Review of the book Soccernomics by Simon Kuper

Soccer is called “the beautiful game” due to its simplicity and popularity; Unlike ice hockey or baseball, it can be played on a patch of dirt with nothing but a pile of rags. However, football, like any other human activity, is more reflective of the people who play than a mere scorecard or trophy. Simon Kuper’s new book Soccernomics delves into the world of the world’s most popular game to understand trends, suggest reasons for the current global hierarchy and suggest the next nations to become superpowers in global competition.

Kuper begins with a simple question. Football in modern parlance began as association football between British clubs and universities. A working man’s game, it lacked the “gentlemanly” rules of cricket while emphasizing physical play and endurance over strategy and positioning. England therefore had an advantage of up to a century and a half over some nations, but they boast only one World Cup victory in the last hundred years. Why, Soccernomics asks, did the Titans fall?

The book delves into this topic. It was never a case, Kuper argues, of England underperforming but rather overperforming: the tiny island nation is too small to support a large pool of talent, too cold to sustain a year-long game and too isolated from competitors to forge improvements. He explores the financial decisions English clubs make and explains their poor showing time and time again.

The book also addresses the issue of football on the world circuit.

Economy and performance are linked throughout the text. Should big clubs sign big players for big money? Should an organization function as a business or as a model of success on the pitch? Can a franchise expect a hot player to repeat its success? Kuper often goes against conventional thinking, using rational examples of statistical trends rather than fan subjectivity and ownership.

Soccernomics emphasizes how different countries are about to explode. Nations such as England, France and Italy have a huge talent pool and a history of success, but recent gains by what were then considered inferior countries in football have shown that hegemony is crumbling. The rise of African countries and Asian powers like Japan and South Korea come to mind. Such upsets, Soccernomics asserts, are sure to be the norm rather than the exception in the sport’s near future.

For those who have a passion for the beautiful game, Soccernomics is a brilliant and highly informative book to add to anyone’s collection of soccer books or literature.

2011 Moira G. Gallaga©

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *