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The Away Game
Cover of The Away Game
The Away Game
The Epic Search for Soccer's Next Superstars
"An exhilarating, at times heartbreaking, and ultimately unforgettable journey that lays bare the true human stakes of the world's most popular game."—Warren St. John, best-selling author of...
"An exhilarating, at times heartbreaking, and ultimately unforgettable journey that lays bare the true human stakes of the world's most popular game."—Warren St. John, best-selling author of...
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  • "An exhilarating, at times heartbreaking, and ultimately unforgettable journey that lays bare the true human stakes of the world's most popular game."—Warren St. John, best-selling author of Outcasts United

    Searching for soccer's next superstars, an audacious program called Football Dreams held tryouts for millions of 13-year-old boys across Africa. In The Away Game, Sebastian Abbot follows several of the boys as they chase their dreams in a dizzying world of rich Arab sheikhs, money-hungry agents, and soccer-mad European fans.

About the Author-

  • Sebastian Abbot worked for the Associated Press in Cairo and Islamabad, where he was bureau chief. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Princeton University and a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He lives in New York.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 18, 2017
    African teens vying to become pros in elite soccer leagues find their dreams turning to dust in this alternately hopeful and dispiriting sports saga. Journalist Abbot follows the Football Dreams program, started in 2007 by coach Josep Colomer, a former youth scout for FC Barcelona, to engage 400,000 13-year-old boys from seven African nations in tryouts to find the two dozen best for an advanced soccer academy. To Colomer, this selection promised to uncover potential superstars; to the impoverished kids it promised a shot at million-euro contracts with top European clubs. The program did find superb players, and Abbot presents an interesting exploration of the science of soccer talent, delving into the athleticism, ball-handling skills, strategic game sense, and grit that create success; he suggests that these are honed in the pickup games that Africa’s soccer-mad youth delight in. Alas, few Dreamers made it to the pros thanks to exploitative coaches and agents, rigid FIFA rules, and their own duplicity: the best “13-year-olds” probably faked their IDs and were several years older, meaning they were not quite the prodigies they seemed and did not blossom as anticipated. Abbot’s narrative features vivid profiles, engrossing play-by-play, and a sobering lesson: bad breaks and cold business calculations sometimes trump ability in the making of champions. Photos.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2018
    Exploring the fine line between opportunity and exploitation in the world of African youth soccer.In his first book, former AP Islamabad bureau chief Abbot writes about Football Dreams, a program aimed at finding future soccer superstars in Africa. In 2007, Josep Colomer, a scout and youth director from the legendary FC Barcelona, undertook an extensive journey through seven African countries for the purpose of tapping into the continent's rich soccer talent pool. Football Dreams would operate under the auspices of Qatar's Aspire Academy, an institution geared toward improving that country's soccer talent as the country approaches its hosting duties for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, sparing no expense along the way. Colomer and his associates identified a talented group of young 13-year-old African boys to bring to Qatar. The stated goal was to develop players who could achieve their dreams of playing at the highest level in Europe's professional leagues. However, the academy encountered problems due to the fact that the goals were not entirely clear and the methods not transparent. For every player who found a modicum of success, many more fell by the wayside. Abbot focuses on three of these young men while telling the stories of several others. He investigates the nature of talent development and the mysteries of the Qatari motivations, and he shows how the players, many from profoundly disadvantaged backgrounds, were exposed to almost unimaginably opulent surroundings at Aspire even as they were pulled in multiple directions by their club coaches back in Ghana and Senegal, their families, and the desires of officials at Aspire. Abbot also explores the problems with identifying the true ages of players and reveals how Aspire refused to allow some of its players to explore their possibilities in Europe. A solid storyteller, the author ensures that readers are invested in the dreams, lives, successes, and heartbreaks of these young men.A sobering look at the realities of the pursuit of big-time sporting opportunities.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    May 15, 2018

    Journalist Abbot provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of soccer scouts through the story of Football Dreams, a program started in 2007 by Josep Colomer (former youth director, FC Barcelona), who helped launch superstar Lionel Messi's career. Funded by the oil-rich nation of Qatar seeking to raise its status in the international soccer world, the program selects and trains the top players among prospective young athletes in several African countries. Abbot expertly weaves the stories of some of the trials and triumphs of young boys in the program into the larger picture of the difficulties of scouting potential professional soccer players at a young age. He also broaches larger, philosophical questions, such as where is the line between the project being a "humanitarian" mission to help impoverished youth and it being exploitative? Abbot does not attempt to answer the questions, leaving it to readers to decide. VERDICT Recommended for soccer fans, especially those who wonder why their favorite team doesn't have a Messi of its own.--Michael C. Miller, Austin P.L. & Austin History Ctr., TX

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Sports Illustrated Masterfully weaves together the stories of boys from a renowned soccer academy in Doha in an illuminating narrative.
  • Grant Wahl, author of The Beckham Experiment What a fantastic story: a soccer-themed mix of Hoop Dreams and The Sports Gene.... A tale with universal appeal to anyone who cares about the human condition.
  • Helon Habila, author of Oil on Water and The Chibok Girls Every fan of international soccer must read The Away Game.
  • Nicolas van de Walle;Foreign Affairs An excellent introduction to this shady world.

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