I'm no big sports, I'm not even a supporter, and I don't like soccer.
I must say that I have no intention to hurt the feelings of those who, supporting a team put in this activity all the genuine passion they have. I'm convinced that many supporters, my father firstly, rediscover with soccer a mix of childhood memories and a rooted empathy with those eleven players (they're eleven, aren't they?) running after the ball for the 90 and more minutes of game.
Tonight I would like to let you discover a book that to me embodies the essence of sportive spirit: something that, to my very modest opinion, is slowly going lost in our country. I believe this is symptom of many other factors, that go way beyond soccer, and that would need a sociology treatise.
All I can do for you though, is tell you about this little masterpiece...
Goal, by Mina Javaherbin, illustrations by A.G. Ford, published by Candlewick Press (April 13th 2010)
As you can deduct from its cover this picture book is set in Africa, in South Africa to be precise. A group of kids from a bidonville plays a very concise game, always in alert, ready to defend their treasure: the ball. In those places where poverty reigns undisputed, a ball is a real treasure, as it represents a luxury: the luxury of playing, the luxury of being - for once - simply kids. The message of this book is strong, neat and illuminating. I believe that all children live soccer as a moment of pure joy, of aggregation, of game as simple as that, and this is even truer for those kids that have not much more than this.
I've never been a big fan of hyper realistic illustrations though, in the oil tables by A.G. Ford, there is something of definitely appealing, something I would dare call magic: for the ability in reproducing the character's expressions, for the sinuous movements, for the skill he has in recreate the atmosphere of tension and expectation typical of a match, the great sensitiveness with which he can represent a dignified poverty that never declines into obvious, into oversentimental.
For complete reviews I shall refer you to the following links:
the wonderful blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1931 , where you shall find some beautiful spreads and a short interview with the author. And here you may find an interview with the illustrator.
the blog Social Justice Literature for the Elementary Classroom http://2009bookclubblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/goal-by-mina-javaherbin.html
and, least but not last, to the blog Bookends http://bookends.booklistonline.com/2010/06/23/goal-by-mina-javaherbin/
Here below you can find the links to the sites of:
Mina Javaherbin (Author) http://minajavaherbin.com/
A.G. Ford (Illustrator) site http://www.agfordillustration.com/ and blog http://agford.blogspot.com/
I must confess that I too, as a child, have known the fervour of supporting: it was 1982, we had just won the World Cup and Sandro Pertini* was the bigger supporter. I remember I danced and screamed until I had no more breath left, I didn't know exactly what for, I had more the feeling I was possessed by some strange wild spirit, I felt like the lighting conductor of general excitement... though I remember it as a nice feeling, liberating.
* Former Italian President and partisan during World War II.