Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town

By Warren St. John (Spiegel & Grau, $27)

May 4, 2009
Outside Magazine
Turn Back Now: Two much-hyped adventure narratives go astray

A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean, by Tori Murden McClure (Collins, $26): McClure, suffering from social isolation and unsatisfactory dating on land, rows into the Atlantic, is turned back by hurricanes, returns, and marries.
To the End of the Earth: Our Epic Journey to the North Pole and the Legend of Peary and Henson, by Tom Avery (St. Martin's Press, $27): Avery dogsleds to the North Pole to prove Robert Peary did, in fact, dogsled to the North Pole 100 years ago. The resulting book runs little risk of reigniting the controversy.

Outcasts United


So what if David Beckham is moving to Italy? In Outcasts United, a scrappy Jordan-born coach named Luma Mufleh organizes the Fugees—three youth soccer teams rostered from war-ripped countries across the globe—in the unfriendly confines of Clarkston, Georgia. Lee Swaney, Clarkston's grandfatherly mayor, doesn't want his town's fields used for soccer; they're for playing baseball. Swaney draws a line in the sand and the Fugees find themselves at the Battle of Milam Park, a literal turf war. St. John, a New York Times reporter and author of the college-football-addiction confessional Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, follows these Benetton Bad News Bears from practices on a gravel-and-glass pitch to putting the hurt on white kids in $300 cleats. St. John narrates in polite newspapery fashion, but the characters are spirited (a 15-year-old former Li­berian rebel quits in protest over Mufleh's draconian short-hair rule), and the squad carries the story. You've already guessed that the Fugees go on to rule their league, but the book is about displaced souls struggling and finding a home in an improbable land. It's the feel-good story of the year—in a good way. While no one becomes a "slumdog millionaire," according to the epilogue, a sizable donation to the team has been written into the already-optioned movie rights.







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