Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More Than Just a Game - and other soccer books that matter

With the start of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, I thought it timely to offer up a few soccer book reading suggestions. But these three titles are not your typical soccer books. These titles focus more on the intangible power of the sport to bond people, to help bring communities closer together, and to build a bridge to mutual respect and understanding. It is a beautiful game in more ways than one.

by Robert Andrew Powell

"Terrifying and sad, shocking and humorous, Powell's memoir of a year spent following the soccer team of Juarez, Mexico, is a must-read. Clearly the world's most violent city (2700 murders in 2009 alone), Juarez is home to drug cartels, corrupt and inefficient police and politicians, and literally thousands of dead and missing women-but it is also home to the Indios, the beloved local soccer team. Powell's intent was to chronicle the Indios during the 2009 season; instead, he profiles Juarez and, in passing, the local team. The fact is that the Indios are simply awful, but their loyal fan base, El Kartel, lives for the team..." - Library Journal

by Chuck Korr with Marvin Close
"Set at the height of South Africa's apartheid system of legalized racism, this is the remarkable story of how soccer unified prisoners on Robben Island, a two-square-mile island just seven miles from Cape Town, which after 1960 was home to thousands of political and criminal prisoners, including, most famously, Nelson Mandela. In a truly inspiring story, the Robben Island prisoners struggled against all odds, and in spite of a prison administration more determined to humiliate and dehumanize than rehabilitate inmates, to organize an eight-club football (soccer) league that followed FIFA rules, with over 1000 prisoners playing. Through interviews and use of prisoners' own sources, the authors make a unique contribution to soccer and the history of a nation's abuse of an entire ethnic group..." - Library Journal

by Dave Bidini

"In 2008 Dave Bidini accompanies Homeless Team Canada to the Homeless World Cup in Melbourne, Australia. Ashe watches team members play and shares their disappointments, frustrations, joys,and triumphs, he comes to care deeply about the players-45-year-old Billy, who is a former addict; the quick-footed 24-year-old Moroccan immigrant Juventus, who refuses to talk about his past; and most of all, the endearing teenaged Krystal, who carries a photograph of her long-dead mother and dreams of abetter life. Bidini gets to know the other teams at the World Cup and describes the games themselves, culminating in the final between Canada and Malawi and a chance for the talented Krystal to join a soccer team in Holland.

Bidini also begins to understand what this tournament means to people. He sees firsthand the power of sport to transform the lives of those on the edge-how the decision to play this game can mean the difference between survival or heading down a road of addiction, poverty, or crime. Home and Away offers a powerful look at the poor and dispossessed, from the barrios of Mexico City and the shanties of West Africa to the streets of North America and Europe, and illuminates the renewed meaning that these homeless players find in the beautiful game." - Publisher

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