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Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty-five Countries, and the Search for Pickup Soccer Hardcover – June 19, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Any reader inclined to enjoy energetic writing about soccer will love this book. But Oxenham has brought to this extraordinary project not only a player's enthusiasm, but also a thoughtful writer's sense of humor and eye for the magnificently unlikely moment that takes her endeavor beyond the game...Finding the Game suggests powerfully, if playfully, that we are connected. All of us. In that suggestion, there is hope....A joyous antidote to the newspaper's front page.” ―NPR's Bill Littlefield, "Only a Game"

“The youngest Division I athlete in NCAA history, Oxenham was a soccer star for Duke at age 16. By 23, she felt like a has-been, but she still loved to play. Her love of the sport in its least-official form, pickup games, birthed a documentary film project in which she, her boyfriend, and a crew of two traveled the globe looking for games. Their tenacity is remarkable. Despite financial and language barriers, they play with sheep-shearing gauchos in Uruguay, with hardened criminals in La Paz's infamous San Pedro Prison, in an Arabs-against-Jews contest in Jerusalem, and with salarymen on a Tokyo rooftop. The most memorable sequences take place in the slums of Nairobi, where the poverty is overwhelming, and Tehran, where it's illegal for women to play with men (she gets a game anyway). Oxenham avoids platitudes but gracefully shows how playing together can unite us more than shared worship of famous teams. Soccer fans will love this, but anyone who enjoys shoestring travelogues will like it, too. They'll all want to watch the film, Pelada.” ―Keir Graff, Booklist

“It's not just an adventure that all of us would have liked to have had. Oxenham can write, too. A brave account of soccer as a universal language.” ―Simon Kuper, New York Times bestselling author of Soccernomics

“In Finding the Game, Oxenham goes on an international quest to document soccer as a pickup game that brings promise and joy in even the least promising and most joyless venues. In the course of her travels, she proves beyond a doubt that sports is not only a pervasive second language in every culture, but also one she speaks with perfect fluency. Her book is as charmingly observed as it is beautifully written.” ―Madeleine Blais, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle

“Through soccer, Gwendolyn Oxenham discovers and delights in the gifts, on and off the field, that ‘the beautiful game' can bring. As she says, ‘the best games are marked by a failure to refrain.' So are the best stories. Hers is proof.” ―Alexi Lalas, National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee and analyst for ESPN and ABC Sports

“I knew Gwendolyn Oxenham and her group had made a terrific documentary film, but it takes completely different skills to write a compelling book. She has achieved that feat here, fashioning a journey narrative about pickup soccer that's filled with the details of a seasoned observer/adventurer. I enjoyed it from start to finish.” ―Grant Wahl, New York Times Bestselling author of The Beckham Experiment

“Oxenham reintroduced me to some of the rules of soccer and life, that I had forgotten. When Oxenham wrote, 'You don't talk if no one's ever seen you play,' I immediately knew where she was coming from and headed. . . . An unparalleled journey that invokes more than just passion for soccer.” ―Rob Stone, ESPN commentator

Finding the Game proves the reality of the phrase ‘Soccer is the world's game' and shows that the idea of playing a sport for the joy of it still exists. Gwendolyn and her friends used their passion for soccer to meet people and visit places that would have been unimaginable to most of us. Best of all, she allows the reader to become a part of the adventure.” ―Chuck Korr, coauthor of More Than Just a Game

“The friends go to interesting places and play lots of futbol, but it is the people they meet--a superstar who just happens to be a tiny girl from a Brazilian slum; criminals in a Bolivian prison; Arabs and Jews who grudgingly play against one another in Jerusalem--that truly make the young travelers' point that sometimes sport can be more than just a game....Imbued with both the spirit of youth and the wistful longing of past travels...a proud testament to her favorite game.” ―Publishers Weekly

“More than just a book about the sport, Finding the Game transports you around the world with humor, wit, and excitement on every page. You don't have to be a sports fan to devour this book.” ―Anson Dorrance, Head Coach, UNC Women's Soccer; National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee

About the Author

GWENDOLYN OXENHAM received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Notre Dame, where she was awarded the Nicholas Sparks post-graduate fellowship. A Duke University soccer alum, she played professionally for Santos FC in Brazil in 2005. She teaches English and plays in pickup games in Southern California.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Printing edition (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250002044
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250002044
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I first heard the premise of the film "Pelada", I was immediately jealous. Not just that two Americans around my age were traveling the world playing pick-up soccer, but moreso, I was jealous of their courageous spirit and sense of adventure. You see, I have always been a soccer person. I played soccer in college, have traveled to 3 World Cups, and worked on the business side of the sport in various ways for 7 years.

But never in my wildest dreams would I have come up with as crazy an idea as what Gwendolyn and Luke did...putting off career and stability to travel the world in search of the beautiful game, in parks, on rooftops, and around street corners. The good news is though, with both "Pelada" and now "Finding the Game", I didn't have to.

In "Finding the Game", Gwendolyn Oxenham brought me on their journey showing that a simple soccer ball can cross language barriers and create friendships with people you never would know otherwise...with bootleggers in the slums of Nairobi, hip hop artists in Marseille, and even prisoners in Bolivia. She made me want to go to these places and play soccer with these people.

Plus, the Ruud van Nistelrooy story is pretty awesome as well!

"Finding the Game" not only fills in the gaps of the movie "Pelada" (which is a must-see), but it stands on its own as incredibly well written and as great evidence of turning a dream into reality. I highly recommend this book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I did not know what to expect when I started reading 'Finding the Game,' and it is a beautiful story about the beautiful game - a story not often told. I found myself in the places Ms. Oxenham was writing about, wishing I hadn't hung up my cleats so many years ago - a very nice job, and after finishing the book I immediately watched (pelada), and it was great being able to see what she wrote about. Outstanding!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I played really competitive football (soccer) from an early age in many different countries and loved the experience. Around 19 years old I realized that I wasn't good enough or ambitious enough to make it in the higher leagues. This story made me realize just how much I love playing regardless of the standard and how that no matter where you travel you can always find people to play with and talk about the game with them.

I really enjoyed Pelada the movie and I hope there is a directors cut with all the countries that got taken out of the movie.

This book is really well done. I enjoy the author's telling of the story and I admire her and her partners for having the get-up-and-go to make it happen. I read this in two nights and highly recommend it.

If they are ever up near San Francisco and are looking for a game, I hope they get in touch.

Great read!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a must have for any soccer fan. It is the written story of the movie that they did called Pelada. It goes into more detail and is a very good read. If you have seen the movie you must read the book if you have read the book you HAVE to see the movie.
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Format: Hardcover
Soccer is cheap. You just need a ball of some sort and you can make up the rest from there. The ball can literally be made of trash or cost a hundred dollars. The game remains the same: the world's most popular pastime.

Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty-five Countries, and the Search for Pickup Soccer by Gwendolyn Oxenham is about a global journey of four people determined to record soccer at its simplest form.

Oxenham and her companions found pickup soccer in some world's most exotic locales: Tehran, the Amazon, the rooftops of Tokyo, and the slums of Brazil to name a few. They met many characters along the way. This is not surprising as the people are the story, whether they were prisoners or students or something in between.

The most unforgettable character for us was Ronaldinha, a young Brazilian girl with the same flair and passion of the man her name resembles. Could she the next Marta? A role player on the Brazilian national team? Or just another talented player that can't shake her roots?

The book is all about dreams. The dreams of players worldwide, people that play for fun, people that want to be pros, or people just trying to make a statement about their lives.

Finding the Game unfolds with the feel of a great storyteller: very conversational, natural, and free-flowing. It has to be on your list of must-reads. It allows you to take your own personal journey to see soccer at its core, away from the glitz and glamour of the modern game.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book combines two of my personal passions: soccer and travel. One need not be a soccer enthusiast to enjoy this book. I felt the author did an extremely good job of captivating the reader and bringing us along on her journey around the world.

If you are a lover of the beautiful game and looking for a great soccer book, this is for you. If you are someone that loves to travel and gets inspiration to travel from reading of other's journey, this book is for you. If you are just someone who enjoys a good read, this book is for you!

If you have watched the movie Pelada this is a MUST read. The book contains so much more than the movie and really provides a lot of insight to their journey.
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