Named one of the top five soccer books by Sports Illustrated’s longtime soccer reporter Grant Wahl, The Away Game tells the unique stories of a group of 13-year-old boys across Africa that were scouted by an audacious program called Football Dreams as part of the largest talent search in soccer history.
This Saturday, May 19, author Sebastian Abbot will be in the 7UP Epicenter at Avaya Stadium before the Quakes match against D.C. United, bringing the book tour for The Away Game to Quakes fans. Abbot will be available to answer questions about the book and sign autographs.
During the past decade, Football Dreams has held tryouts for millions of 13-year-old boys across Africa looking for soccer’s next superstars. Led by Colomer, the Spanish scout who helped launch Lionel Messi’s career at Barcelona, the program has chosen a handful of boys each year to train to become professionals.
Funded by the desert kingdom of Qatar, the Football Dreams program takes the players to the Aspire Academy in Doha, a state of the art facility that cost a reported $1.3 billion to build. It includes the largest air-conditioned sports dome in the world which houses an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a regulation soccer field, an athletics track and 11 tennis courts.
Earthquakes goalkeeper coach Jyri Nieminen worked at the Aspire Academy for three years before joining the Quakes, although he worked with the U-17 Qatari National Team and not the Football Dreams program.
In the book, a small group of boys found on dirt fields across Africa are followed by Abbot, former bureau chief for The Associated Press in Cairo and Islamabad, as they go on a journey to get into the program, which is a thousand times more selective than getting into Harvard, and pursue their dreams of fame and fortune at Europe’s top clubs.
The Away Game documents the often-troubled journeys of these boys, as there are agents and coaches alluring them with promises of European clubs, and they are caught up in soccer politics. The book also raises questions about the motives behind the Football Dreams program, and explains multiple viewpoints.
It provides insight to not only the Football Dreams program and process of scouting players, but also about cultures in the Middle East and Africa.
Fans can meet Abbot once gates open at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.