A sobering look at the realities of the pursuit of big-time sporting opportunities.

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THE AWAY GAME

THE EPIC SEARCH FOR SOCCER'S NEXT SUPERSTARS

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.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-29220-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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