From Publishers Weekly
The year his son turned six, Haner was shanghaied by a group of local parents into coaching the College Park Hornets, a scrappy group of boys (and one girl) finding their legs on the pee-wee soccer fields outside Washington, D.C. His book charts his ensuing obsession with the sport in language as brisk as the game. Between weekly matches, Haner, a Baltimore Sun
writer, pores over books, visits fabled soccer homelands and interviews legends to uncover the American heart of this foreign game. Although Native Americans played a version of soccer with a deerskin ball, the sport really took root in the U.S. in the 1930s, when immigrant workers played in raucous leagues. Walter Bahr, who took the winning shot against the English in a 1950 World Cup game, tells Haner how his team of blue-collar laborers stunned some of the world's best players. But Haner learns the essence of the sport from his kids. Watching them play, he sees how fluidity, creativity and trust reign in this simple game. After the Hornets lose a county championship, Haner concludes, "There is a God... and he gave us soccer at the dawn of time so that we would never forget who is in charge." (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* As soccer's popularity grows in the U.S., conventional wisdom holds that the game is a recent arrival, perhaps a product of globalization. Haner tells us that what we're seeing is not new, but a reprise--and that soccer first blossomed during a much earlier phase of globalization: America's early-twentieth-century flood of immigration. An award-winning writer for the Baltimore Sun
, Haner started out as a football fan, not a soccerhead. But he became a full-fledged fanatic after taking a step American dads and moms take every day: he became a coach. Frustrated by his tactical failures and intrigued by tales of tough U.S. textile workers taking on Europe's best teams, Haner's quest for knowledge led him to coaching success and one hell of a good book. His enthusiasm and good humor is infectious, the history is genuinely interesting, and anyone who doubts that soccer games between nine-year-olds can be chronicled with the same verve and intensity of professional or collegiate sports need look no further. And, with the 2006 World Cup fast approaching, this is remarkably timely. Belongs with Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World
(2004) as a must-read for people puzzled by soccer's popularity. Keir GraffCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved