In the end, the book has left me as indifferent and as skeptical. At the end of the day, I think I understand the message just as I did before, and it still has to cut for me. With all the many deeply researched examples this book tells, the message is and remains: first, football rivalries really are about different world views or social issues; second, as such they are a better way than most to mobilize around that issue or view.
Now, I can happily accept the first part of the message - just as I could before reading this. The second part is unbearable for me, considering how much distorted football-driven mobilization can get, as each and everyone of these examples amply articulates. I guess this book could be more convincing if it acknowledged and somehow tried to address this distortion, which it manages to ignore instead.
The only way I could make sense of the second part is the awfully authoritarian, snobbish and finally downright fascist argument we hear so often in my country about this: football is the only or the best way to mobilize to something relatively constructive people so brutish and lowly they can't begin to understand other ways.
The ultimate thrust of that argument, and of this book, is that football fan mobilization is less lurid and more noble than it seems, so much that this justifies the distortions and wastes football brings about in fans' lives and monies and in the communities at large. I remain convinced that football fan-ning is such a waste, that the only understandable and manageable rationale for it is that a chanting crowd is fun to join.
So, we can manage the whole stuff much better if we call spades spades, fans fans, and global football teams awfully expensive opportunities for entertainment rather than noble ways to articulate a philosophy.
I will keep recommending as before to any football fan more effective ways to put their wits, monies and time than football.