Review: The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldbatt

Let me explain first why I decided to read this book. My casual interest for football turned into an obsession ever since the FIFA World Cup 2014. Since then I’ve been taking a sort of a crash course of football: the game, the biggest leagues, the best teams, and of course, the best players. For someone like me who is an extreme introvert and is a nerd, watching sports may not fit my personality. But I’ve always loved watching sports because like literature, it always tell a story.

David Goldbatt’s The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer tells us just that: the story of football. It may sound so simple but the book itself is a massive 900+ pages and took me three months to finish. Its length is proof of how far football has become and its influence not only to sport, but also to other aspects of society.

Goldbatt presented the history of football in different decades and in different continents. While football started in Europe, its development in Latin America and Africa have been so remarkable that they have become competition to its pioneers. North America, in the more recent years, have started to popularize football, though it really can’t compete with sports like basketball and American football.

On the other hand, the development of Asian football has been slow due to many factors. One of these is the accessibility of television coverage of European football leagues. The biggest clubs in Europe have a great number of Asian fans. And while these die-hard fans cheer for these clubs, the local players in their country struggle to find support. Domestic leagues in Asia obviously are no competition with the high quality of football shown in European leagues. Nevertheless, Asian football gradually picked up the pace. In fact, the recent Asian Cup has been one of the most watched Asian Cup ever. This is encouraging, especially after the dismal performance of the Asian teams in WC 2014.

This book may be very long, but is worth reading if you want to know more about football. I can honestly say that I gained insight on many things that veteran football fans usually talk about (one of which is their hatred for Sepp Blatter–now I know). The book is published nine years ago, in 2006, and there is a lot of action that happened in football since then. But while we wait for the 2nd edition (I mean I hope there is), reading this book is a good place for any newbie football fan to start.