Friday, July 6, 2012

The Olympics Unshelved: Soccer

It's summer! That means it's time for our summer theme Fridays! This year, we're taking advantage of the fact that the World's eyes will soon be across the Atlantic. We're focusing on the Olympics, so every week we'll highlight a different event. Katie gets us started with a look at her favorite sport: soccer.

It’s a great time to be a soccer fan. The European Championships (Go Spain!) are wrapping up and the Olympics are just over the horizon. For those of you who remain skeptical about soccer as a spectator sport I offer you these two tidbits: First of all, 90 minutes without commercials. Heaven! Second, the book Keeper by Mal Peet.

Keeper had been on my radar for a while. It’s not a new book and it proudly bears the medallion of an Arlington Public Library Best Books for Young Adults, but sometimes a book can wallow away on my to read list for ages as newer and shinier books come along until circumstances force me to read them. Such was the case with this book, and now I wish I could force all of you to read it. But it’s summer so I won’t. But I will tell you about it and let you decide for yourself.

The story opens on two men sitting in a room, one a soccer player and one a journalist. The World Cup trophy sits on the table between them. And so we know right off that this is not going to be a story of “Will he or won’t he win?” The soccer player, Gato--The Cat--has already won, is unquestionably the greatest goalkeeper in the world. The question that remains is how. How did a gangly boy called The Stork, raised by a logger in the rainforest, transform himself into a world champion on the international stage?

The answer in Gato’s story is one of the hidden magic of the forest, of relationships with parents and mentors, and of learning to believe in yourself--even when you feel all alone in the world. The thread of the supernatural woven throughout the story never detracts from--and in fact often adds to--the truths about the game of soccer and the realities of the world that this book so eloquently imparts. We see Gato enter the jungle and meet the Keeper, we learn with him how the complexities of goal tending are far more challenging than one may ever expect, we venture with his teenage self to work with loggers who see the forest as a livelihood rather than a mystery, and finally we go with him to the World Cup. 

This is one of the great sports books that I’ve read--a sort of Field of Dreams meets South American ghost story. It’s enough to make a person want to give up dreams of being the next Lionel Messi and instead follow in the footsteps of Hope Solo. And while it might not feature the Olympic rings, it is the perfect tale of athletic

Need some visuals to get excited about soccer in the Olympics? How about this video of Hope Solo's save in the final US game against Canada before the upcoming games? Worked for us!

1 comment:

Becky said...

Looks like a great book. It sort of reminds me of a sports novel I recently finished reading titled, "Ark" by John Heldon- full of laughter and heart. I am new to sports novels but am finding that they are becoming my newest favorite genre. I will definitely be checking out this book.