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A Love Song To Heroes And History Of The Beautiful Game

Nikola Solic
AP Photo
Croatian fans cheer while watching the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup, in Zagreb, Croatia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018.

The 21st FIFA World Cup hosted by Russia heads toward the final game on Sunday when France and Croatia will battle for the top spot. The tournament attracts millions of viewers from around the globe, with the last World Cup final between Germany and Argentina in 2014 drawing a record 1.01 billion viewers worldwide, according to FIFA.

So what is it about the game that resonates with fans from so many nationalities? And how has a sport that emerged in its most familiar form in 19th century England become the cultural lifeblood of so many disparate countries?

In his new book, “The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer” (Basic Books/ 2018), Duke University history and romance studies professor Laurent Dubois describes the notable historical moments and players that have won over the hearts of fans worldwide. Dubois speaks with guest host Anita Rao about the modern origins of the sport, standout plays from this year’s FIFA World Cup, and how sexism, corruption and politics continue to mar the beautiful game.

Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
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