Soccer (aka, to most of the world, football) at its apex is a beautiful game, but despite its title, in Quinn’s story readers get a lot more dirty play, errant behavior, and hooliganism.
In this graphic novel, a down-at-the-heels British town has little going for it but its soccer teams, the storied Sandford Town football club and the current champs, the Sandford Rovers. Readers are thrust into the Town camp, but except for the flawed heroes—twin brothers, their parents, and, part of the time, their sister—none of the characters (mostly white) are appealing. Although the town looks like Coventry after the blitz, Sharma has chosen to draw all the lads (players) as descendants of Thor—lantern jaws, gritted teeth, clenched fists, great mops of unruly hair—while the other characters (fans, reporters) resemble particularly brutal, sunken-eyed prison guards. Along with some crumbs thrown in for those who thought this was a sports story (“Sandford Town is more than just a football club. It’s a family. A dream. A way of life. And that way of life is in danger,” barks the coach—and he’s the nice one), there is plenty of mayhem: “You lot must be mental coming this side of the river,” says one black gentleman to another black gentlemen—and black gentlemen nearly monopolize the hooliganism, anger issues, and criminality. In the end, a boy-toy band saves the day, but not without some loose ends.
Do these loose ends portend a sequel? More troublemaking and bigotry? Perhaps Sandford will take up yoga. Now that might spark some inspired storytelling. (Graphic fiction. 10-16)