Well I suppose I should say something about the NBA and LeBron's big decision, but with the World Cup finals just around the corner, I thought it appropriate to highlight a book about soccer. I haven't really read any books about basketball (or Miami) and I can't say I've read many books about soccer (or should I say football?) but this was a one that I really did enjoy!
Outcasts United - the story of The Fugees, a soccer team of refugee children from a small town in Georgia - at first look seems to have all the makings of a Disney movie. The story unfolds by introducing readers to Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian woman driven to make a life for herself in the USA while missing the family that disapproves of her new home. But Luma is no Disney heroine, she is a rough-edged, straight-talking, disciplinarian and her new job as soccer coach to The Fugees is much more than the plot to a family movie. Taking on leadership of three age groups, Luma's life becomes entwined with those of the players. Often she is called upon to be much more than a coach and enter into the roles of friend, mother, confidant, provider, chauffeur and counselor to her young charges and their families.
Warren St. John writes the book in a distinctly journalistic style. At times, this causes choppiness to the story, but ultimately it is an effective way to narrate the various facets of the lives of The Fugees' players, their experiences, and the various effects of refugee resettlement on the town of Clarkston, Georgia. St. John tackles the issues of racism plaguing the town as well as the challenges faced by the resettlement aides and adjustments of the longtime town residents. One of the strengths of this book, also, is that Clarkston, Georgia paints a portrait of refugees on a global scale. Though some parts of the United States have been havens for newcomers from a single country, players on The Fugees bring stories of war-zones, famine, and political unrest from all over the world.
From Iraq to Sudan, Kosovo to Burundi, Liberia to Jordan, Outcasts United is truly an international story. Luma Mufleh's life in particular is worthy of great admiration for her discipline and dedication in coaching three teams of children facing some of life's greatest challenges. With post-traumatic stress, poverty, language barriers and the luring threat of gang life, it is Mufleh and the game of soccer that bring the group together as an oddly mixed family. Together they must discover that even above winning and losing, what really matters is how you play the game.
Anyone else have any good books about soccer/football to recommend? Anyone really stoked about the World Cup? Who are you cheering for or against? Personally, my favorite summer sports events are Wimbledon tennis (Congrats Rafa!) and Major League Baseball's Home Run Derby. How about you?