Wednesday 3 January 2018

Book review : Outcasts United - Warren St John

Outcasts United is a non-fiction book that tells the story of The Fugees, short for The Refugees, a raggle-taggle bunch of new arrivals from widely diverse cultures and corners of the world, who are brought together by a fellow "outcast", a passionate, huge-hearted and unrelenting Jordanian woman called Luma Mufleh, who decides to make them into a soccer team and coach them, improving both their football and life skills along the way.

The Fugees' new home is Clarkston, a small town on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, which has no desire to welcome the steady flow of refugees with open arms. Coach Luma will have to overcome a series of spanners thrown in the works by town officials who could be called at best uncooperative and at worst downright racist, .

Another huge hurdle is trying to form some kind of cohesion and team spirit in a group of often disillusioned and unhappy teens who have very little in common - many of them speak little or no English when they arrive, they have no common language and few common cultural references, neither amongst themselves nor with their new homeland. After escaping all sorts of things that no adult let alone child should have to experience or witness, their new home life remains chaotic as they end up packed into housing estates that are rife with drug dealers, gangs and shootings. Football practice gives them a chance to escape and feel like they really belong for a few hours.

It's not all plain sailing though. Coach Luma isn't a miracle worker and she has a few failures along the way, on and off the pitch, even disbanding one of the teams in the middle of the season when she thinks the players aren't adhering to her rules and showing respect to her and the other players.

A few years ago, I was involved in a teacher exchange project with Gdynia in Poland, based on sport as a vector of social change. Coach Luma's mission to help improve the lives of the newcomers is the perfect example of what we were trying to achieve.

When I picked up the book, I was expecting a work of fiction, but the real life stories of most of the players are more poignant and complicated than anything that could have been made up.

To find out more about The Fugees and Luma, head over to

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (4 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007330790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007330799
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm


  1. I love non fiction books best!

  2. Sounds great :). I saw something about a project like this a while back. I think it's amazing the creative ways in which people can be helped to heal. Thanks for the review!

  3. This sounds like a super book. I lived in the US for a few years and helped at a school that had Vietnamese Boat People Refugees there and it was interesting and very rewarding.


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