It is World Cup season and there are many people glued to their televisions to cheer on their team. Football, or soccer as we call it here in the US, is a world-wide phenomenon that has helped bridge divides and that most countries participate in. While it isn’t huge where we are living at the moment, World Cup fever definitely takes over Los Angeles, where I grew up.
One book that approaches the World Cup with a special multicultural twist is Clever Carmel Creates her Own World Cup Style by Henrietta Nwagwu-Rochford. Carmel is a young girl living in London with her family and a huge football fan. When she is given an assignment to research the country/team that she is supporting and then wear appropriate clothing for an oral presentation she is at first thrilled and then confused – who is she supposed to support? Her mother is Nigerian and her father is British. At home they support both teams and both cultures. She decides that she can support both in her report, but gets stuck on what jersey to wear. When she can’t find what she wants, Clever Carmel creates her own.
Alliances to football teams often has to do with your parents’ country of origin, but there are lots of mixed-race families in the world today and this book aptly deals with how to be proud of both. My 7 year old loved this book, partially because there was creative fashion involved. I thought that it was great to see how both parents passed down important pieces of their upbringings from food to music and fashion. We should all be proud of where we came from and Carmel does an awesome job creatively showcasing her love of both Nigeria and England.
Another special book about the power of soccer is The Soccer Fence: A Story of Friendship, Hope and Apartheid in South Africa. This story takes place in South Africa in the early 1990s as apartheid was ending and all races were given the right to vote. The country was still very segregated, but kids of all races and backgrounds played soccer. The story is told from the perspective of Hector, a young black boy, who loves soccer. Twice a month, Hector and his sister would travel to a different part of Johannesburg with their mother and he would see the white children playing soccer, although we are meant to focus on one blonde boy. Even if he called out to them, no one acknowledged his existence.
The point of the story is to show that even though Hector and the white boys live different lifestyles, they are both mesmerized with soccer and so excited to watch the Cup of Nations. The 1996 African Cup of Nations was the first time since the 1950s that South Africa was allowed to participate due to apartheid. They made it to the finals and even won the trophy. Symbolically, the boys see each other during the match and a connection is made, an understanding created. The next time Hector goes into the city, the white boy, Chris, invites him to play soccer.
While a simple story, it shows the reality of how soccer helped heal the nation of South Africa. There is a wonderful author’s note at the back of the book giving information on what apartheid is and how much the global community objected to it. When Nelson Mandela called for a multiracial South African Football team, it changed their country.
So whatever country you happen to be rooting for, the World Cup is a great reminder of all that we have in common.
Note – I received a copy of Clever Carmel Creates her Own World Cup Style from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.