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

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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