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When France both hosted and won the World Cup in 1998, the face of its star player, Zinedine Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, was projected onto the Arc de Triomphe. During the 2006 World Cup finals, Zidane stunned the country by ending his spectacular career with an assault on an Italian player. In Soccer Empire, Laurent Dubois illuminates the connections between empire and sport by tracing the story of World Cup soccer, from the Cup’s French origins in the 1930s to Africa and the Caribbean and back again. As he vividly recounts the lives of two of soccer’s most electrifying players, Zidane and his outspoken teammate, Lilian Thuram, Dubois deepens our understanding of the legacies of empire that persist in Europe and brilliantly captures the power of soccer to change the nation and the world.
List of Illustrations
Preface: Scoring Spirits
Introduction: The Language of Happiness
1. A Beautiful Harvest
2. Caribbean France
5. Two Goals
6. Two Flags
7. La France Métissée
8. An Unfinished War
11. Coup de Boule
Laurent Dubois is Professor of French and History at Duke University. He is the author of many award-winning books, including Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution, which was a Best Book of the Los Angeles Times and a Notable Book of the Christian Science Monitor.
"Laurent Dubois mines the history of French soccer for fascinating theories and riveting stories. His understanding of the relationship between the game and politics is subtle, leading readers deep into important discussions about race and national identity. For those of us who admired the poetics of Les Bleus this is essential reading."—Franklin Foer, author of How Soccer Explains the World
"Laurent Dubois is historian, fan and graceful writer all in one. In soccer, he has found an innovative way to explore France and its empire. A serious book and an excellent read."—Simon Kuper, author of Soccernomics
"Beautifully lyrical and authoritative. We meet a host of players, colonized and colonizer, following them from their original playing fields—a vast lawn, a concrete lot—to their triumphs in national and international play." —Alice Kaplan, author of The Interpreter
"This book is a brilliant, beautifully written, and unique history of French colonialism and post-coloniality through the lens of football/soccer. Dubois weaves an eminently readable and engaging narrative that tracks tensions around race and national identity through the biographies of key football players and officials who became iconic of the aspirations of peripheral subjects of the French empire. More than a simple history of French football, the book amounts to a description of France's imperial project and an incisive reflection on the race question in contemporary France. It will please both fans of the 'beautiful game' and those inclined to dismiss sports as but the opium of the masses."—Paul Silverstein, author of Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race and Nation
Outstanding Academic Title on Sports & Recreation, Choice, a publication of the American Library Association
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