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Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town

by Warren St. John

Published by Delacorte Press, 2012
226 pages
ISBN: 978-0-385-74194-1

Age 11 and older

Clarkston, Georgia, has had an influx of refugees since the late 1980s. Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian woman who came to the United States for college and decided to remain, was living in nearby Atlanta when she drove through Clarkston and caught sight of boys playing pick-up soccer. She soon had organized a team, the Fugees, which grew into several teams for different age groups. Luma had experience coaching but no background in teaching or social work. But she quickly realized these kids from war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Kosovo, Somalia, and Liberia needed more help than soccer alone could provide. She set up tutoring sessions and required her players to go if they wanted to stay on the team—and they did want to stay on the team. She bought food for families when food stamps ran out. She attended parent/teacher conferences. She also had to battle city leaders as she looked for a safe place for her teams to practice. Demanding of the kids both on and off the field, Luma’s innate sense of what to do, and how to adjust when things weren’t working, is remarkable. Journalist Warren St. John tells this inspiring story in an adaptation of his adult book of the same name (Spiegel & Grau, 2009). An afterword details what has happened since the 2006 soccer season, when this account ends, including the fact that Luma’s program has now expanded to include a school. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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