An inspiring account of a young Jordanian immigrant who created Fugees, a soccer program for refugees from war-torn nations.
Adapted from an adult book of the same title, St. John tells the story of how Luma Mufleh formed a soccer team composed of young refugees from all over the world, rescued by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and living together in a crime-ridden settlement in suburban Atlanta. After seeing refugee children playing soccer in vacant lots around town, Mufleh persuaded the local YMCA to fund a free soccer program and signed on as its unpaid coach. The children she recruited came from such war-ravaged countries as Liberia, Sudan, Zaire, Kosovo and Afghanistan. The team offered youngsters traumatized by civil war and genocide the chance to enjoy a familiar recreation and an alternative to gangs. In addition to coaching, Mufleh often acted as counselor and surrogate parent to children whose own parents worked long hours. Though insightful about immigration and the challenges of assimilation, the fast-paced account lacks sufficient detail about the experiences that forced the players to leave their home countries.
An uplifting underdog story that will appeal to readers interested in the immigrant experience and the surprising role sports can play in people’s lives. (Nonfiction. 12-16)