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The Social Significance of Football (Soccer)

This mini-article begins with a brief mention of fooball’s significance, followed by a succession of references to interesting books and media relating to it, and concluded by a list of the relevant links.

Books: The Soccer Tribe; Inverting the Pyramid; I am the Secret Footballer. DVD: History of Football: The Beautiful Game

As football is the most popular sport in the world, it is interesting to consider why this is, as well as what part it plays in society. The sport seems to transcend all languages and cultural boundaries more so than any other; and via the FIFA World Cup, football has helped to bring about a globalized world, in being a kind of sporting lingua franca between nations: it is the sport that has had, and continues to have, the most significance both nationally and internationally.

Pelé: Birth of a Legend (2016 Film)

What I found memorable about this movie was the depiction of a very young Pele playing football barefoot with his friends, and even being trained by his father to do kick-ups with mangos. It gives an indication of football’s simplicity as a factor in its unrivaled universality: it is so accessible that it even allows children in the slum neighbourhoods of the poorest countries to learn the game and develop considerable skills.

The Soccer Tribe, by Desmond Morris (1981)

This book is a very interesting look at every facet of the game of football, particularly because it was written by an anthropologist. Furthermore, he took a position as director of a football club in order to get an insider’s perspective for this study; and specifically, to discover why football is the most popular sport in the world.

Contents of the book: “The Soccer Tribe”
Contents of the book: “The Soccer Tribe” (continued)

The copy I have is the original which, although decades old now, I found to be on the whole still applicable to today’s game in terms of its sociological analysis. The breadth of the topics covered is comprehensive, and the continuous illustrations are excellent (Note: A new updated edition was released in 2016, which could potentially be even better).

Inverting the Pyramid – A History of Football Tactics, by Jonathan Wilson (2008, Fully Revised and Updated 2014)

A far more engrossing story than one would think by the title, grounded primarily in history and with insights to sociology, such as how and why different nations develop and favour different styles of play (including the ideological factors involved), and how these factors (often manifested in particular people) impact the game itself.

Ramble Meets… Jonathan Wilson, by the Football Daily Ramble (Podcast)

This talk show provides both humorous and informative discussion on all the latest football developments, as well as retrospective features and regular interviews. This particular episode is an insightful interview with the author of Inverting the Pyramid, during which he describes how he came to write the book and his thoughts on its popularity.

I Am the Secret Footballer – Lifting the Life on the Beautiful Game, by Anonimous (2012)

A very revealing behind-the-scenes exposé of football, which covers various aspects of the sport both on and off the pitch, providing rare (and generally unflattering) insights. The author writes with a candidness not often found, and finds an excellent balance between discussing the uglier side of football whilst telling his own story, so as to take the reader inside that exclusive world and thus learn a little more about society in its totality.

History of Football: The Beautiful Game (2002) 7-Disc DVD Set

An informative and entertaining anthology of documentaries examining every aspect of the game, packed with interviews from football legends from all over the world, and including a lot of bonus material—most notably, archive footage from several of the “first ever” matches to be played.

From ‘Pats on the Back’ to ‘Dummy Sucking’: A Critique of the Changing Social, Cultural and Political Significance of Football Goal Celebrations, by Mark Turner (2012) 15-Page Article + Refs

A specialized, scholarly article, which is insightful from the perspectives of football, sports, sociology, and body language.

[A “Part 2” for this mini-article will be posted in the near future]


Stepping stones . . . . around the ball . . . .

Author: Simon Kanzen

I value reading substantial literature, enjoy thought-provoking entertainment, and above all, I think every day. With Stepping Stones, I develop my thoughts in writing and share references to relevant media, intending for other readers and thinkers to find these writings useful.

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