How Long Is One Football Game World Cup Book Review of Soccernomics by Simon Kuper

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Book Review of Soccernomics by Simon Kuper

Football is called “the beautiful game” because of its simplicity and popularity; unlike ice hockey or baseball, it can be played on a patch of dirt with nothing but a bundle of rags. However, football, like any other social activity, reveals more about the people playing the game than just scoring goals or trophies. Simon Kuper’s new book Soccernomics takes a deep dive into the world of the world’s most popular sport to understand what’s going on, provide reasons for global dominance, and suggest the next best countries to compete in international competitions.

Kuper begins with a simple question. Modern football began as a football association between British clubs and universities. A working man’s game, it lacked the rules of “cricket” as it emphasized physical fitness and endurance on track and field. England, therefore, had a start that stretched back a century and a half longer than other countries, yet boast only one World Cup win in the past century. Why, asks Soccernomics, did the titans fall?

This book goes into detail about this issue. It wasn’t a problem, says Kuper, of England’s underachievement but overachievement: the tiny island nation is too small to support a large talent pool, too cold to play year-round, and too far from its rivals to they should go ahead. He examines the financial decisions made by English clubs and explains their sometimes difficult display.

The book also jumps into the question of international football.

Economics and practice are linked together throughout the text. Do big clubs have to sign big players for big money? Should the organization be run like a business or like a model of success? Can the franchise expect a hot player to repeat their success? Kuper often goes against conventional thinking, using sound statistical models instead of fan sentiment and ownership.

Soccernomics emphasizes how different countries are ready to go. Countries such as England, France and Italy have a large pool of talent and a history of success, however recent conquests by countries that were then considered the lowest in football have proven that this power is being crushed. The rise of African countries and Asian powers such as Japan and South Korea comes to mind. Such frustrations, says Soccernomics, are sure to become the norm rather than the exception in the future of the game.

For those who are interested in the beautiful game, Soccernomics is one smart and very informative book that should be part of anyone’s football books or notes.

2011 Moira G Gallaga ©

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