In his singularly impressive and important work, Jared Diamond demonstrates more convincingly than anybody in our opinion why Europe “won,” or put differently, why it was this relatively small archipelago, appended to a huge Asian landmass thumbing into the Atlantic Ocean, that created the preconditions and the fundamentals for a system of society, governance, warfare, economy, and culture that was to conquer the rest of the world.1 Best known under the term “capitalism,” the search for and analysis of its origins and nature gave rise to virtually every discipline of what we have come to know as the social sciences. And capitalism's trials and tribulations continue to nurture them. In his own magnum opus, Immanuel Wallerstein analyzes capitalism's rise to a “world system” by assigning it a core, a semiperiphery, and also a periphery.2 To no one's surprise, capitalism's core rests in the northwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean anchored in the Low Countries and, most important, Great Britain.
Few, if any, items have confirmed Wallerstein's conceptual framework more powerfully and lastingly than the world of sports, with the possible exception of the English language's becoming the global lingua franca. By transforming previously local and disorganized games into rule-driven and institution-bound novel entities, and by exporting this to its empire's (and the world's) semiperipheries and peripheries, sports developed into one of Britain's most lasting contributions to our global civilization. Of the many sports that Britain bequeathed to the world, none became more globally successful than the game of Association football. Soccer's success can best be gauged by the following three developments: first, the game penetrated the globe's most distant peripheries and is played literally everywhere on
1 Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (New York: W. W.
2 Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of
the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century (San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1976).