One of the Comments to my Champions League post earlier today reminds me of a book I recently read, "How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization" by Franklin Foer. Relevant to the Comment from this morning, one chapter in Foer's book relates the politics of Barcelona and Real Madrid, relating to Franco, conservatism, and Catalan independence. Barcelona, he claims, symbolizes middle class, metropolitan values, whereas Real Madrid represents conservatism (and was highly associated with Franco). Foer is also a Barca fan, so maybe that's why I liked the book so much...
His chapter on Italian soccer was quite interesting as well. First, he discusses the rivalry between the two Milan clubs, Inter and AC Milan and the issues of politics rolled up in that rivalry. He has this quite amusing description of the efforts of Inter fans (Communists and other anti-Berlusconi people) to try to invest Inter with all kinds of political symbolism.
Foer also discusses at great length the longstanding rumors in Italian soccer that Juventus has for a long time corrupted the referee selection process in Italy--exactly the allegations that have exploded in Italian soccer over the past few weeks. For those interested in that issue, Foer provides a nice background to the current scandal.
Foer's larger theme is using soccer as a exemplar and case study of human tribalism and human "groupishness" and the way in which these soccer rivalries and affiliations come into contact with the modern world of globalization. It is a very colorful and entertaining book and while I can't independently vouch for the portrayals he lays out in the book I think it is quite a clever and entertaining way of not only talking about soccer but raising some interesting questions about the the tensions created by globalization.