I love the idea of this book — looking at issues of nationality and statehood through the lens of football:
“In an era when politics means less and less, particularly in more industrialized countries, when fewer and fewer people turn out to vote, sport crystallises the notion of a nation perhaps more than anything else. ...
As the world's most popular team sport, football keeps alive the idea of a national identity undefined by political borders better than most. The notion of Englishness and Scottishness, for example, has been kept alive by sport as much as anything else since the Act of the Union in 1707. In places where identity is slowly starting to mean less and less, in an age of globalization where satellite TV is watering down local sports in favour of global brands, some peoples are trying to keep alive an identity that is being lost, through football.”
The author tracks the progress — usually slow, frustrating, and contentious — towards international recognition (whether at the highest levels, or simply to get an occasional match) by teams from the Channel Islands, Greenland, the Falklands, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Northern Cyprus, Occitània, Monaco, Kosova, Zanzibar, Tibet, North Mariana, the Vatican, and Sápmi.
Unfortunately the book is in dire need of a good editor. The book keeps cutting between general history lessons of the various nations; the history of football within them; the quest for international recognition of their football associations; and (surprisingly detailed) reports on some of the matches they actually get to play (e.g. at the Island Games
). Each of these can be quite interesting, but they don't cohere well, and the book ends up incredibly disjointed, failing, as a result, to tell any compelling story.