As part of the UNHCR Do One Thing campaign I trawled my bookshelves for a title on the topic of refugees and found this beauty. Outcasts United by Warren St John. Following a well-received Time magazine cover article, St John set about writing a book on unlikely sporting heroes, the underage soccer team called Fugees. It seemed the appetite for heart-warming tales of immigrants banding together through sport was strong in the US.
Led by coach Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian woman with a passion for soccer, this team of boys from refugee families, captured the American media’s imagination. Based in the (otherwise unremarkable) north Georgia town of Clarkston the team consists of displaced youngsters from as far afield as the Congo, Sudan, Liberia and Iraq among others.
I found that while the book centres on Coach Luma, it gives plenty of time to the team members. St John writes as much about the lives of the refugees off the pitch as on it. Tensions between the immigrants and locals are covered in detail.
If you want to get the most from this book you need to invest an interest in the personal lives of the players. Get on board because if you don’t you’ll find yourself weighing in on the ‘schmaltzy’ side of the argument. Overall though, it’s a story about an American town adapting (not without difficulty) to an emerging multicultural society.