read and eloquent in many ways: is most fond of. It is easy to see that this argument can be applied to English football in general and Chelsea in particular. "

The entire chapter "How Football Explains the Sentimental Football Mob" is a story about why you should stay away from Stamford Bridge.

Money rules, capitalism persists

Foer also shows what many of us have known for almost a lifetime: that money reigns, also in football. He is, despite his American passport, obviously an enthusiastic football nerd, but also has a very high eye for the game's many side effects and aftermath.

He sometimes gives entire clubs, club owners and supporters (and hooligans) not just a warning, but just as often a red card. For the ways of capitalism are unfathomable, here we are talking about more than long passes in the back room and high pressure on the ball carrier. There is more talk of bribery and corruption than offside and extra innings. The book shows in full how much football means to power, politicians' many absurd decisions with enormous effects on the national and global economy. And it happens in all continents.

For football is not a match of life and death, it is much more serious than that.

Politics and culture

But there are positive signals in the book, that is, there is a football team with supporters who according to Foer love their team, but also treat others to success: FC Barcelona. Though, there is one exception for a barca supporter as well: you have to hate the snob and money club Real Madrid. FC Barcelona is of course the club in Foers heart.

Do you have to love football to like this book? It is of course an advantage to be interested in football with some basic knowledge about the game and a certain overview of some of the most important clubs here and there. But this is not an inalienable condition. I like the sport, but I definitely belong to the proportion of the population – and especially among men – who, in contrast to Arne Scheie, think there is far too much football on radio, television and in the newspapers.

Hopefully, it has long been clear from this text that Foer's book is very good. One of the reasons for this is that it is as much a book about politics and culture as a football book.

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