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Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference
The extraordinary tale of a refugee youth soccer team and the transformation of a small American town
Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical Southern town until it was designated a refugee settlement center in the 1990s, becoming the first American home for scores of families in flight from the world’s war zones—from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly Clarkston’s streets were filled with women wearing the hijab, the smells of cumin and curry, and kids of all colors playing soccer in any open space they could find. The town also became home to Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who founded a youth soccer team to unify Clarkston’s refugee children and keep them off the streets. These kids named themselves the Fugees.
Set against the backdrop of an American town that without its consent had become a vast social experiment, Outcasts United follows a pivotal season in the life of the Fugees and their charismatic coach. Warren St. John documents the lives of a diverse group of young people as they miraculously coalesce into a band of brothers, while also drawing a fascinating portrait of a fading American town struggling to accommodate its new arrivals. At the center of the story is fiery Coach Luma, who relentlessly drives her players to success on the soccer field while holding together their lives—and the lives of their families—in the face of a series of daunting challenges.
This fast-paced chronicle of a single season is a complex and inspiring tale of a small town becoming a global community—and an account of the ingenious and complicated ways we create a home in a changing world.
From the Hardcover edition.
Sometimes inspiring, sometimes sad
- April 17, 2009
A well-deserved Valentine to a fantastic and inspiring coach
By Jesse Kornbluth "Head Butler"
- April 27, 2009
How does a soccer coach find a practice field for her team? Google Earth.
But why, in a town that's not short of parks, is she looking for a field on Google Earth?
Because the mayor keeps issuing what seem like illegal orders to deny her team access to any of the lush local fields.
And why would he do that?
Because this is Clarkston, Georgia, a town of 7,200 a dozen miles from Atlanta. And the members of the soccer team are not only boys of color, they are foreigners --- Africans, mostly --- who have come to Clarkston as part of a wave of immigrants.
'Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town'is set in the feel-bad reality of a small town that never wanted to be the dumping ground for people fleeing conflict zones. It's a story of bumbling villains --- the mayor is a decent soul who's way over his head; the bad cop is the sort of jerk you can find anywhere --- and unlikely heroes. The first heroes are, of course, the... read more
Outcasts United - a brilliant focus on how a team of outcasts became a family
By Brett Young "BamaNation"
- February 15, 2009
Warren St. John tells the incredible stories of an entire program of immigrant soccer players in Clarkston, GA. The incredible part is how these players ("The Fugees") arrived in this Southern town. The players are all refugees from various countries. Each player's family has an amazing survival story from war-torn and politically oppressed areas of the planet. That the team consists of Liberians, Somalis, Sudanese, Kosovars, Iraqis, and other nationalities makes no difference to the players - they just want to play.
Also incredible is the dedication of the coach, Luma Mufleh, an American-educated woman from Jordan, who coaches the three soccer teams of Under 13's, Under 15's, and Under 17's. Her story is one of selflessness and dedication to the families of these former refugees. She takes them to the doctor. She buys them groceries. She picks them up to go to movies. But, she coaches soccer as if SOCCER is the true meaning of life: playing hard and with... read more
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