It’s been years since I actually played soccer and I’m not sure playing goalie (no one else would do it) on my high school team in the early days after it became a varsity sport for females in our school system would really qualify it as soccer. Especially when you’ve seen the progression in skill and explosion in popularity in soccer since that time. Remember Bend it Like Beckam (2002)? Yeah, not like that. But, I did love that movie.
Much of this June and early July had me glued to my television and the 2019 Women’s World Cup coverage. Here in Canada, we had extended coverage and insightful analysis from a panel of female retired players on one of our sports networks that definitely added to the experience. Obviously Canada versus any other team was required viewing and after Canada’s unfortunate early departure in the round of 16, my support reluctantly switched to the American team partly in solidarity with their class action suit against USA Soccer and those crazy tweets, and partly because (damn it) they were so exciting to watch. It was also neat watching the retrospective look at the 1999 World Cup and hearing the players’ recollections.
On the day of the gold medal game I found myself on a pre-booked city tour (luckily enough one of those hop on/hop off tours) in Pittsburgh where I was sightseeing in advance of this year’s annual GCLS conference with some friends. I was tempted to get off the bus at a neighbourhood park we passed by that was all set up for the community to watch the game – lawn chairs, big screen and refreshment tables …. We did manage to hop off a little later for adult beverages and fortunately caught the second half that fortunately featured all the scoring.
I’ll admit that I do a little happy smile when I notice a new sports related story and in my humble opinion there are far too few for my liking (hint, hint). In advance of this blog I did my usual search and well with the exception of some rather questionable “soccer mom” offerings I was surprised there weren’t more soccer themed stories. That said, there are some that I really enjoyed and wanted to share. And, you don’t need to know a lot about soccer to enjoy them.
In addition to Beautiful Game (2011) Kate Christie has a soccer series Girls of Summer (2016 – 2019) which follows Emma Blakeley and Jaimie Maxwell from the time they meet as teenagers at an out of town soccer tournament through the trials and tribulations of life, love and high level soccer. As is the usual case for a Kate Christie book these are all well written, insightful and well researched. I absolutely loved following these two. Book five was just released and although Emma and Jaimie seem to have finally found themselves together along with their championship I’m hoping a sixth book is in the works – there’s the 2016 Olympics after all.
I didn’t know what to expect from Wendy Temple’s Defensive Mindset (2017) but I am so pleased that I didn’t pass on this book. The book starts with the inauspicious first contact between the two main characters: Jessie Grainger (one of those nice, perfect overachiever types) and Fran Docherty (bad girl, silent type with an attitude and mysterious past). The next season Jessie and Fran find themselves on the same Edinburgh football/soccer club as reluctant teammates. I liked that this was well researched, or at the least written by someone with more than a passing knowledge of the game and the psychology of sport, yet the reader is not bogged down with technical aspects. The soccer scenes are an essential foundation of this edgy and at times dark novel and are nicely entwined with off the pitch scenes between the two main characters that couldn’t be more different – one of the best opposites attract stories I’ve read in a long time. I found myself not only rooting for the two of them but the team in its quest for the league championship.
A lighter, fun read is Catherine Lane’s The Set Piece (2015). Amy Kimball, a former collegiate soccer player, is down on her luck and when she gets an offer she can’t refuse finds herself the fake fiancée of professional soccer player Diego Torres who is mired in a scoring slump. Diego is receiving some disturbing photographs that could blast him right out of the closet and lucrative endorsement deals. All seems to be on the upswing until Amy sparks fly with Diego’s personal assistant Casey Palmer, former collegiate soccer star who lost her shot at the national team with a career ending injury. All of a sudden things get a lot more complicated. Catherine also recently released a football based novel Romancing the Kicker that is well worth reading.
As I mentioned, there are fewer titles about soccer than I would expect. Others in my collection include Island Skye (Book 1, 2016) and The Aisle and Skye (Book 2, 2017) by Fox Brison, and Sofi Keren’s short novel Painted Over (2019).
As usual, I’m sure I’m missing others with this list – if you know of any please share with us all in the comments area.