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Soccer is much more than just the most popular game in the world. It is a matter of life and death for millions around the world, an international lingua franca. Simon Kuper traveled to twenty-two countries to discover the sometimes bizarre effect soccer can have on politics and culture. At the same time he tried to discover what makes different countries play a simple game so differently. Kuper meets a remarkable variety of fans along the way, from the East Berliner persecuted by the Stasi for supporting his local team, to the Argentine general with his own views on tactics. He also illuminates the frightening intersection between soccer and politics, particularly in the wake of the attacks of 9-11, where soccer is obsessed over by the likes of Osama bin Laden. The result is one of the world's most acclaimed books on the game, and an astonishing study of soccer and its place in the world.