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The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer    by David Goldblatt Amazon.com order for
Ball is Round
by David Goldblatt
Order:  USA  Can
Riverhead, 2008 (2008)
Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

Weighing in at a smidge under a thousand pages,The Ball is Round is possibly the most comprehensive book on the sport of soccer (or football, depending on where you're from) ever written. After reading it cover to cover you will be able to hold an argument with any well versed football hooligan on the planet, or have a sensible discussion with a professional sportscaster.

Goldblatt begins at the beginning with a somewhat brief but complete history of soccer. While he doesn't say one specific country was the sole creator of the international sport, he does indicate that England was the first to play the closest relation to the modern day version. It is an interesting look back at the different cultures that used a type of ball for sport - in China, it would be bounced off tree trunks, and a simplified version was played in the Americas involving not just feet, but all parts of the body.

During the nineteenth century football/soccer began to be played as we know it today. Here Goldblatt provides details of people, places and times, through the decades. Once past the First World War, he breaks it down even further, dividing time periods by location, from Europe to Latin America to Africa. The author doesn't simply tell a history of soccer, but also relates it to culture, economics, sociology, and anthropology. Goldblatt goes beyond discussing a sport that has become ingrained in so many societies for some time such as Spain, Italy and South America where it is the lifeblood extending it as a metaphor for the ultimate uniter.

His book twenty years in the making, Goldblatt traveled to many different places around the world for research and inspiration. In a preface to the paperback edition, he discusses why soccer has not become as popular and prevalent a sport in the United States as it has in the rest of the world - explaining its different pacing, layout, and scoring system versus the major American sports of baseball, football, and basketball. The Ball is Round has something for everyone, and is also the ideal reference manual.

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