The Away Game
The Epic Search for Football's Next Superstars
The Away Game
The gripping story of a group of boys discovered in what may be the largest talent search in sports history.
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‘A sobering look at the realities of the pursuit of big-time sporting opportunities’ – Kirkus
‘Gripping… An important book to ponder as the world’s favourite game grows ever more global’ – Booklist
‘Abbot’s narrative features vivid profiles, engrossing play-by-play, and a sobering lesson: bad breaks and cold business calculations sometimes trump ability in the making of champions’ – Publishers Weekly
Over the past decade, an audacious programme called Football Dreams has held trials for millions of 13-year-old boys across Africa looking for football’s next superstars. Led by the Spanish scout who helped launch Lionel Messi’s career at Barcelona and funded by the desert kingdom of Qatar, the programme has chosen a handful of boys each year to train to become professionals – a process over a thousand times more selective than getting into Harvard.
In The Away Game, reporter Sebastian Abbot follows a small group of the boys as they are discovered on dirt fields across Africa, join the glittering academy in Doha where they train, and compete for the chance to gain fame and fortune at Europe’s top clubs.
Abbot masterfully weaves together the dramatic story of the boys’ journey with an exploration of the art and science of trying to spot talent at such a young age. Richly reported and deeply moving, The Away Game is set against the geopolitical backdrop of Qatar’s rise from an impoverished patch of desert to an immensely rich nation determined to buy a place on the international stage. It is an unforgettable story of the joy and pain these talented African boys experience as they chase their dreams in a dizzying world of rich Arab sheikhs, moneyhungry agents, and football-mad European fans.
Sebastian Abbot worked for the Associated Press in Cairo and Islamabad, where he was bureau chief. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Princeton University and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He lives in New York.