A sprightly, often appalling history of soccer, with an emphasis on the organized game epitomized by the World Cup.
Soccer is huge, a global sport with a supercolossal fan base. And it is frequently unhinged, both on the pitch and in the stands. This nutshell history does service to both, capturing the sport’s brute and finesse sides. It does so in a staccato delivery underlain with a subversive sense of humor: “The origins of the football that we know today were lawless, ruthless, and, it would appear, wildly entertaining. It therefore stands to reason that religion and rulers did not take a shining to it.” This app deploys a timeline format, taking readers from the third century B.C., when the first instances of people kicking a ball were recorded—in China, where most everything was first recorded—up through the 1962 World Cup. This was perhaps the ugliest game ever played, yet at this remove, the clip of the game feels more like farce than mayhem. Tooling around the app is as simple as cruising the timeline, with embedded video clips going back to the late-19th century. Scrolling is either vertical within an article or horizontal to get from section to section, a subtle touch that gives pleasing variety to the experience. Archival background photographs support the jazzy narrative, which can occasionally feel a little too telegraphic—“Brazil’s young star, Pelé, who impressed in the ’58 World Cup”—and there is still tidying to be done on the editorial side: “In the final, Brazil were final without Pelé.” Too true.
The United States is late in coming to soccer’s fold, and this snappy introduction is a good way to get up to speed.